An observation can be anything captured through your inward eye — something elegant in its simplicity like the exact curve of your lover’s smile when they saw you on a particular autumn evening or something beautiful in its majesticness like beholding the gradual shroud of a shadow descending upon an expansive mountain valley as the sun sets. However, seeing is not observing. While sights can vanish into the labyrinths of memory, an observation, that has truly left a mark on your heart and mind, continues to thrive. My most careful observations resurface in my mind in moments of solitary tranquility and I put it down on my notebook, as an aphorism or a short poem. Nothing fuels creativity like the power of observation. Some write down their observations, others narrate it and some even paint them.
The artist we are exploring today excels at transposing her observations from the recesses of her memories to the digital canvas. What makes her artistry unique is the fact that unlike artists, trained in Realism, she does not seek to recreate those observations in realist exactitudes. Instead, she takes inspiration from her observations, which are frozen in time, merges them with her own voice and creates her own artworks. Kolkata-born visual artist, Shreya Roy Chowdhury, illustrates vibrant and endearing characters, who often find themselves in colorfully imagined natural settings. Most of her illustrations feel like pages from a graphic novel, as the characters seem to have their own set of unique backstories. Her illustrations also exude the feeling of being a part of a story about to unfold. A major part of Shreya’s oeuvre revolves around portraying women; all of whom embody sisterhood, sensitive feminity and childlike playfulness. Resonating with positive emotions, Shreya’s artworks are a celebration of everyday Indian life.
In a candid interview with Homegrown, Shreya speaks about her artistry, her inspirations and her life.
What are the main thematic ideas behind your digital illustrations?
My illustrations revolve mostly around women and I try to capture the affection and love between women when they are together. I love to observe women from all sorts of backgrounds being comfortable in their mundane selves. I seek to capture the joy of everyday life.
What is the thought process that goes into choosing the subjects/characters of your artworks and the settings in which you portray them?
As I said earlier, I love to observe women in their comfort zones. What I see around me is what I draw. For example, when I saw two women talking on the terrace, I immediately captured it in my mind and drew it later on. So you can say that I like to draw reality infused with my sense of color.
A distinctive feature that I have noticed in your artwork is how often the women have only one eye. Could you tell us more about this personal artistic choice?
I get this question a lot (smiles). So while drawing and observing people of various kinds, I have seen how eyes play a key role. I was always fascinated by eyes. Jamini Roy’s depiction of eyes in his paintings was my key influence. I thought maybe I'd tweak it a bit and imagine my characters to have one eye. I have always been drawn to the fact that what if we had one and not two? This question keeps on haunting me and hence you will find a lot of characters with a single eye in my illustrations.
While most of your subjects are women, I have also seen you explore varied themes through different subjects, other than women. For example, you explore the themes of aging and love through an illustration of an old couple under an umbrella. Could you tell us more about such subjects you choose and what themes they explore?
Ah! Yes. Actually, you know as life goes on we keep on realizing that it's not a bed of roses. So, while only drawing about women I sometimes take a turn and try illustrating other subjects and themes. My illustration you speak of is about the nostalgia-infused love between old couples, which is an often ignored theme. It's always a film about young couples. I think we are forgetting the charm of old love and hence I wanted to explore that pathway. I also focus on the mundane lives of different people in Calcutta, which you can see daily on the road. I love how each very little thing can be so beautiful and hence I draw it. I love giving people joy in a world full of sadness and whatnot.
You are also an architect. Share with us some of your experience in that field and if and how your artistic practice as an architect and illustrator intersect.
Yes I'm an architect and to be very honest, I have a bittersweet relationship with it. I'm grateful to architecture because it introduced me to the world of graphics but I almost don't like it sometimes because any step you take in architecture is always measured. I never liked being tied and I always prefer being free and hence, I chose illustrations and graphics instead of architecture. I have been really afraid of the subject since the beginning but somehow in the end during my thesis, I actually did really well without getting scared because I intersected my illustration skills with architecture and I thought maybe it's time I took the biggest decision of my life: choosing graphic design. Even my professors believed that I would do better as a visual designer/illustrator and trust me when I say this, now they are so proud.
Who are the most significant influences and inspirations behind your artistry?
I have always looked up to Amrita Sher Gill and Abanindranath Thakur as artists. I loved how their work could just seep into my dreams seamlessly. Also one of my favorite artists is Henri Matisse because of the way he uses colors.
You can follow Shreya here.