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Why a table-and-chair can be counterproductive to creativity

Digital illustrator Aditi Baid is fast becoming popular for her clever panels. She talks about her relationship with art and her rather recent foray into it

Aditi Baid
Aditi Baid (Courtesy Aditi Baid)

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She started illustrating just about three months before the country locked down on account of covid-19 — but Aditi Baid has found notable success as an artist in this short span of time.

If Instagram followers are any measure of the popularity, Baid has already gathered an audience of 11,000 followers for her delicately provocative illustrated posts. Thanks to this fast growing reach on the platform, Trinity Art Gallery discovered her art, and reached out to her. Starting tomorrow, 4 April, a few of her pieces will be showing at the Mumbai-based gallery.

And for good reason. Baid’s art is clean, clear, and cleverly captioned. Each post speaks of a highly personal, yet largely universal experience.

Take for instance the one post titled “Conflict of Interest”. It is a bare panel, with only an empty wall, a floor, two women and a chair. Two lines float from in speech bubbles from each, in a brief conversation. “You can’t not go to family functions,” says the one seated. “A part of my soul dies each time I go,” says the one standing. There are no grey-hair giveaways of who is older, nor is there is there anything else of note in the panel to suggest context or characteristics. But their sartorial choices, their rather minimally drawn expressions and postures, are enough to subliminally tell us what we need to know.

Conflict of Interest, a digitally illustrated artwork, by Aditi Baid
Conflict of Interest, a digitally illustrated artwork, by Aditi Baid (Aditi Baid on Instagram)

“I started illustrating a couple of years ago, by accident really,” says the Mumbai-based digital marketing professional. “I was burning out at work and desperately needed a channel to vent my frustration in a constructive way. Making space for things that I enjoyed doing, like drawing and reading, was my way of reclaiming my day and prioritising my mental health,” Baid adds.

However, her increasing popularity has meant fewer hours of sleep to successfully juggle her day job, as well as her moonlighting as an artist. Despite this, she remains excited about the possibilities that this new avenue of art has opened up for her. For starters, she has an NFT collection called ‘Her Voice’ up on Foundation, the 2021-launched app which is trying to build a “creative economy” through the use of Ethereum, a community-run cryptocurrency technology. All four of her pieces in the series have already been sold.

Baid also gets requests for prints and commissions through her Instagram DMs. While she is careful to not take on too many, her monthly orders range from 80-200 each month. “About 80% (of the requests) are (for) prints (as seen on Instagram posts), and 20% are for things like t-shirts, mugs, magnets, and totes,” she says. Baid manages these manually, taking orders and shipping details through messages, and couriers the orders out herself.

Ahead of her work’s showing at Trinity Art Gallery, Baid talks to Lounge about why her association with a table-and-chair workspace is rather bleak, and why she started making art at all. 

(The conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.)

Describe your current workspace to us.

My current work space is a nook next to the window in my bedroom. However, using a dedicated workspace has always been aspirational for me – not that I don’t set up a workspace with sincere intentions of using it extensively. But I really struggle to sit sequestered, especially in tight corner spaces (of my rented Mumbai home). Most of my art-related work actually happens in the living room couch or sitting in open-air cafes. In other words, I like open spaces and outside views to get myself to think, be inspired and illustrate.

The desk next in Aditi Baid's bedroom
The desk next in Aditi Baid's bedroom (Courtesy Aditi Baid)

Has it always been this way? Or has it evolved over the years?

There’s something about a table-and-chair in a room setting that I associate with doing things that I don’t want to do but have to do. Like, as a kid, you want to go play or watch tv or talk to friends but you’re expected to be locked away in your room, painfully (and pointlessly) mugging up things at your study table. Or like, as an adult, you want to enjoy your paycheque-enabled lifestyle but find yourself chained to your office cubicle for most waking hours. I struggled with it all then and I struggle with it now.

During the lockdown-imposed work-from-home, I found myself most comfortable on the couch (a very comfy overused recliner) where I could balance what was expected of me and what I wanted to do – my day job for bills and my art moonlight for joy. I’m still trying to figure out how to make the workspace work for me. Investing in a good (but eyesore) gaming chair is the only thing that has worked so far.

How would you define your daily relationship with this space?

Now that I think about it, I’ve completely monopolized the living room area. That’s where the work-life integration plays out for me. I like the freedom to be able to switch across activities — take a break from office work and draw something, take a break from illustrating and read something or watch something on TV and snack through it all.

Tell us about some of the eureka moments you have had and major works that you have done from here.

The first time I picked an iPad and pencil, I was sitting on that very couch. With zero prior knowledge of illustrating, I slowly learned and figured it out sitting right there. That’s where I switched my Instagram profile from private to public. That’s where I made my first print sale. That’s where I worked on my first freelance art commission. That’s also where I’m currently working on my online store and NFT collection.

The couch where Baid actually works from
The couch where Baid actually works from (Courtesy Aditi Baid)

If you were to trade in this place for another, what would it be?

I’ve been daydreaming about having my own workshop/studio apartment for so long! I love the idea (and luxury) of having an entire space dedicated to all the creative things that I want to be able to do – to finally buy the bulky equipment for woodworking, make a mess with sculpting, have paints and canvases littered and waiting (without co-habitation impositions and space limitations).

What's the one thing that has always been at your workspace over the years. Why?

No matter where I’m working from, you will always – and I mean at all times – find a cup of cold coffee next to me. I’m incapable of functioning without a slow burn of cold caffeine through the day.

Are there other artists whose work you follow closely?

My Instagram feed is the most inspiring art gallery, and now I know so many artists whose work I closely follow. But when I started, I was painfully ignorant about art and artists except for maybe the most mainstream/commercial ones. In fact, I wanted to fill my home with a lot of fun and colorful art and I struggled to find (affordable) art that spoke to me – and I was like, that’s it, I’m going to make art that I would want to (and be able to afford to) buy.

What was the first medium/tool you used in the early years of practice? How has that evolved now?

Digital art is something that I’ve only picked up over the last couple of years, that too accidentally. I started with an iPad and stylus and continue to use the same. Thankfully, how I use it has evolved over time.

Creative Corner is a series about writers, artists, musicians, founders and other creative individuals and their relationships with their workspaces

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