“I was working in my neighbour’s house and in the paan shop too. I had to struggle a lot”, says Sudarshan Patnaik an Indian sand artist from a small town in Puri (Odisha, India).

Pattnaik, earned him accolades all over the world, for his sand sculpture on Black Taj Mahal. He started sculpting images on sand since the age of seven and has designed hundreds of sand art.

Pattnaik has represented India in 50 international Sand Sculpture Championship and festivals all over the world and won 27 championship prizes for the country. Awarded Padma Shri in 2014, Pattnaik’s sculptures speak a lot about environmental crisis, famous festivals, national integrity and religious tolerance.

The Citizen spoke to Pattnaik, who has established The Golden Sand Art Institute in Puri, in Odisha.

1. There are many artists who use colour as a significant medium to depict meaning out of their art but you use sand for the same. When and how did the idea struck you? Why did you intend to be a sand artist in the first place?

When I was a child, I was very interested in drawings and using colours for the same but my life was filled with challenges and due to my financial conditions it was very difficult to buy colours, papers, pencils, etc. But luckily my house was situated near the seaside, therefore, sand became such a canvas that was affordable and I didn’t have to spend money on it. It was only then, that I realised I have been fortunate.

2. How was your journey so far? What were the challenges that crossed your path?

From the very beginning things were very challenging. I have done my schooling until 6th standard. I have not studied further. I was working in my neighbour’s home like a child labour. My father wasn’t staying with me and I was depended on my grandfather’s pension which was around Rs.200. This is the reason why I started working in my neighbour’s house. Along with the work I took out time for the sand art. I saw many prospects of the art form. It is a new medium. There were a lot of challenges that came by my way and my struggle wasn’t easy but somehow I managed to be successful and won many prizes nationally as well as internationally.

3. Who all have been instrumental in leading to your story of success?

No one in particular. Definitely there were many people who supported me and were by my side but I believe I was my own Success story in the end.

4. You have an art institute in Puri. Can you elaborate on its functioning?What scope do you find for the students?

Yes, there are a lot of scopes for the students but depends on them and their interest and capability. If they remain dedicated, it is not going to be difficult for them. There are many students who have performed internationally after getting tutored in the art institute and they have been very successful.

5.You have won a lot of people’s choice prizes. How do people connect to your art form?

All of my art forms deal with current social issues. This is the reason people easily get connected with these sculptures. Globally, I have won a lot of people’s choice prizes, this is because people can very well relate it with themselves.

6. Mostly, What kind of messages do you convey through your art?

Most of my art forms are all about current social issues. These art forms basically have an intense forms of social degradation, social evils, society today, etc. I believe that these issues should be discussed in today’s world and putting it out, artistically will draw a lot of people’s attention.

7. Now that you have been internationally recognised. Do you think there is a slight change in the mindset of the people for the prospects of sand art?

Definitely. Even though it is a temporary art, it draws attention of lots of people. The Konark International Sand Art Festival of Akshay Tourism is held every year, where more than 500000 of people visit, in five days.

What do you have to say about the fundings?

I have been performing globally. Whether it is nationally or internationally, I perform everywhere and I am funded by these people for whom I perform. Also, this is how I utilize it in the functioning of the art institute.

Any message you want to convey to the young artists?

I want to convey a lot of messages to the youngsters who dream of something great in life. I believe that whichever field you want to get indulged into, you should be very focussed and shouldn’t give up at all. If sand can give you a life set up, if an uneducated person can do wonders, it is no doubt that your dedication will bring you closer to your success story. Therefore, I ask you all to have a strong will power. Moreover, blessings from your elders will help you reach the peak of the success one day.