Updated: Sep 15, 2020
"If you want to achieve something, you will have to put in the effort. No one is going to hand it to you. There will always be struggle and you have to face it."
This time, we're here both with the video & text version of the interview. Here's the video for a an immersive dive into this motoartist's story.
And if you love reading, let's jump right into the text version of this interview -
A very big hello to all you moto enthusiasts out there! Today, we have a very special guest.
Born and brought up in Pune, this motoartist grew up surrounded with challenges. Inspired by the memories from his childhood and his zest for life, his paintings reflect the kind of person he is. Hard-working and never ready to give up just yet. Even with a full-time job in the advertising field, this motoartist always finds time to focus on his passion… His paintings.
I’d like to welcome Ganesh Shinde a.k.a. Miles On Canvas!
Mallika: Welcome Ganesh, please tell us about your life so far and how you overcame all the struggles and found art.
Ganesh: I am from proper Pune. I was born there and I did my education there. My family background didn’t support a good education but I got selected by an NGO for a scholarship. If I didn’t have that at the time, I wouldn’t have reached where I am today. The NGO sponsored my entire education from second standard till college. The scholarship covered all my education fees and art materials. Not just books and pencils but all my meals as well. They would give us raincoats for the rainy season, blankets for the winter, new clothes for festivals.
After 10th standard, I took up accounting. Until then there was no real connection to art. I used to paint and draw on the side as a hobby, I was good at it but I didn’t have the goal of going into art then. So when I scored well in the 10th standard exams, I took up commerce as I was interested in accounting. I thought I would become a CA in the future. In 12th standard as well I got good grades so I started higher education in commerce at Garware College.
Landscapes featuring Ganesh's first bike, a Royal Enfield Classic 350 that took him places.
Then, I reconnected with a childhood friend who was going to Abhinav Art College and he encouraged me to take up art. But I hadn’t given the entrance exam for that college so I couldn’t get admission that year. He asked me to give the exam that year and try to get admission the next. So that’s what I did. I spoke to his art teacher who let me write the exam. I scored well, in fact I came in 4th.
That was a turning point in my life, meeting my friend who encouraged me. I got admitted into the art college but paying for it was a problem. My mother used to work as.a house maid and my father as a gardener. I knew they wouldn’t be able to pay for college. My house was small of 10x10ft. Painting there was not really possible. Because when I used to sit down to paint after coming back from college, my mother would have to wait for me to finish so that she could start cooking. We would even have to take turns to sit down and eat.
There was a tiny space above the room which was only 3ft in height where I used to study. You could only sit there. The NGO that had supported me through high school worked with a non-profit based in Norway. I took my situation to them and they decided to make an exception for me as they recognized that I was good at art. They approved me as a special case and supported me through art college.
I am very lucky. At every step I have met very helpful people. The college fees was very less, only Rs 500 but it was the art materials that was going to be a big cost. And that also depends on how much effort you want to put in. If you paint more, you will need more material, if you paint less, then you don’t need much paint. The NGO didn’t put a limit on how much money they could spare for me, they just paid for everything as needed.
In fact, in the second year of art college, they organized exhibitions of my paintings in Norway. They sent almost 20 paintings to Norway for the exhibition, highlighted my case, filmed a documentary and did a sale of my paintings. And then they put all the money from the sales into my account which helped me finish art college and also for a 6month long technical course at MET in Pune.
My mother died that year due to an accident. It was during the festival of Diwali. My mom was coming back from work and someone threw an illegal can of petrol because of which she caught fire. That was really shocking and difficult as it happened suddenly. It was just me and my father. We would wake up early at 6am to make food for the whole day before he took off for work and I went to college. I would make the rotis and my father would cook the vegetables.
After the cooking and before going to college which started at noon, every morning I would paint a landscape. outdoors After the foundation courses in first year, I took guidance from my art teacher. He told me that I was already good at painting and that I could continue to do it on the side. There was no need to learn it. Instead he guided me towards commercial art that I could learn so I could build a career. I loved to paint. Even if the college assignments required me to do small pieces, I would paint large pieces. I used to get less marks because of that but it used to give me mental satisfaction. I later sold most of those paintings so in a way, it helped me further.
Screenshots from the documentary shot by the NGO that chronicle Ganesh's life
during his college years.
My only objective at the time was to paint and get a decent job that tool care of basic expenses. I didn’t have much financial expectations. After mom passing away, I felt there wasn’t much to live for and yearn for, It was just me and my father. We could get by with very little. These are all memories now. I have come from so much struggle that now I feel that there can’t be anything worse than that. My friends have helped me a lot to get through all the struggles.
