A self-taught artist at heart, Saheli Khastagir’s blog 26Portraits focuses on a series of portraits, pertaining to the 26 letters of the alphabet to draw attention to a particular issue, theme, or category. “Making portraits is a really pleasurable activity for me and yet I am not able to do it enough as I always (rightly or wrongly) feel like portraits are not ‘important’ enough. But I was getting real tired of this self-pressure to create ‘important’ art,” she explains, when asked about the inspiration behind her blog. The first series she started her blog off with is ‘Writerly Women’, a series that combined her love for women authors as well as portraits.
“I love reading books and poetry by women, and I love promoting women. When I was on a break last year, I was reading a lot of books by and about women writers. I had a vague feeling then that I wanted to do something on women writers,” Saheli continues. She began blogging about her art back in 2012, and continues to do so besides working in a development consultancy firm based in New Delhi. She used to participate in gallery exhibitions as well but found the reach of that platform limiting; which led her on a hunt for other avenues that could help expand her audience.
One of the conditions she set for herself while working on this series, was to only draw writers who have touched her life at some point. This way, it forced her to engage with women writers and poets that she was previously unaware of as well, “If I can’t think of any women writer for a particular letter like F for instance, I’ll go read work written by writers whose name start with F till I find one I want to draw.” Once she’s done with each series, she plans to develop them as alphabet cards with each card describing the author — a little bit of pretty or artsy trivia that people could own.
Besides Writerly Women, Saheli is also working on MHIllustrated, an illustrated directory of mental health terms. After these, a series on women who have made scientific discoveries or technological advancements are on the cards. “I want to do these in a slightly different style from the Writerly Women series. Plus, I want to keep a balance between their geographic and racial distribution, so let’s see.”
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