Hand Painted Type: The Last Painters of India
The 8th session of Aksharsanwad was themed around the ongoing project ‘HandPaintedType’ dedicated to preserving the typographic practice of street painters around India. This project initiated by Hanif Kureshi involves documenting the typefaces of road side painters across India and digitizing it so that it serves as a resource for present and future generations. The digitalization of these typefaces by creating fonts is being done collaboratively by Hanif Kureshi and Sarang Kulkarni of Whitecrow Design Management.
After a brief introduction on the project, Hanif showcased two inspiring short films. One of the films highlighted the advent of local DTP (Desktop Publishers) shops while the other showcased the reality in the life of the street painters and their struggle to earn their livelihood. With the rapid growth of DTP shops, street painters started going out of business and many painters gave up their practice. Therefore many of them started switching to the quicker and cheaper but uglier version, i.e. vinyl. In order to preserve these vanishing varieties of hand painted forms in India, Hanif travelled to many cities throughout the country and visited street painters in order to help keep their practice alive.
Through visual examples, Hanif highlighted certain observations that were made about the handpainted type. For e.g. most varieties in Handpainted type show cultural and regional influences in their styles. Also, the choice of colours varies from region to region. What is impressive is that Hanif did not just click pictures and document these works but he took a step forward. He gave recognition and credibility to the painters who had created these works and brought them to the limelight thus raising this project to a completely new level. Among these several different kinds of handpainted type, what Hanif calls the ‘the fruit juice style’, is a very interesting one. This style is typically seen at most fruit juice parlors in Delhi.
To preserve and promote these visual treats, Hanif collaborated with Sarang Kulkarni to convert some handpainted types into digital fonts. In his presentation, Sarang described the process and challenges faced while creating the digital font ‘Painter Kafeel’. This digital version is a combination of 9 fonts that come together to retain the multi coloured effect of the original hand-painted style. The family also contains two other single layered versions of the same style.
Through such extensive work, ‘Handpainted Type’ has been raised to a much greater platform and has also received recognition through several noted publications. The project being a collaborative one, Hanif invited one and all to be a part of it and help support the street painters to promote the cause. Further information on the project is available on www.handpaintedtype.com