I Lived With A Rifle, Now It’s A Brush!

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Col. Sandeep Bajwa (Retd.) Of The Indian Army Is An Acclaimed Portrait & Landscape Painter

By Bala Menon

Col Sandeep Singh Bajwa  tossed aside his weapons in 2007  and selected an array of brushes as he plunged into his new profession, the day he retired after 27 years in the Kumaon Regiment (Infantry) of the  Indian Army.

Today, the Noida-based artist is fast gaining a reputation as a portrait artist – although he is well-known for more than 300 war scenes and army-related paintings that hang in various cantonments and offices across India.

Col. Bajwa joined the National Defence Academy (in 1976) soon after completing high school and was commissioned as an officer in 1980. His father, who was also an army officer, passed away while on operational duty when Sandeep Bajwa was only six years old.

As Col Bajwa explains: “A child’s inclination towards a particular field or activity is often reflective of his natural talent and bent of mind, before the reality of the need for subsistence sets in. I have been very active in art, sketching and painting since childhood and through my schooling years”

He was also active in sports and other extracurricular activities and decided that the Army was his only choice for a profession as he grew out of his teens.

He first thought that Army life would mean an end to his artistic leanings, but was pleasantly surprised when he found that the Army environment allowed him free rein to hone his talent.

“Therefore, I pursued my art learning as serious hobby, alongside my army career. Being a career officer, I found art a big stress busting activity. I painted war scenes and portraits for army messes throughout my career. All my spare time was thus creatively utilized to pursue art,” he said. He also had the opportunity at this time to complete a semester-long portrait-painting course in 1994 at the California Arts Institute  in Los Angeles.

Col Bajwa was in Toronto with his wife Manveen recently to visit his son, who is an IT specialist with a local company. “I have come to Canada several times now,” he told the Voice.

In his army days, his various  postings in several parts of India helped. “From the pristine Pir Panjal ranges in Kashmir and the Shyok River in Ladakh to the dense jungles of Nagaland, I have seen them and they are all engraved into my mind” hopefully to be transferred onto his canvasses in the coming years.

Portraits of the Emir of Kuwait specially commissioned during the Emir’s visit to India in 2016. Several of his portraits painted by Col. Bajwa were taken by the Emir to Kuwait.

After retiring from the Army, he joined the private sector and worked for about eight years in the fields of Fashion Design, Administration and Security. His last job was as Consultant (Art Administration) with the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art. (Established in 2010, the Nadar Museum is India’s first private museum dedicated to contemporary art. The core collection in two locations – in New Delhji and Noida –  comprises post-independence 20th century painters, but the museum  also holds exhibits of younger, artists )

 Today, he is frequently invited to judge student art competitions

Bajwa is a free-wheeling artist, painting anything that comes into his mind, portraits, landscapes or battlefield scenes. – both in oil and acrylic. He is, however, focussing now on portraits – “doing them gives me a lot of satisfaction  when the painting comes alive and reflects the person’s personality.”

His wife is his greatest fan, encouraging him to experiment with styles and textures “but my inspiration comes from Renaissance artists. Art flourished during that period and Rembrandt is my all-time favourite.”

And what is the best painting that he has completed? “It is a portrait of my father. When my mother saw it after it was done, she was overwhelmed because of the sheer life-like detail and shadows and she exclaimed: ‘He looks so alive!’

Col. Bajwa’s website: www.sandeepbajwa.com