When you come across art that embodies joy, there is an instant curiosity to know more about the artist. Sangeetha Alwar is one such artist whose artworks capture little moments of joy that often pass us by and return as nostalgia.
Although the Mysuru-based self-taught artist has been drawing since she was a child, it took her time to call it art. “When we are young, many people doodle but some of us continue doing that even after college. That’s when you realise, this is something more but you need a bit of confidence to refer to it as art,” Alwar says. For Alwar (@ms.alwar on Instagram), it was in her early 20s that she started taking her illustrations seriously and invested in getting an iPad.
In 2020, she started making illustrations professionally, along with working as an English professor at the University of Mysore. She started with making artwork that told stories of social impact and has since made designs for Amnesty International India, and social media graphics for Harper Collins. This year, she has created digital collages of the twin cities Bengaluru and Mysuru, where she captured the magic in mundane things around the city, and iconic places such as the tall tower of dosas at Vidhyarthi Bhavan and the soothing greenery of Chamundi Hills, respectively.
“Bengaluru has been a place I have often associated with joy and I have spent some of the best years of my life in the city. Although Mysuru is home, it was going away from it and then coming back during the pandemic that made me really discover the city. These projects are a tribute to that,” she says.
Currently, Alwar is doing a new series called Boi Comics, wherein she chronicles the everydayness of love and companionship with her partner. Alwar talks to Lounge about the ease that comes with having a flexible workplace, artists who inspire her and how her two worlds—teaching and art—often collide.
People often ask me this question. While a lot of the traditional artists have a studio or a designated place for work, mine is anywhere I can put down my iPad. So usually, my workspace is either my room while I'm watching or listening to something, or at a cafe while drinking coffee and talking to people in between. It’s what I like about this; it changes.
I had a small studio setting when I was living in Bengaluru and making art with oil pastels. But when I shifted to the iPad, there wasn’t a need for a specific place. However, I’m planning on setting up a studio in my house if my kittens allow it. I already have a picture in my head. The room will have a bookshelf and lots of natural light because I love working in the morning.
It gives me a lot of flexibility. There are times when I have a couple of hours off between classes and inspiration strikes. All I have to do is take out my iPad and get to work. It helps me just work on my art without depending on other tools. It’s convenience and flexibility that I like.
What’s the one thing that has always been at your workspace over the years. Why?
My earphones. I always listen to music or a podcast when I’m illustrating because it helps in grounding me. It's usually Bollywood songs from the 1960s-70s and I know all the lyrics now.
Absolutely. Art influences my teaching a lot and the vice versa is also true. A lot of things that my students say in class or the experiences I have while teaching by just observing them have influenced my artwork. I remember this one class where I was talking about appreciating poetry and beauty. To better engage them, I asked them to go out and observe things that are blue in colour and make a mental note. But many of them came back with doodles and some with beautiful poetry. It was so incredible to see how a simple instruction inspired them to do these. These exercises come to my mind because I think like an artist.
One of them is Indu Harikumar (@induviduality on Instagram). She makes comics about love and about a decade ago she had asked people on Instagram for stories about beautiful dates they have been on. I had spoken to her about my experience and she had illustrated it as part of her project and it was done beautifully. It stayed with me and helped me relieve the entire beautiful experience.
The other one is Rohan Chakravarty (@green_humour on Instagram). I associate his art with impact and joy and he is able to emote so much with little material.