Staying motivated with Vaishnavi Poduri

By Our Reporter
Clockwise L-R: Vaishnavi Poduri black belt, Footscray Art Prize 2021, grandmother's portrait & Vaishnavi with a Diploma and 3km Gold Trophy // Pics supplied

It goes without saying that the pandemic brought a whole lot of challenges to both kids and adults alike. But one person who embraced this change and brought positive outcomes through her own lived experience is 13-year-old Vaishnavi Poduri. The Melbourne-based teenager, through the course of the pandemic, learnt to don many hats by dint of her own hard work. Today she is an artist, black-belt holder in karate, swimmer, and a violinist. Poduri’s philoshophy is simple: she is always looking for new sources of motivation. We share her simple life story that is ridden with lots of lessons for small success—one that will eventually pave the way for bigger ones. In conversation with Vaishnavi Poduri.

You studied online arts course during the pandemic, and you ended up winning a prize at an art exhibition?

I started my artistic journey at the age of eight with basic colouring. I then continued this journey with pencil drawing. Looking at my artwork, I was encouraged to enhance my skills by one of my dad’s friends who is an artist and my mentor.

The online graphite masterclass was a 10-week online course offered by Studio A. The course was designed to help artists enhance their skills in graphite drawing. At the end of the course, I took up a final portrait project. I worked on this masterpiece for around 40 hours and did my best to enhance every detail. This masterpiece was loved by my followers on Instagram.

After submitting this portrait in the Footscray Art Prize competition, I emerged as one of the short-listed artists out of 830 entries to showcase my portrait at Footscray Art Prize in 2021. Though I did not win the prize, I was very happy to get the opportunity to show my work and my portrait was featured in this exhibition catalogue. This artwork titled “Eyes Never Lie” was also featured in my school’s yearbook and art gallery.

Recently, one of my sketches found a new home at California State University. My sketch is displayed on the wall at one of the department head’s offices.

Some of my best drawings are of my grandmother and Anne Frank.

Vaishnavi Poduri’s Anne Frank portrait // Pic supplied
You are also a black belt in Karate. Tell us about that part of the journey.

I still remember the first day of my karate class. I was scared and reluctant to attend the class. As I continued to attend more classes, I overcame the fear of learning this new skill. I have been learning karate for many years now and I am now a black belt holder in karate. As a part of training for my next grading, sometimes I get the opportunity to coach junior kids. Now, when I look back how I started, I was probably five at that time, I always feel proud of myself putting immense hard work over the years and I never gave up! The journey has been absolutely incredible.

For someone with asthma, can you share your swimming challenges?

Some of the requirements to pass a swimming diploma include: the ability to swim 50m freestyle in under 45 seconds or equivalent, the ability to swim at least 200m in an unprotected open water environment and the ability to swim three kilometres non-stop. Swimming needs a lot of endurance.

I still remember the day when we had to travel all the way from our home to Bendigo for an open water swim event. This event happens only once a year and it’s a totally different environment than a swimming pool. Though my dad was recovering from a surgery, he drove me all the way to Bendigo and I passed the test.

As a part of a three-kilometre event, I had to swim 120 laps. I had two attacks of asthma during the event, but with my parents cheering me and great support from my coach, I knew I could do it. Finishing my event was one of the best achievements in my life. The journey to reach the diploma was a true reflection of the fact that you can achieve anything if you really put your mind to it.

What are the things that you learnt from the pandemic and about the pandemic?

The pandemic has challenged the way we all work, learn, and adapt ourselves quickly to ever-changing circumstances. Staying motivated has been one of my main challenges during this period. I had to embrace the new phase of online learning. It is very easy to spiral down during tough times, so I had to learn how to stay motivated and look for new sources of motivation.

Vaishnavi Poduri’s First Masterpiece (Graphite Masterclass) // Pic supplied
With so many interesting hobbies that you excel in, how do you divide your time?

I love drawing and playing the violin. These are not just my most favourite hobbies but, most importantly, my passion. I prioritise my studies and when I have some downtime, I work on my art or music. With a very busy study schedule, art and music are like therapy to me.

As a recipient of the Victorian Premiers Reading Challenge for four years in a row, can you tell us what this Challenge is all about.

The Victorian Premiers Reading Challenge encourages all children and students to read a set number of books over the year.

One of my favourite hobbies is reading. I am a bookworm. I guess passion for reading books is the secret to winning the challenge four times.

What are you reading now?

I read many books that played an inspirational role in my life. I read books such as Anne Frank—The Diary of a Young Girl, I am Malala—The Girl Who Stood Up for Education, The Harry Potter series, The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and many more.

In fact, the Anne Frank book inspired me to draw her portrait. I would love to visit Anne Frank House in Amsterdam one day.

I am currently reading Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon.

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