“Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. This we know. The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it.” ~ Chief Seathl – a Native American Indian Chief, in his reply to the President of the United States circa 1860.
The natural beauty of our surroundings is often what most inspires all our creative passions. For Daniel Rai, a lecturer by profession and artist by hobby, it’s the relationship between humans and our environment and the elements of nature, which pretty much dates back to millions of years that fascinates him to create his stunning portrait and scenic paintings.
Today, we are happy to feature painter and artist Daniel Rai who grew up in a village called Pastanga Assam Lingzey in Sikkim. He talks about his love for nature, animals and wildlife, his culture and family and how it has always inspired him to paint through his professional life as a lecturer and physiotherapist.
Hi Daniel. Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Ajoy Daniel Rai. I live in Gangtok (Sikkim) and work as a lecturer in Sikkim Manipal College of Physiotherapy. I am from a village called Pastanga Assam Lingzey, where my house is surrounded by the lush greenery. I love animals and currently, I have 22 pets – 2 dogs, 8 rabbits, and 12 fishes.
Daniel Rai with a Russian Samoyed
Daniel Rai’s pet rabbit
Introduce us to your work. What got you started with sketching and wood-working?
I started sketching at a very young age. When I was 4, I drew the carpenter who was working at my house. He appreciated my lines and my attempt to draw at that young age. My mother fondly reminds me of that memory. I started learning the art of carpentry at a young age and remember making miniature art models which I crafted from unused wood pieces.
“My grandfather always says, since the birth of mankind until his generation they depended only on nature and God who provided shelter, food, and protection. He says time has to change and will change and ultimately we will meet our ancestors in one spirit. This relationship between humans and our environment and the elements of nature, which pretty much dates back to millions of years, fascinates me to create art. I have registered myself as a signature member of Artist For Conservation Society, Vancouver and contribute a small amount of funds every month to them.”
Growing up, my mother was busy taking care of my brother who had just started school so I had ample time on my hands to loiter around in my backyard. In literal words, my village is the base for a beautiful trekking route to Khedi, the plateau of rhododendron. So I’ve always spent my time drawing, sketching the nature, birds, animals and my dreams. My brothers and I used to trek to Khedi once every year, to refresh our souls. I used to take my sketchbooks along with me to capture everything I saw, in pencil and paper instead of photographs. Times have changed now though but, that’s how I got my start.
One of many gorgeous landscape scenes painted by Daniel Rai.
What initially sparked your interest in this field?
The idea to portray art with the surrounding that I grew up in as a child developed a broader understanding of art in its truest form for me. Hence, real-life experiences and the abundant beautiful nature around me captivated my interest to put art onto canvas or paper. People around me appreciated my work but there was much scope to really make money selling art till I finished school – I sold my first ever painting to my friend in my first year of medical school when my friend asked me to paint Christiano Ronaldo for him.
“I then started practicing portraits and started drawing them within nature to envision my creation as one. Painting was something I could never leave behind as I have learned everything by myself. Even when I was short on money, my parents always encouraged me to continue doing it so this remains a big part of who I am as a person. Art has been, is and will always be my life.”
Daniel’s portrait of Cristiano Ronaldo was the first piece of art he ever sold.
How have your roots and upbringing influenced your work?
I have always been fascinated by the mighty Kanchenjunga compassing the blue sky as a picturesque view from my window. I was blessed to grow up amidst the nature and beauty of a variety of cultures and traditions.
“I also grew up watching my late Grandma carve and model lifelike wooden sculptures of wild animals and birds. She was an artist who enjoyed creating sculptures and hung it near my Grandfather’s wall so that he could see and appreciate it. I watched how she patiently carved every piece and subtlely told these expansive tales of nature and wildlife with her simple village tools.”
Perhaps everything around me was just so beautiful – my culture, my roots, my family, my pets, the gorgeous nature – that I was afraid to lose them someday so I started collecting them in the form of art pieces.
Daniel puts the finishing touches on one of his gorgeous portrait pieces.
What do you do full-time? If part-time, how do you manage to indulge in your hobby?
Art is so important for me. It is passion and more than that, it is something I use it to look back on my life. I feel like I’ve been through an evolution process over these years of painting my pieces.
“I work as a full-time lecturer and also as practicing doctor so it helps me a lot in relieving the stress from hospital work. I also am also studying the level of functional impairments in the elderly living in rural and urban areas of Sikkim so I hear a lot of old traditional tales from my field visits. I hope to someday portray everything into an art piece.”
When there is nothing to work on or paint, I like to travel and ride my motorcycle with my friends. We have traveled on our bikes to all four districts of Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal, and hopefully this year to Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland for Hornbill Festival.
Daniel Rai and friends on the way to Tsangu lake in East Sikkim
Daniel Rai In the streets of Singapore with friends
“Rest stop after trekking with brothers” | Daniel Rai and friends
What’s your creative philosophy? Where do you take inspiration from?
I get addicted to the progress of work I look back upon. For instance, if I see that what I have done yesterday, I feel like I can do it better today. That pushes me to break my creative walls and do something out it. It pushes me to become a better person also individually and also as an artist. I take inspiration from different cultures, old folk tales, nature and wildlife.
Daniel Rai live in action, painting a beautiful seaside scenery.
Beautiful seaside scenery by Daniel Rai
What do you hope people take away from your art?
I hope people feel the same way I feel when I paint my works. A lot of my work has an emotional attachment to women in society and the preservation of culture and nature.
“I feel like there was a wonderful bond between nature, culture and our ancestors before technology came into existence. Of course, technology has taken over with time and has its own merits but I believe there was more harmony and people enjoyed quality time with each other with the sounds of birds chirping and footsteps on fresh crisp dried leaves in the background. It’s almost surreal to me these days and I want people to feel the same kind of emotion through my paintings.”
Daniel puts the finishing touches on a gorgeous portrait piece of a Sumi Naga Girl [Buy this Painting on Daniel’s R&L Shop]
“Akikili” – Portrait of a Sumi Naga Girl by Daniel Rai [Buy this Painting on Daniel’s R&L Shop]
Tell us about your latest series of paintings.
I am working currently on a series of paintings for an exhibition. It is something that interlinks nature and technology. I do not know how to really describe the collection but perhaps when I finally finish painting them, you could see it and maybe tell me what it makes you feel.
“A Silent Awareness” – A Painting by Daniel Rai [Buy this painting in Daniel’s R&L Shop]
“People enjoyed quality time being in the midst of birds chirping and walking in trails of fresh crisp dried leaves. Through my paintings, I want people to feel the same kind of emotion. This painting ‘Silent Awareness’ is a depiction of the dying ocean due to anthropogenic activities in our water bodies.” [Buy this painting on Daniel’s R&L Shop]
To see more of Daniel’s amazing pieces, follow him on Instagram! You can also buy his paintings HERE
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