Teen artist-turned-philanthropist Arsh Pal sells his paintings to support charities

Chicago based artist Arsh Pal. Photo : Facebook @artbyarsh

Thirteen year-old Arsh Pal has been donating $1,000 of his own earnings to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (https://www.stjude.org) charities for the past 5 years, creating original paintings and selling them.

When other kids his age are busy earning pocket money to buy things for themselves, Arsh Pal has made a commitment to donate at least $1,000 every year.

Arsh and his mother Divya explained his altruism in an exclusive interview with News India Times.

Arsh’s talent for painting was triggered by his visits to the nursing home with her where his occupational therapist mother Divya worked. “He was curious as to what is happening, why this person is on wheelchair, why a person cannot eat by himself, etc.,” Divya said. It was being exposed to the practical thing versus just watching something on TV that made a big impact on him, she said.

Arsh used to paint, and teach painting to older adults in the nursing home when he went there with his mother.

“When I used to talk to them and play with them, they used to smile and that made me feel good inside,” Arsh said. Later when he began to sell his paintings and was yet to decide what to do with it, he remembered those smiles. “I really wanted to help someone,” he said.

The Artist : Beginning to paint at the age of 8, Arsh is a self-taught artist. Painting was his favorite hobby in childhood. “I got really good at painting,” he said. His parents got him art supplies for his eighth birthday. “And from then on, I started learning new techniques. I practiced and learned from videos and my mom helps me,” he said.

Divya is a childhood amateur artist, having devoted some time to painting in school. “But back home in India, studies were always the main focus,” she explained. Drawing on her memory, Divya first began teaching Arsh the basics. Then she began brushing up her own techniques, learning newer ones, and teaching Arsh those, she said.

Arsh has experimented with watercolor. But his favorite medium right now is acrylic. “Acrylic dries quickly and you can blend colors when it is still wet,” he said. He does not use oil paint at the moment as it takes a very long time to dry between coats. “The good thing about oil paint is that you are able to create very realistic paintings. So when I learn how to use oil paint, I plan on using that. But for now I only use acrylic,”

Arsh Pal creating one of his paintings. Photo : Courtesy St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, from Facebook @artbyarsh

Landscapes are Arsh’s favorite. His inspiration comes during family drives and vacations. He said he and his family travel every summer to a different state. That brings variety to his paintings, Arsh said. His favorite method is to take pictures of landscapes he likes and then paint those from the picture.

Yuvan, Arsh’s younger brother who is now 8, is very observant, noticing trees or sunsets on long drives, pointing them out to Arsh, Divya said. “He is always involved in the background, managing fundraising, collecting items, and donating them,” Divya said. She said Yuvan also helped Arsh make cards for St. Jude, and asked his classmates and friends to donate cards or items. “He is also part of Arsh’s videos. “He feels proud that we are doing this as a family,” she said.

Painting For Philanthropy: Like most Indian parents, Arsh’s parents Divya and Sanjeev first tried to stop him from this diversion of painting and selling. They told him he was too young and needed to focus on his studies, Divya said. She said they also questioned him what he wanted to do with the money. But Arsh was clear in his mind, and said he wanted to use it to make people happy, Divya said.

Arsh said he likes to help people. If he can make people forget their pain and make them smile, it would mean a lot to him, he said. “When you make people smile, help out in some way, that would make that person’s day. And people would remember it,” Arsh said.

St. Jude was decided unanimously by Arsh and his family. “We were looking at organizations where I can donate and St. Jude caught my attention because it treats kids with cancer. At that time that really stood out for me and that is why I chose it,” Arsh said.

But selling paintings was a difficult task as he did not have the resources in the beginning. He said then he used to sell to his close friends and family then. He sold his first painting to his piano teacher for $10.

After that, he began selling at any opportunity he got, Arsh said. “I sold at my school, at libraries, restaurants, anywhere that I could sell them, so people could see my artwork and see my story,” he said.

Now Arsh has a Face book page and Instagram page. People can go to Art by Arsh and see some of his paintings on them. They can also buy them there.

Arsh also paints on orders. He has created many such custom made paintings. A lot of people have been calling him after reading his story in news media including mainstream television, he said. “They are surprised that at such a young age I am able to do this type of artwork,” he said.

Still a School Kid: Arsh doesn’t let this passion of his interfere in his schoolwork. After school, he first attends to his homework, and then if he has a lot of time left, he usually paints. He also paints during the weekends.

In spite of undertaking this enormous effort at such a young age, Arsh is a regular school-kid. “I have a lot of friends and the teachers are really nice.” Science is Arsh’s favorite subject. “I might do art full time instead of having it as a hobby and go into science too,” he said.

“Playing outside is his main priority,” Divya said. Arsh is still a kid, much in the habit of jumping around, she said, adding Arsh would paint for three hours, then jump around for half an hour, and then paint again.

At school, Arsh is a member of the Drawing Club. Right now, he is working on a painting that resembles an eagle, the school mascot.

Family : His mom and dad are probably his biggest supporters, Arsh said. “They have always been there for me and have always helped me out,” he said. Diwya has been really busy helping him organize his interviews, or his sale. “She is like my full time assistant, always helping me set up a lot of things and I’m really thankful for that,” he said.

Arsh’s father Sanjeev is also part of Arsh’s endeavor, which Divya calls a ‘family affair’. The parents have taken pains to make Arsh’s younger brother Yuvan not feel left out, according to Divya. Both she and her husband take turns to be with each of their children.

Indian Roots: Both of Arsh’s parents are first generation immigrants from India. While Divya is from Indore, Sanjeev is from Hyderabad. Their families including parents and siblings live in India.

Arsh has been to India a couple of times and has met his cousins. “It is one of my favorite places. Real fun,” he said. He has also learned Hindi which he speaks fluently, and likes Indian food. His favorite dish is Biryani.

One of the paintings by Arsh Pal. PHOTO: FaceBook @artbyarsh

The Pal family celebrates all Indian festivals in traditional manner. Arsh and Yuvan like to dress up in traditional outfits, Divya said. The family also celebrates American holidays, thus becoming part of both cultures.

The Pal family holds a strong belief that everyone lives for themselves. It is only when you live for someone else, if you are doing something for someone, that is how you make an impact. That is how you are giving meaning to your life. It does not mean you are not living or cutting out something from your life, according to Divya.

“It does not matter what language you speak, which area you are from, or what is your nationality,” Divya said, adding, “Humanity is important. Arsh is helping kids and adults here, and that has already brought a lot of meaning to his life,” she said.



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