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‘Survival in adversities’: Rajasthan artist paints ‘Tree of Life’ to break Guinness World Record

Leaving a nearly two-decade corporate career behind, Soni took the most important decision of his life and created a massive artwork amid the coronavirus pandemic. It paid off.

Written by Shreya Das | Kolkata |
Updated: January 15, 2022 12:50:41 pm
Guinness World Record, Guinness World Record largest drawing by individual, Guinness World Record indian artists, ravi soni Guinness World Record, indians Guinness World Record, indian expressAfter almost a year of preparation, Rajasthan artist centred his record-breaking artwork around Baobab trees.

Setting a Guinness World Record (GWR) is no mean feat in itself and breaking an already amazing achievement takes the challenge to a whole new level.

Ravi Soni from Rajasthan’s Udaipur set out to do just that with his mammoth artwork, which now holds the GWR record of being the “largest drawing by an individual”. Drawing on the humongous canvas of 629.98 sq m (6781.04 sq ft), the 42-year-old artist broke the record previously held by an Italian artist’s doodle measuring 568.47 sq m created in 2020.

Drawn on a huge black-back PVC canvas, created by numerous flexes stuck together — Soni completed the “Tree of Life” painting in 24 hours and 33 minutes, spread over five days, as he sketched various elements of the “dreamy and abstract” composition.

Soni spoke to IndianExpress.com about what inspired him, how he achieved this remarkable feat and the challenges he faced while making his masterpiece.

‘Tree of Life’

The National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) alumni said he went in a “self-realisation mode” as the coronavirus pandemic set in and decided to quit his corporate life to follow his passion—art. With “Tree of Life”— inspired by the Baobab trees known for their extraordinary longevity — Soni achieved his dream after preparing for almost a year.

“Baobab trees are a representation and a classic example of survival in adversities, this resonated with my current conditions and hence inspired me to illustrate it. I am also fascinated by their peculiar form and size which led me to choose this particular tree for my record attempt,” Soni explained.

For the largest drawing by an individual record the artist painted on a canavs measuring 629.98 sq m (6781.04 ft²) in Rajasthan. (Source: Ravi Soni)

His creation of the life-giving tree along with illustrative mountains and clouds was also an attempt to highlight the importance of an overall ecological balance.

“In India, we have a practice of worshipping trees for ages, and I have always been fascinated by the vastness of trees as if they literally talk to you. They have so much to shower upon besides food and shelter,” Soni said. “Enough has been said about nature and the effects of climate change, and the theme of my drawing is to further elaborate on that subject,” he said.

“We realise the significance of something or someone in our lives only in their absence. The dreadful virus made us realise the importance of oxygen, life, relation, and our overall existence,” he added.

‘Long, meticulous process’

Asked why he set out to make not just any art but start his new journey with a world record, he replied: “I believe that GWR is not only a platform to make and break records and showcase skills or create fascinating landmarks, but also a marvellous platform to communicate”.

“I did some research about the title which I wanted to chase and submitted my application to them in December 2020 and had been preparing for it since. It was a long, meticulous process but totally worth it,” he said.

The undertaking, attempted after the body’s “formal creative approval”, started as a simple monochrome drawing on A4 paper, ended on the “final canvas in the ratio of almost 1:10,000”. To put his canvas in perspective, the painting can cover a basketball court.

From researching about the perfect surface to be chosen as the canvas to markers that would ensure longevity and durability, Soni planned his creation at multiple levels to make sure all went smoothly. However, even with all that preparation, when the D-Day arrived it wasn’t all easy.

Udaipur-based artist completed the “Tree of Life” painting in 24 hours and 33 minutes, spread over five days. (Source: Ravi Soni)

Soni, who has a masterclass from Royal College of Art, London in ‘Future of Retail Design’ and with almost two decades of experience, working on a mega-scale wasn’t new. However, the sheer “whiteness” or the “blankness” of the canvas posed a challenge for him at first.

“To be honest, I have been drawing since my childhood days and was quite confident about illustrating it irrespective of the size of the canvas. But when the world’s largest canvas was actually laid out, it was pretty intimidating,” he said.

“Firstly, it was the mind which gave up. Those monstrous negative thoughts kept on overpowering me with their tentacles, and it felt that this target was just not achievable,” he shared.

Finally, after some meditation and soothing music, he found peace to realise his dream. A bit of exercise to strengthen his physical stamina helped too.

“I worked on my fitness and core muscle strengthening for around eight months before the attempt and as expected, drawing on the world’s largest canvas did put each muscle of my body to test,” he said.

“I had to provide medical cushioning support at various joints to ensure there were no injuries during this entire record attempt,” he added.

Following the specific guidelines from GWR, Soni’s record attempt was captured by multiple cameras and independent witnesses and finally after all the submissions, the body recognised his attempt. He said working in shifts helped as the independent witnesses had to be discharged from their duties every four hours.

Sights on another world record

While it all turned out to be great, when asked if he felt unsure about leaving his steady job, Soni said he did have second thoughts.

“Just like how desert trees extract water content from the atmosphere and survive extreme weather conditions, I think it’s a healthy habit to extract positivity from adversities and the pandemic made me realise that,” Soni said.

“Drawing on the world’s largest canvas did put each muscle of my body to test,” the artist said. (Source: Ravi Soni)

“Loss of family members, jobs, business portrayed a gruesome picture, made me realise what’s important. I eventually took the leap of faith and decided to follow my passion,” Soni, who worked with retail brands like Future Group, Arvind Limited and Reliance Retail, said.

He now hopes to raise awareness about mental health and strength. “Through this mammoth creation, I hope to inspire the youth to cross boundaries, to go fearless and achieve the limitless”.

Soni is already working on his next project.

“I think it’s a great beginning to something fabulous which is lined up,” he added. “In terms of my illustrations, I plan to extrapolate it across multiple platforms like brand collaborations and installations. And who knows, there may be another World Record plan in progress.”

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