My house is in the city of Cincinnati amongst the homes of 19th century abolitionists and freedom fighters in a diverse, historic neighborhood—talk about an inspiring place to live, with so much history! I regularly seek out the history of such places and look for the connection to the modern world for my creations. My third-floor studio is in an old home set atop the hill, nestled within nature, which overlooks the forest where many traveled for freedom on the Underground Railroad. It is a small bright space that allows me to paint at any time of day and night and still attend to my family life and quickly growing children. We have a beautiful old front porch that is an additional quiet refuge for painting. I spend much spring and summer mornings painting, surrounded by nature. I find the beauty of nature outside every window.
I am the daughter of an American mother and Indian father and grew up in a small town in Ohio. My father immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1970. He was ready to assimilate and immerse himself into American culture and life, but with my mother’s interest and love of India, she made certain we grew up with all the cultural traditions woven into our daily home. This played a large role in how I viewed my mixed cultural identity. I loved the food, the traditional clothing, music and art from my Indian heritage, and it felt natural to have those be intertwined with my childhood in America. I also looked forward to our yearly travels abroad.
“The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.”
– Auguste Rodin
I like to think of one’s personal history as a woven piece of fabric, where the threads of our ancestors come together and continue to be woven by each generation, adding to it in their own interpretation. I feel the urge to continue to add the threads to my family tapestry, and one way I do this is through my art. I think living far away from generations of your family creates a yearning to know more.
As a child, I loved to cook, paint, play the piano and sew and could be found most often creating. I would frequently sit in the basement studio of my maternal grandfather and watch him paint still life works in oil. Little did I know that I would one day become a painter too! I think it is in my blood because not only was my grandfather a painter, but across the world around the same time, my paternal grandmother was also a hobby painter. They both were actually quite good. I traveled annually as a child to India yet never knew that the paintings that hung on the wall of our ancestral home were her paintings.
While I am a self-taught artist, I did take a handful of art courses during my pre-medicine studies. I have always loved both art and science, and growing up in a medical family, it seemed like that instead would be my calling. It was only after taking a family leave of absence from my job in the science field, and after the birth of my second son, that I began seeking out a way to create full-time. I started my own company creating a baby gear line that was successfully sold worldwide. What lacked from that experience, however, was an intimate role in my love of fine art, specifically painting. This led me to focus on painting images and designing textiles.
About seven years ago, I picked up some watercolors and began painting little illustrations for stationery and personal projects. After that moment, I realized how much I loved and enjoyed this medium, and from then on, I began a daily practice of painting whatever might inspire me. While I’m sure this may be common for many artists, especially in the beginning of their practice, describing my creative style at the time was difficult for me. My style is feminine, a bit dreamy and Indian-influenced with refined simplicity. It is an intuitive style, stemming from perception and energy, rather than a representative style and is rooted in memory and experience, tapping into generations of stories. My style and work are regularly influenced by history, old photographs, nature, travel, museums, books, music, human connection, shared stories and my imagination.
“Creating art with less clutter physically translates for me as fewer distractions in my thoughts and creative process.”
Regardless of my current inspiration, I enjoy being mindful when I create, and to me, this means my supplies need to be organized and in their specific “home”. I like keeping things in order and having less clutter. I’m a visual person, so my space is important to me. I have a lot of small storage containers to help make the most of my small space, though I do keep inspirational pieces around my studio that I’ve collected over time plus old books on art, history and textiles. The pieces in my space often have sentimental value or an artistic viewpoint that I’m currently using, and I tend to rotate these items from time to time. My studio is my blank canvas. I recently painted the entire studio a warm white. This allows me to truly see the colors and pigments, which I use to help me paint more clearly. I can better envision my painting this way, as well as, my artistic direction. I choose music that inspires me while I work on my projects and look for quiet moments to find mindful pause within my studio.
Creating comes very naturally to me, from providing nourishing meals for my family and hosting celebrations to decorating my home and fostering friendships in the creative world. To get my ideas flowing, I spend time researching ideas and creating physical inspiration boards, along with sketching and journaling. It is a process for me, and I often light a candle and meditate about my current painting and ideas to help center me before I create. Once I have allowed my creativity to breathe, it comes to life.
Inspiration is everywhere, even in the mundane. Occasionally though, I may experience a creative block. When this happens I will paint something I never have before, or try a new medium.” Sometimes, a visit to a local museum or art supplies shop can help, or I step out and have coffee with friends, watch a film or visit the library. Spending time away from the online world is also key to finding peace in my passion for creating. As creatives, we compare ourselves to others. We can easily be inspired as well. I prefer to sit within my real life, practice gratitude, and reflect on my work, my goals, my family life and my love for my art.
I love to paint with my youngest son who is eight, as he is very creative and loves spending time with me in my studio. Painting side-by-side is calming—we turn on music and just create freely. Though, balancing work from a home studio with home life and parenting three busy children, has been one of the biggest challenges on my creative journey. As any parent will tell you, a complete balance of time and energy is virtually impossible; however, I have found being open to windows of time to work and paint is the key. I spend many weekends and early mornings in my studio or printing orders. Daily schedules can be challenging to accommodate the ebb and flow of freelance projects though being open and flexible allows me to accept new work and also feel inspired by unique projects.
Working on custom projects, allowing to connect with clients on a deeper level and witness how the creation of an art piece can truly move them—has been my biggest accomplishment on my creative journey. I have created art for a variety of worthy causes, raising proceeds to benefit many organizations, including several original paintings from my personal collection. I am also proud to say I have been recently invited to some galleries around the world to showcase my personal collection of watercolor paintings, sharing my passion and works with even more!
One of my watercolor paintings turned wearable art is of our ancestral family home in India. Named “Rajo Villa,” the home was built more than 150 years ago and housed many generations of my father’s family. It was also the place where I spent time during my yearly travel to India as a child. I wanted this historic home, which is in a rather fragile state, to be forever immortalized through my art. What better way than on a handmade clutch?