Vilas Tonape, an accomplished artist who chairs the Department of Art at Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina, received a special honor recently when former President George W. Bush invited him to his Dallas home to teach Bush portrait painting.
Former First Lady Laura Bush served as a model for the session as Tonape demonstrated his portrait techniques to her husband.
“Not only was he very funny, he was very attentive, very poignant in terms of the education he was trying to grab and absorb from me,” Tonape told India-West. “I went through some grammatical aspects of human face, colors, tones, etc., but he made me feel like he was a postgraduate student, not a big man.”
Tonape, who has won many accolades for his artwork, wishes Indian-Americans were more open-minded about careers in art.
“We have a long history of art, sculptures, and architectures, and we’ve been doing it for thousands of years. In spite of that, for the last 24 years, when I introduce myself as an art professor, and people get surprised, especially Indians, it really upsets me,” he said. “They expect every Indian to be a doctor, an engineer, in IT, medicine, etc. They think artists don’t come from India. … But in India, no one is surprised.”
Compiled and partly written by Indian humorist MELVIN DURAI, author of the novel Bala Takes the Plunge.
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