G. S. FERNANDO

Considered one of Sri Lanka's finest watercolorists and poster designers, Gamwasi Senarath Fernando (1904-1990) was born in the seaside village of Suddhagoda, Bentara. Though GS showed an interest in art from a young age, his father wanted him to become an Ayurvedic physician. at the age of fourteen, GS was sent to Colombo to train as an apprentice in that profession. in the afternoons, he attended a temple school in Maradana.

Everyday on his way to school GS would walk past the tower hall theatre where he would often see a fair-skinned artist painting billboards. A member of Ceylon's Burgher community, Richard Henricus was a set designer for Tower Hall's plays. Eventually GS developed a friendship with Henricus who allowed him to become his assistant.

Impressed by the young boy's prodigious talent, Henricus persuaded Ceylon's foremost mural painter and commercial artist, M. Sarlis, to take GS under his wing. Under Sarlis master's tutelage, GS Fernando made his debut as an artist. He studied further under such artists as Mudliyar A. C. G. S. Amarasekera and C F Winzer and became well-known in art circles for his exquisite watercolors of rural country life.

Upon completing his apprenticeship, GS Fernando found work as a commercial artist designing book covers and illustrations. in 1925, Sarlis Master and GS Fernando designed the sets for Rajakeeya Wickramaya, Ceylon's first Sinhala language film. GS  is also credited with having drawn Ceylon's first comic book.

in 1934, GS joined the Times of Ceylon newspaper group as a commercial artist and soon became the head of the art department.  With the advent of the second world war there was an explosion of propaganda material and many commercial artists including GS Fernando and his Studio Times colleague Reggie Candappa, were recruited to design propaganda posters for the war effort.

In post-war Ceylon, it was commonplace for Governmental organizations and companies to hold poster competitions to promote their services and products.  GS, who was a frequent winner of such competitions, designed some outstanding posters for the Ceylon Tourist Bureau and Ceylon Government Railways. His work is highly sought after today.