When illustrator and artist Pia Meenakshi couldn’t find the exact gold color she wanted, she went ahead and created her own, setting the stage for her own brand of watercolors!
Tell us about your journey in design.
As a child, I was never good at ‘studies’. I failed and had year backs in school. Luckily for me, my parents encouraged me to draw and paint and basically keep doing what I was good at. I attended workshops by artist Raghava KK, who encouraged my parents to help me pursue my art. When I was a young girl, I was a big fan of Japanese anime and manga, especially where the storylines revolved around school girls, magical powers and first loves. I used to love the outfits in those mangas and I became really interested in fashion design. I used to have huge piles of books where I used to sketch outfits and collage looks from magazine cut outs. I always imagined I would study to be a fashion designer.
Years passed and when the time came to pick a course of study, I started researching on what is possible in the design field. That’s also when I heard of graphic design. The college prospectus showed some illustration work and I knew I would to do that one day so I joined a three-year graphic design course in Bangalore. In my second year I had enough of graphic design and was ready to quit, but my lecturer helped design my projects so as to revolve around illustration and he really encouraged me to carry on. From there on, illustration became my primary focus.
Describe your style.
I would say the underlying theme is nature-inspired. I like experimenting with a lot of mediums, even if that kind of work isn’t viable for commercial projects with deadlines. I enjoy incorporating organic forms and muted and dark color palettes in my work. Since 2017, I have been working a lot with digital media, primarily the iPad Pro. All my work gets completed on it and I find myself doing all commercial work (and some personal work) digitally.
What inspires you?
I can’t say all artists draw inspiration from external sources alone. I am drawn in by the visual beauty of nature but there is a bit of my own personal happiness and sadness in my work as well. Over the last few years I’ve been so consumed with work for clients and others that I haven’t really delved back into that space of doing work that’s very personal. I’m hoping to change that soon. My overall theme is nature related but I want to dive into a deeper space using nature as my subject matter to express.
What is the story behind Studio Gumani?
I had been working as a tattoo artist from the 11th grade all the way till past my college degree. I worked as a paid employee illustrator at a few places, but having middlemen between me and the client really sucked the fun out of most of the work. There was too much miscommunication. I really wanted to explore other mediums and experiment with other crafts, which wasn’t possible in an office set-up. I wanted to branch out and work solely as an illustrator on my own and combining a tattoo + illustration studio was my best option. Over the years, the tattooing stopped for lack of interesting projects and illustration and other small creative projects became my primary focus. This year I will be rebranding my work under a new studio name. I have evolved over the years and a change is coming.
Which have been your most memorable projects?
I have done a few book covers for publishers which I really enjoyed doing. Recently I have been doing conservation/environmental projects which is a topic that’s close to me. In 2019, I will be traveling to Japan for an arts residency, and will be learning a traditional Japanese art form. I would say that is what I’m looking forward to the most at this point.
What does it take to work with a client?
I think for most people who say their client projects go wrong, it’s usually because of miscommunication. It’s very important to express what your terms and conditions are, what you would like out of the project, and not be afraid to gain something out of a project for yourself. A lot of artists see the clients as some horrible bosses but in most situations, clients also want the artist to be proud of their work and will almost always reach a compromise. It’s important to also keep yourself safe with contracts, especially with clients who are new. Always come across as professional by keeping to timelines, asking for advances and being firm about what you believe in. A lot of clients don’t really know how to work with artists of any kind, so patience and professionalism is the key.
How did you come up with Pigmenta?
I was trying to make the perfect gold watercolor, since what is available here is a foreign brand that’s pretty expensive. I sourced the materials and tried different combinations over the years and finally came up with workable watercolor paints. When I shared them with my illustrator friends, they loved them so much that they encouraged me to start the brand. I’ve always been interested in artist’s materials and trying them out to see what new methods can be derived from a single product. I did years of research on how materials are produced and what makes a good quality product. In the end I wanted to offer watercolor ranges that were made in India and colors that were curated and weren’t easy to find here.
How do you position your brand?
There aren’t many Indian art material brands apart from Camlin, which is the biggest in terms of reach and product variety. Almost all the products artists in India use are foreign brands that are brought in here at high prices. My brand is fairly new – we started selling only in August 2017. I would love for it to always be hand-made.
What are the pros and cons of running a business solo?
The pros are that you are in control of all aspects of the business, but this can also be a con since you have to solely take on all the decisions and wake up every day and have the energy to push all aspects of the business. There are some parts of the business that I don’t have full knowledge of that I have to still handle. I am hoping to soon be able to hire a team to push the brand in the right direction.
Please share your aspirations.
I have a lot of plans for the future. I’m one of those people who have a hundred things going on at the same time. I would like to have a solo exhibition at some point in 2019. It will showcase all the various mediums I’ve worked on over the years, from paintings to sculptures and paper art. I really want to push my personal art-making to its fullest in 2019. I also have a plan to expand what I have on offer at Pigmenta. I want to bring in special pigments from various countries and hopefully start introducing other art supplies such as paper products and accessories. In terms of client work I would love to carry on in publishing and conservation work.
This article was originally published in POOL 96.
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