Beginnings of a Better Life
At MET’s campus recruitment, I got placed in an ad agency. They liked my paintings so much they didn’t even look at my commercial art projects. They believed that I could learn technical skills quickly since my handwork was good. Everyone was really supportive of me and I worked there for 3 years there. After that I moved to Ogilvy where I work currently. Some things happened for me late like meeting my would be wife, marriage, buying a house etc but I am happy it happened. And that I found a supportive wife.
Mallika: Please tell us the name of this NGO that has been so helpful. It sounds like a really good organization that is doing quality work.
Ganesh: The organization in Norway is called Children’s Future India (CFI). But they couldn’t directly send funds to India, so they partnered with an Indian NGO called CASP. CFI adopts slum areas and helps the community especially kids through education. Their work is ongoing in a number of slums in and around Pune.
Mallika: I’d like to say something here about your effort and will. You’ve mentioned several times that you were very lucky but only luck cannot be the key to anyone’s success. You were determined and strong willed and all the effort you have put in has propelled you through all your hardships.
Ganesh: Yes I agree. I got guidance and direction at many stages but it was all upon me to act on it. I am a very practical person. I have faced so many rough patches in life. First my mom passing away suddenly, then my dad when I had just started working. I feel sad that when the good times rolled in, my parents are not with me to see it. Now I have a supportive wife to share my happiness with but I really wish that I could have shared it with my parents as well. My mom used to tell her employer that as soon as I got a job she will stop working. I really feel that I couldn’t give back to them. They did so much for me and supported me in every way.
My mom was very stubborn and I think I get my stubbornness from her. Once I make up my mind to do something, I will do it. So yes if you want to achieve something, you will have to put in the effort. No one is going to hand it to you. There will always be struggle and you have to face it. That’s the fun in life, without it life would be so boring.
Mallika: Yes we all need a little drama in life to keep it interesting.
Ganesh: Now when sometimes things are going well, I feel like something bad is going to happen. I wonder how it’s possible that something bad hasn’t happened and I fear that another struggle will look me right in the eye. Sometimes I find it very difficult to find time to paint after a full day of office work. But still I make time even if it means a lot of physical exertion because the mental satisfaction I get in unmatched.
Ganesh painting a mural late into the night. We were told he slept for only 2 hours that night.
Mallika: Tell us how you got into biking and painting together.
Ganesh: Once I started working, I bought my first bike. I wanted to buy a good one since I was going to spend money. So I bought a Royal Enfield Classic 350. I really liked the sound and feel of it. My first ride was to Hampi with some friends. It was a good experience but I kept thinking of a way to include painting during such trips. It was fun riding and traveling but the art part of me was missing. From the second trip onwards I started taking my art supplies along with me to make small landscape paintings of the places I was traveling to.
After a few such paintings, I realized there was something missing again.
It was the bike that was taking me to all these wonderful places and enabling traveling and painting. I knew that but how would others know that and know my purpose. That’s when I started adding my bike as well in my landscapes. The biker artist connection started evolving from then on. From this I moved on to painting directly on my bike during my trips. I did that during a trip to Himachal, Hampi and other places.
Mallika: Do you paint mostly with acrylics? How about oils?
Ganesh: Yes this is all acrylic. I like oils too but haven’t used them much because acrylics are easier to work with while traveling. Acrylic paintings don’t get damaged easily outdoors and even if they do, they can retouched. I wouldn’t be able to travel and paint with oils as it would be really hard to handle the wet paintings. It’s hard anyway to take care of myself sometimes, how will I take care of these delicate oil paintings that take so long to dry.
They say "All things, even the good ones, come to an end". While that does make sense, this isn't the end of our talk with Ganesh. His story is like a bottomless mimosa and we have so many more interesting bits to share with you. But today, we will conclude part 1 and continue with the rest next week. So stay tuned on our Instagram handle @motoartshow for updates.
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For now, this is your host, MallikaMoto, signing off!
Mallika Prakash is a motoartist and a curator who started life in Delhi, her art career in San Francisco and recently moved to Bangalore. She started Moto Art Show in 2018 in response to a lack of opportunity to exhibit motoart in India and began curating and hosting motorcycle-centric art exhibitions, bringing together a like minded community. She is extremely passionate about carving a space for motoart and everything it has to offer in the physical art world.