VANCOUVER (CityNews) – The full title is “100 Faces for India,” 33-year-old artist Nishant Jain explains.
After portraits of people in Vancouver drew people’s attention on Reddit and Instagram, Jain — a keen observer of people’s daily lives and self-proclaimed ‘Sneaky Artist’ — decided he wanted to pay it forward. Using his talent, he wanted to help those whose world has been turned upside-down by a relentless wave of COVID that’s leaving many begging on the streets for oxygen and medical attention.
“The idea is to draw one hundred portraits for people at reduced rates, and donate the money to organizations in India helping vulnerable populations through the pandemic,” he says.
The new immigrant to Vancouver has been making “Sneaky Art” of the urban landscape and the people he sees in his day-to-day life since 2017.
“It began as a way to teach myself to draw,” Jain says. “I walk around cities and sit in public spaces, and observe people going about their day. I find people to be very interesting subjects for art.”
Having drawn Sneaky Art in the USA, India, and Canada, and observed people for years, Jain says he’s noticed a change in people since the pandemic began.
“Pre-COVID, you would see people interact more freely. There was a certain excitement and joy, even to routine interactions, like buying something at the store. Everyone is more guarded now. We have a larger radius of personal space, and become uncomfortable and worried when a stranger crosses it.”
As for his passion for drawing people in their element, without them noticing, Jain says he’s never been observed, or caught in the act, drawing someone, adding, “I’m very sneaky.”
“But more seriously,” he adds, “the people I like to draw are busy in their worlds. This is why they interest me. My subjects are deeply engrossed in their lives.”
It’s a stark contrast to the heartbreak and horror happening in India amid the shortage of medical supplies and oxygen throughout that country. Life there is far from ordinary: gut-wrenching scenes play out daily with countless people succumbing to the virus as oxygen runs out in hospitals, and others barely clinging to life on city streets, begging for a hospital bed and emergency treatment.
Jain says he felt compelled to help. “I’m offering digital copies of ink portraits at $25,” he says. “The target to reach is 100 portraits.”
“I will donate 100 per cent of the money from 100 Faces for India to Khalsa Aid and GiveIndia, two organizations that have a proven track record in providing essential services to the most vulnerable populations of India.”
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Jain says he hopes the offer of a keepsake art print will push people to treat themselves to a custom portrait, which also benefits those in India.
“In my experience, a lot of people want to support good causes, but still need extra incentive to be spurred to action. I consider it my role here to be that incentive. People donate their money to the cause, and I donate my time and effort. Hopefully, this way we can help some people.”
Jain says he doesn’t plan on stopping once he reaches his initial $2,500 goal on the 100 Faces for India fundraiser page.
“When I reach the 100, I intend to offer posters and prints of all the portraits as well, to raise more funds.”