Home > Digital Library > Index of Newsletters > Vol. II No. 2 July - September 1994


Newsletter | List of Newsletter

Aesthetics of Nail Drawing

How to Create Nail Drawings

Shri P. T. Deshpande

Shri P.T. Deshpande of IGNCA is an Artist, Cartographer and an expert in Nail Drawing. In an interview with Gautam Chatterjee he expressed that Nail Drawing can be of great help to visually handicapped persons.


GC: Shri Deshpande, you are an Artist-cum-Cartographer and a Nail Drawing Artist as well! Will you explain how all this started?

PTD: Basically I am an Artist by profession and cartography is my another calling. Since childhood I was fascinated by sculptures and all relief forms. My first exposure to Nail Drawing was through my elder brother who used to parctise it. I learnt this art from him in my school days and developed this art form over four decades; also added colour in Nail Drawing reliefs.

GC: Will you enlighten about the world of Nail Drawing artists?

PTD: The Nail Drawing is an ancient art lost in antiquity. Perhaps, all the civilizations have nurtured it in isolation in different era. In India as early as 2nd century A.D. Kalidasa referred it as Nakshta in his play Abhijnanasakuntalam. But the art form could not come out of its rudimentary states. Nevertheless, this art was passed on from generation to generation in isolated manner and people nurtured it more as pastime than a serious aesthetic endeavour.

GC: Will you clarify whether Nail Drawing is a craft or an art?

PTD: Till now Nail Drawing has remained as a small time craft, but I am trying to give it a status of an art form as I am creating Nail Drawing on a paper and adding colour and mixing pen and ink drawing as well to bring it in relief.

GC: Will you throw some light on other contemporary Nail Drawing artist?

PTD: There are Nail Drawing artists all over India and particularly in Southern peninsula. But there is no common platform for these artists to come together and exchange ideas. So most of us are not aware of each other’s existence and the type of work being done in this field.

GC: It is understood that you are experimenting with Nail Drawing which hold out great promise four our blind brethren. Will you explain the theme?

PTD: It is generally believed that visually handicapped persons cannot draw on paper as they cannot see! But I am confident that if they are taught Nail Drawing they can draw relief lines with nail and follow patterns. It is true that aesthetic sensibilities of these people are different than others, so they cannot be taught with conventional medium of paper and colours. These nail reliefs can encompass varied motifs from nature to human forms and one can go about to create geometrical designs in abstract dimensions.

GC: AS you have been experimenting with visually handicapped persons, will you narrate about their aesthetic sensibilities?

PTD: On a visit to a visually handicapped school, I found students are not taught drawing for the reason I have mentioned already. However, I found that they are taught Geometry with the help of wooden or plastic blocks. Taking cue from this concept I pondered over that the Nail Drawing can be utilized for this purpose. I have experimented this form with the students of one of the Delhi’s Blind School, for six months. They learnt to draw geometrical forms like straight line, triangle and square and combined these forms to create different patterns. On seeing those drawings no one could believe that those were done by visually handicapped. Interaction with them helped me to devise methodology of Nail Drawing in stages. I may like to share one experience which will clarify their aesthetic sensibility vis-ą-vis a normal understanding. Once I drew a standing side-faced bird. In this dimension one can see only one leg of the bird. So I drew one leg of bird. A child after feeling the relief questioned "Uncle, this bird has only one leg". The statement not only made me aware of their possible aesthetic dimension but also hurt me mentally that how little I know about them. Since then whenever I draw bird I make it a point to show both the legs of the bird.

GC: Will you kindly elaborate the scope of Nail Drawing for the benefit of visually handicapped!

PTD: As I said earlier the Nail Drawing should be taught to handipcapped persons to that they can engage themselves in some creative manner. Compared to other art forms one needs very little art material – nail those of thumb, middle finger and ring finger coupled with consistent practice and patience one can create this art form. I hope some agency working for the handicapped persons will give it necessary patronage to reach out globally as this art form has many promises.

GC: Your inquisitive mind always played with new mediums. Will you share some of your experiences?

PTD: I humbly say that I am preparing a comic book with colour relief illustrations with captions in Braille and in Roman Script which can be enjoyed by all handicapped persons. I am also preparing an alphabetical book for very young handicapped children. Apart from Nail Drawings I have used water and oil colour in conventional methods, and I have created carved out images of Ganesha and others from dry coconut shells with fibers. This I do with surgical knife to bring out sculptural effect.

GC: Shri Deshpande, thank you very much for your enlightened talk on aesthetic reliefs which bears many promises and possibilities.


nl00414b.jpg (7649 bytes) nl00414c.jpg (7961 bytes)
How to Create Nail Drawings



The Nails you need : 1. Middle finger, 2. Ring Finger, 3. Thumb

Nail Drawing is an unique art form. Like any other art form, one needs patience and constant practice to learn the basic principle to learn the basic principles and master it. There is no short cut, one has to go through stages. First, grow your working hand nails only. Middle and ring finger nail smay be of 2 to 3 mm long. As these nails are delicate, this length is more than enough. The thumb nail can be of 4 to 6mm length. This nail is quite strong and can stand the strain. This is necessary to keep at least 1 mm gap between thumb and finger tips so that the paper can move smoothly as per the direction of the line. The point of the thumb nail should be smooth and, not very sharp. Do not work when the nails are wet.


Grip position of Nails, Gap between finger tips, Always keep the Nail cutter handy to keep the edges smooth

In other drawing art forms, usually the drawing paper is fixed on the board with drawing pins or tape. The paper remains static and the hand moves according to the direction of the pencil or brush stroke. But in nail drawing, the paper also moves or rotates in the other hand grip. For practice, the size of the paper may be of 10 cm x 15cm size or even smaller. Even a small strip of paper is good enough for practice. There is no hard and fast rule. Maximum size can be of 20cm x 30cm but this is for advance stage. Up to this size, one can hold the paper conviniently between thumb and finger nail grip to reach the centre of paper without making any folds. For practice, use any writing, xerox, duplicating or thin handmade paper, which can stand the strain and easy to draw lines with nails. Handmade paper is recommended as it has rag content and is not machine pressed, so one gets good relief.


How to hold the paper in left hand, Grip, Position of both the hands and paper while drawing

When you grow nails long enough, start drawing straight lines. To start with, one may not get good results, but don't get discouraged, keep it up. Once you learn to draw sharp straight line, switch over to curved lines. This will help you to maintain firm grip on paper (position of nails). Press the paper up with finger nail from the back side and down with thumb nail from front.

Start with drawing forms, designs etc. nature is the best teacher, draw flowers, leaves. One gets lot of line drawings in magaznies or art books or even K.G./Nursery/Primary level books. To reach some stage, it may take time. It depends how much serious you are. Make it practice to 3 to 4 sketches per day, during your leasure time, put date and signature and keep it in folder or box. This way you will know your progress.


P. T. Deshpande

[ Newsletter | List of Newsletter ]

HomeSearchContact usIndex

[ Home | Search  |  Contact UsIndex ]

Copyright IGNCA© 1999