Sanjeewani Wijewardhane has been recognized by Mandela Fine Art Gallery as one of its international exclusive artists
One good thing about Western countries is that they give art and artists their due recognition, opined Sanjeewani Senani Wijewardhane, a self-taught budding wildlife artist who has been selected to represent the largest Asian wildlife art exhibitions this year in Singapore. “Although we give a degree holder a higher place in society, Westerners tend to think that a degree is something that any hard worker can achieve. They pay more respect to artists and accept that art is an inborn talent which is a rare blessing in human lives,” said Sanjeewani.
Feedback encouraged her to polish her skills further. She started feeling confident of what she can do with this talent. Therefore she started looking out for more opportunities online. This is where she grabbed the attention of an advertisement put out by the Mandela Art Gallery in Singapore asking for wildlife painters to apply for an exhibition
The exhibition is organized by Mandela Fine Art Gallery in Singapore in partnership with ‘Asian Geographic’ international magazine. Most of the internationally recognized wildlife artists around the world are participating at this event. Sanjeewani is the only Sri Lankan among the 30 most acclaimed artists.
Mandela Gallery recently announced that Sanjeewani’s wildlife drawing themed ‘The Wolves’ has been nominated for the international award presented for the best artist along with five other participating artists. The winner will be announced at the end of the exhibition by a special jury of art curators in Singapore. The exhibition will take place in Singapore from August 27 to September 15.
Sanjeewani is from Kurunegala. She recalled how she showed talents in dancing and music while she was studying at Kurunegala Holy Family Convent. In 1999, the school dancing group she represented won the second place at the group dance category of All Island Dance Competition. She chose business studies as her subject stream for the advanced level examination. After school she wanted to master business management that she started following a degree in business management. She mentioned that she never had an intention of becoming an artist.
As a child, she was interested in handwork. She said that doing something creative always made her feel content and energized. “I always enjoyed making cards for friends’ birthdays and giving them handmade gifts. I always felt that it had more meaning that just giving something bought from a shop. Before her friends recognized her skills she was famous among them for her creative handwork. This same enthusiasm is what encouraged her to master realistic pencil drawing in just four years.
She has never been to an art class although she knew that she has a talent in drawing. She said that she always had the eagerness to copy illustrations during her leisure time. Her sketches were always admired by her friends and their encouragement made her identify her hidden talent. “I practiced sketching on my own. I was inspired by the pictures I saw on the internet amazed how people use their talent in drawing,” she said.
Absorbed by the talents she saw online, she was determined to experiment with her skills to know how far she can master the art. She said that she practiced repeatedly with Youtube and other online tutorials. “Even the pencils I use for sketching were learned from online tutorials. When I started I didn’t know that such special pencils were available,” she explained how she improved her inborn drawing talent.
She started drawing portraits of famous people. She was amazed by her own capabilities that were not recognized earlier. She was confident about her work so she created a Facebook group where she could post her work. “I received positive feedback through the Facebook page from both known and unknown people. And I started receiving invitations to draw commission based portraits,” she said.
Feedback encouraged her to polish her skills further. She started feeling confident of what she can do with this talent. Therefore she started looking out for more opportunities online. This is where she grabbed the attention of an advertisement put out by the Mandela Art Gallery in Singapore asking for wildlife painters to apply for an exhibition. Although Sanjeewani had never tried wildlife drawing, she took a chance in writing to the Mandela Art Gallery requesting an opportunity.
She thinks it was her good luck. As they were pleased with what she has already drawn they decided to give her opportunity to attempt at drawing wildlife themes. She elaborated how she took it up as a challenge and told them that she is ready to draw whatever they provide. She reminisced how she was able to complete an A2 sized pencil drawing looking at a photograph of a zebra herd which they sent. “They were happy with my work and announced that they are ready to accept me for the exhibition,” said Sanjeewani adding that she felt proud about the opportunity received to represent her mother country at an international art exhibition. Mandela Fine Art Gallery which works with more than 300 artists representing 30 countries has declared Sanjeewani as one of their international exclusive artists.
Being recognized as an artist, she had to free herself from being a professional in the business management field. She emphasized that her creative work demands more time and patience than a career in business management. She chose to give priority in developing her talent since she has also received a rare opportunity to master her skills. “I am still an amateur to this. There is a lot more for me to learn and practice. It was a miracle that I found this opportunity and I am going to do my best to be my best,” Sanjeewani said.