Dear Life/ be gentle with me/ I live in a state of awe/do not keep throwing curveballs at me./Let me live moment to moment/embracing the now/like a purring cat/distracted by the moving ray of sunshine/dancing on the floor.
These lines from her own poem capture perfectly the vibe one gets from Rohini Kejriwal, poet, artist and illustrator. Art blends seamlessly with life for her, as everything she draws and writes seems born effortlessly of her own awe of the world. Her keen eye for beauty is perhaps what made her start The Alipore Post, the weekly newsletter that brings together art, photography and poetry from across the world. A source of delight for over 67,000 followers on Instagram, the newsletter turned seven recently.
In an interview with Lounge, she speaks delightedly of the various points of joy in her workspace.
Describe your current workspace to us.
I have two workstations. One is on the ground floor, it is basically my dining table, a four seater. I like working here because it's much quieter than my actual studio space upstairs. There is a window nearby that is home to a pigeon family. I have my record player and vinyl collection here for when I feel like music. The kitchen is right here so I can get myself a cup of coffee or water at any time. I have my keyboard, my bookshelves and my bed—which helps when I take breaks. It’s convenient for me to work from here during the day.
In the evenings, when the traffic noise subsides, I retire to my studio upstairs. There’s a rain tree outside which is currently in full bloom. With the mood lighting, it gets very evocative in the late hours, it’s perfect for creative work.
Has it always been this way? Or has it evolved over the years?
I used to live in a smaller studio apartment earlier, where there was no distinction between my workspace and my living space. My desk there overlooked a beautiful balcony, an avocado tree, and my plants.
How would you define your daily relationship with this space?
I have become someone who doesn’t always work first thing in the morning. There are other spots where I sit at for my morning journaling and doodling. I am someone with ADHD [Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder], so I don’t get my best ideas at the desk. I get them when I go on walks in the park near my house, when I’m watering my plants, chopping vegetables or doing the dishes. I keep tiny notepads and pens all around the house so that I can quickly jot down ideas when they come.
Tell us about some of the eureka moments you have had and major works that you have done from here.
I had decided to host The Alipore Post Online event when the pandemic was declared in early 2020. The idea was to have a day where 20 different people—poets, musicians, artists—take over The Alipore Post social media and share their world with our followers. I remember sitting at the desk with my spreadsheets, narrowing down on a list of artists. I had some friends over to brainstorm, we used a whiteboard, we made coffee. This is where the idea came to life, and it was amazing.
If you were to trade in this place for another, what would it be?
I don’t think I would trade this for any other space. I feel a great sense of synergy and belonging here, with the speakers and the lighting and the trees and the art on the walls. When I was in my old apartment during the pandemic, I used to long for a workspace that was separate from the living quarters, a space where I could go wild. Here, I feel like I could get up and paint on the walls if I wanted or write a poem in the middle of the night. The space is always here, always inviting.
What's the one thing that has always been at your workspace over the years? Why?
I’ve always had a drawer full of all the stationery that I like—POSCA pens for doodling, Uniball pens in black and blue for writing, markers in every colour, paper, paints, sketchbooks. And they’re all here, hoping to be used. I have this idea that if you keep the workstation ready, inspiration will come to you more easily. I also love having flowers at the table, especially when I have a big project going on. Yellow flowers, preferably, because they make me feel inspired and happy.
The first artist whose work you followed closely/sometimes imitated. What about them appealed to you?
One of my favourite artists is cartoonist and illustrator Saul Steinberg. I’ve only seen one photograph of him at work—it shows a dimly lit drawing table with lots of sketches around. There’s something very private and inspiring about it. To me, it represents the isolation and the conversation with oneself out of which good art is born. Saul has also drawn a lot of people sitting at their desks and drawing. Something about it has stayed in my psyche, perhaps his fascination with the place where most thinking and doing happens.
What was the first medium/tool you used in the early years of practice? How has that evolved now?
My practice was predominantly as a writer, for the longest time. From my desk at my childhood home to my boarding school to my current setup, my favourite tools have always been paper and pen. However, these days, I mostly write on my laptop or in the notes app on my phone, often on the go, on auto rides or in parks.
In the last few years as I have explored my practice as an artist, illustrator and zine maker, I have definitely upgraded my tools. I now keep a small easel at my desk with my paints, palettes and brushes. I also have an iPad that is charged at all times and the only app on it is Procreate for me to do illustrations and animation experiments.
Creative Corner is a series about writers, artists, musicians, founders and other creative individuals and their relationships with their workspaces