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Getting whimsical with the mundane: in conversation with Sneha Shankar

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Whether it’s a breakfast plate or pot plants, meet an artist who takes the most ordinary of things and scenes and imbues them with colour, charm and whimsy. Regardless of whether Sneha Shankar, engineer turned graphic designer in Bangalore and illustrator, is illustrating teapots or women, her bold, striking style is one impossible to ignore.

In this candid chat, she tells us more about her love for drawing, her inspirations and aspirations.

1) Tell us a little about how you started illustrating

I started drawing when I was three (ever since I could hold a pencil) but never really thought about making a career out of it.

Then, when I was about 5 or 6, I visited a cousin who had the most adorable toy I had ever seen. I knew there was no way I could take it home so instead, I borrowed a notebook and drew it meticulously – with colour and everything – so I could take my memories of that day back home with me. That was when my journey of creating art from observation began.

2) Having initially graduated as an engineer, what made you switch to becoming a graphic designer in Bangalore?

Thank you for asking this! I get a lot of surprised stares when people realize that I am an engineer too.

Halfway through my engineering course I had a very strong feeling that I was not where I wanted to be in respect to what I wanted to achieve in life. Of course, at that time I had almost no idea about what prospects I could get from my other interests.

Regardless, I got my professional diploma in Fine Arts (painting) while I was in school, which was an added advantage. I spoke to a lot of artists and designers in their respective fields, read a lot, and then made a plunge in the field of graphic design. And it just felt right.

3) What inspires or influences your work?

My mood on any particular day highly reflects what I draw. Weekends have always been my ‘pamper’ days so I have been translating that into a series.

4) Are the women characters in your illustrations, to some extent, depictions of yourself?

Image Credit: Sneha Shanker

The women, in a lot of my work, have been depictions of myself. On other occasions, I look at all the amazing women who are creating beautiful content and take inspiration from their lives.

Also read: Tara Anand’s illustrated series shines a spotlight on forgotten powerful female Indian warriors

5) Could you tell us a little about how you create your art, from inception of an idea to its final artistic representation?

I always have a diary/sketchbook with me; I have one on my bedside, one in my bag and others categorized according to use. This is because I sometimes recklessly end up drawing on anything available and then never find it again, so all my notebooks save me from that doom.

I make sure that I either scribble the idea or write down some part of it when inspiration strikes. Then, I look back through these thoughts when I’m looking to digitize work. I first draw using a brush pen, which are fluid and give me a lot of freedom to mould my penwork. I scan the art, then use Photoshop to digitally work on it.

6) In what way is art important to you?

Image Credit: Sneha Shanker

Art has always been a big part of my life, and I try to add a bit of myself to everything that I create. I’ve always felt art can do most of the talking about any issue that one feels strongly about. I am working on a self-initiated series about a topic, which I care about deeply. Let’s see if I’m able to showcase that anytime soon.

7) What words of advice would you give up-and-coming illustrators?

I think that many illustrators think it’s a prerequisite to have a distinct style and end up stressing about it quite a bit. However, I found my style when I was least expecting it. I’d say practice drawing a lot and practice things that you don’t like drawing. It pushes you to do more and that just might lead to something magical!

To see more of Sneha’s striking artwork, check out her website and don’t forget to follow her on Instagram (keep an eye out for her #couplesunday series).

Written by Swoyam Tuladhar

Featured image source:  Sneha Shankar

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