Sat, 13 May 2000

Sketch artist proves simple is beautiful

By Tarko Sudiarno

SURABAYA (JP): Among jostling photographers taking pictures of a recent royal wedding in Solo palace, a man was seen busily scribbling with a pencil on a piece of paper. In no time, it was full of illegible lines and squiggles.

His hand kept moving, however, and his eyes were fixed hawk- like on the bride and the bridegroom. He stood apart from the rowdy photographers to avoid being knocked around while he worked.

His name is Muntolip Prasojo, a sketch artist from Surabaya. He is popular among arts collectors in Jakarta, Surabaya and Bali.

The gray-haired 69-year-old was racing against the clock to sketch the royal wedding.

He is a fast worker. With a keen, predatory eye for detail he can finish a sketch in less than five minutes.

Prasojo learned his craft at the Surabaya Academy of Arts and graduated in 1967.

"I also learned from painters like Affandi," he said.

He told me he loved sketching because it has its own uniqueness that not every artist can successfully manage.

"Sketching takes great courage, skill and stamina. I sketch events, which requires precision because the event cannot be repeated. If it is postponed, it would not be a sketch but an ordinary painting, a recreation after the fact," he said.

A good sketch, he emphasized, is one which is simple, where the subject is carefully selected. And this is the greatest challenge: determining what is worth being drawn in a split second. "If you are not fast enough, the moment and the subject are gone. Unlike in photography, a sketch cannot put all the objects in one frame."

Once the sketching begins, the pencil cannot stop and it's "taboo" to erase a line. When the artist makes a mistake, he must continue on in order to maintain originality.

"In painting, the artist will correct his mistakes anytime he feels like it. You cannot do this in sketching, otherwise you will lose the moment."

When asked why he remains loyal to sketching, he jokingly said it was because his name was Prasojo, which means "simplicity" -- the basic characteristics of a good sketch.

He proves this in his work. Simplicity is a dominant feature in his oeuvre. He is also selective about what is included in each work of art.

In the Solo royal wedding ceremonies, he made 15 sketches. Every piece depicted a specific activity. Together they make up a complete sequence of events.

They were all bought by the Solo palace. Prasojo declined to say how much he was paid.

"Having the opportunity to sketch this event was a big honor for me," he said.

Prasojo never leaves home without pencils and paper. He also does sketches of nature like Kali Mas River, Jembatan Merah Bridge and Turi market -- all in Surabaya. When he visited Yogyakarta recently, he sketched landmarks such as Tugu area and life along the Code River.

He is planning to sketch Surabaya on a 5 meter by 2 meter canvas -- taking in Gresik port in the west all the way to Tanjung Perak in the east. Landmarks to be featured in the work include the badly polluted Kenjeran Beach and Turi market.

Prasojo also wants to make sketches of the notorious Dolly red-light district.