When you hear the name of a beloved city, what do you think of? While our life experiences are unique to ourselves, certain markers shape the landscape of a city that leaves an indelible mark on its people. For Bangaloreans, it is institutions like Blossom Book House and Vidyarthi Bhavan. For those from Mumbai, it’s places like Haji Ali Juice Centre and Bademiya Kebabs. For someone who holds fond memories of Pondicherry, it may be the yellow façade of Cafe Des Arts. Varunika Gupta, a Bangalore native who was living in California during COVID-19 craved the sights of her home city and decided to capture its spirit by meticulously painting the city’s iconic storefronts.
Varunika who spent her entire life in Bangalore before moving to the US holds a lot of love and nostalgia for the city. From the Sri Ram Hot Chips whose fares make Lays pale in comparison, to going for dates to Corner House and gorging on ‘Death by Chocolate’, Varunika talks about the significance of these stores through her artwork. Working off images that she has taken, sent by her clients, or even at times from Google Street view, she works with watercolour and ink to create her detailed illustrations, down to the last signboard - spelling mistakes included. These illustrations border the line between whimsy and realism, as she employs a style that is bright and cheery while still maintaining the integrity of the details.
In her interview with Better India, she talked about how she wanted to portray the characteristics of each city through the stores that have stood the test of time and shaped the perspective of those who call it home. She goes on to refer to these works as her way of connecting with India.
In the course of the last two years, since she started doing these artworks, she has been commissioned by many others to create similar artworks of their favourite neighbourhood storefronts. This includes a writer who wanted to depict his book-to-screen adaptation as having had a wishful screening at the iconic Eros Theatre in Mumbai, to a music lover who commissioned an illustration of the now-closed Rhythm House in Mumbai for their personal collection. There is even an illustration of Bangalore’s beloved Polar Bear ice cream parlour that was commissioned by a couple who spent their courtship locking eyes at their franchise in Sadashivnagar.
Currently, Varunika leans into the architectural illustration style that has made her popular and offers people a chance to bring them home through her website, as well as to commission custom illustrations.
You can stay tuned to Varunika on her Instagram here.
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