ART wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something,” writes Rainbow Rowell in her 2013 novel Eleanor & Park. Abhishek Panchal's idea behind setting up the Bombay Pencil Jammers (BPJ) in 2014 was to provide a platform where people could express that 'something' on paper. “Also, there are many individuals who are immensely talented but do not have the necessary knowledge on how to put their work out to the world. I wanted to connect to such people,” says Panchal, who has been associated with the British Council for past two years as a consultant and a facilitator for The Big Draw international art festival, which aims to make art accessible to all.
An artwork by jammer Rachel Santos
The first jam
It was in 2012 that Panchal first thought of having an art fest in Mumbai that would be open to people from all age groups. “I wanted to do justice to my plans so I decided to build networks and do concrete planning even if the festival had to happen two years down the line,” he says. Inspired by the pencil jammers in Bengaluru and Delhi, Panchal decided to start a group on similar lines in Mumbai in August last year.
Abhishek Panchal and Raisa D'Souza with the charcoal-acrylic fusion painting at this year's Bandra festival
The BPJ had their first jamming session at a Café Coffee Day outlet in Malad (West) last August. Panchal recalls being jittery about the response. “I had my fingers crossed as the idea was still vague and people did not know what I was about to do at the first meet. To my surprise, three people turned up, one being a friend and the other two, turned up on the faith that I was doing something different. They both are now core team members of BPJ,” he says with a smile. The sessions now see a good 10-12 people in attendance.
How they roll
The jam normally starts with casual introductions by the participants. “We encourage people to experiment with any art form on paper and make it clear that BPJ does not judge anyone and every piece you do is a masterpiece,” he says. The session sees participants from all walks of life, from professional artists, architects, designers to college students and school kids. “We also had a couple of government officials who were highly talented and did not find time to practice their hobby which they managed at BPJ,” he says. The session usually takes place on Sundays. But that can be a hindrance too, says Panchal. “It is always a challenge for us to convince people to step out of their homes and come for jams on a Sunday. Another challenge has been to reach out to people. I guess not everyone knows about our existence and we need to reach out to more people,” he says. However, the group does have loyalists who have attended most sessions. To BPJ regular, Raisa D'Souza, a third year engineering student, the jamming session is not just about making a piece of art but also about stepping outside her comfort zone. “I am an introvert by nature and this session has given me an opportunity to interact with people. You get to explore and learn so much,” she says. Ashish Behera, an IIT student looks forward to jamming on the weekend. “It gives me a break from the pressure of studying engineering. At these jams, I get a chance to pursue my hobby and also meet some amazingly talented individuals,” he says.
Taking art beyond the four walls
While the sessions do not stick to a theme, the jammers tend to find inspiration either within the venue or the people around. The group recently organised a jam at the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum so that the group could find inspiration from the large number of archaeological delights there. “I drew a warrior girl after looking at one of the artifacts and was amazed that I could create something like that,” gushes D'Souza. Panchal says the best part about conducting jams at public spaces is that it arouses curiosity. “When we jam at public places people come to us and ask about us and get into conversations. They sometimes end up joining us,” he says.
A sketch made by Abhishek Panchal. Pic Courtesy/Nishna Mehta
Panchal hopes to hold an exhibition of the artwork soon. “We are archiving the best of our works and plan to exhibit them in a sequence starting from the first jam along with the details of the jamming session and a note about the artist.”
BPJ's upcoming jam will be a collaboration with a group of professional dancers that will give artists an opportunity to learn the nuances of body movement and express it on paper. The event will take place on Sunday evening, June 14.
For details contact Abhishek Panchal 8149982068