Benjamin Erulkar proudly holds up an intricate drawing of roses from a page in his sketchbook, with hundreds of pencil shadings effectively capturing the fine details of each petal and stem. This piece is just one of many featured in his comprehensive collection of artwork.
“For the realism and this type of art with the colored pencils, it takes me around 16 hours to create each piece,” Erulkar shares.
The self-taught Lake Forest native has been creating art for six years, and engages in a variety of different styles, ranging from pop art graphics, featuring vibrant, bold colors to meticulously detailed colored pencil drawings of public figures such as Kobe Bryant. His artistic roots stem from his grandmother, who was a professional artist and teacher, and his father, who previously had aspirations to be a cartoonist.
Erulkar, who plans to attend Lake Forest Academy in the fall, notes that he typically sells his art through commissions. Recently, a client requested a colored pencil drawing of Serena Williams,
with Erulkar employing techniques that make the athlete appear so realistic that it could be misconstrued as a photograph.
Each piece Erulkar creates is a labor of love; he places significant amounts of focus and attention to detail into its production.
“It’s sometimes hard to say goodbye to the original,” he notes, when referring to the Serena Williams commission, but he is bolstered knowing his pieces bring a sense of joy to others.
Erulkar draws inspiration from Takashi Murakami, the prominent Japanese contemporary artist, whose artwork was featured in an exhibit at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art in 2017. Erulkar implements this artistic style in his pop art, which highlights brilliant colors and cartoonish graphics.
If he’s not producing a piece of realism artwork, or pop art, one can find Erulkar participating in travel baseball or hitting the ski slopes for Snowflake Club.
He also participates in fundraising activities, organizing an art supply drive for Lurie Children’s Hospital to share his passion for the craft, and this past winter he spearheaded a food drive for the Northern Illinois Food Bank and collected over 4,000 pounds of food.
But it is his art that he always circles back to at the end of a long day filled with hours of extracurricular activities and pages of homework assignments.
“I usually do art later in the day,” he says. “It is really relaxing.”
Accolades for the 13-year-old are abundant; Erulkar was recently selected to display a piece of his artwork in the 14th Annual Emerging Artists Exhibit in Lake Forest, beside his 2nd-grade younger brother, who was also chosen. His aspirations transcend the Chicago area and he plans to exhibit and sell his artwork at the All Island Art Show in Martha’s Vineyard in August.
Erulkar anticipates that his artistic journey will not end anytime soon. He is currently delving into a new subject within realism: the human body and anatomy, particularly focusing on muscles.
“I’m only 13,” he says, “so I’m not sure where my art will take me, but I’m sure I’ll know when I get there!”
Follow Erulkar on Instagram @benjart2007.