For our last Meeting the Makers feature of 2011 I am happy to share the story and work of Nidhi Chanani, a freelance artist and designer. Born in Calcutta and raised in suburban California she currently draws and dreams in San Francisco. Nidhi’s work is romantic and whimsical, like a window into a magical world-I hope you enjoy this chance to visit with her and learn what inspires her. Thank you for sharing your story with us Nidhi!
Did you always know you were going to be an artist? What got you into art?
I always wanted to be a writer! I doodled and drew and danced around art, but never thought of it as a career. In college when I started actively following the work of some illustrators, the seed was planted. I started taking more art classes, but it wasn’t my focus. I worked in the non-profit sector for years after receiving my degree in Literature, and I started drawing a comic strip and when it was published in a small magazine, I felt more confident. A year or two after that, I took a deep breath and plunged head first into art.
Your art vacillates between the fantastical and the everyday. What draws you in those two different directions?
I’m a dreamer and a lover. I think my art reflects the many sides of me… I dream of adventures with animals, other worlds, new narratives. It’s what I love about art… we may not see it… but if I draw it, it ceases to be fantasy. Its real, you can see it, imagine yourself in it! The everyday is the romantic in me, I feel that we are constantly enveloped in beauty and love. Everyday there are one, two, thousands of moments that we experience that can fill our hearts. Its those moments that I capture in my illustrations.
How do you go about creating your art? Is it digital, analog, or some combination?
All my illustrations are digital. I begin with a loose line drawing, and then work in layers building the drawing up from the background and finally the characters. I see it like this: I draw in Flash and paint in Photoshop. I do have original work, too, wood burnings. I use a professional wood burning tool, that works like an old-time pen which has different tips. I plug it in, heat it up and burn each line into raw wood.
What was the tipping point for moving from art as a hobby to a career?
Well, I’ve only been doing this for over a year! I’ve always wanted to be a freelancer, to be my own boss and make my own hours. I’m horrible with authority, I just want to test it and disobey! Working for myself is best for me. When I began to get regular freelance jobs, sales and felt that my income was steady enough, I made the jump. It was less of a creative decision and more of a “Can I pay my bills with art?” And I still love to say, after I’ve purchased something like a new blouse or plane tickets “Art paid for that!”
Are there other types of art (animation, painting, or even a totally different craft like film making or music) that you’re interested in pursuing someday?
I love all art. Visual, performing, music is a constant – I don’t draw without some music on! I’d love to learn animation, but I don’t foresee that I’ll have the time in the near future. I’d love to combine my original desire to write with illustration and create children’s books. I’m actively pursuing that… and I’ve always been attracted to watercolors. I hope to explore that sometime soon!
You very much run your own business in addition to doing the art. Do you ever feel like these two tasks conflict with each other? Compliment each other?
I believe the key to success as an artist is to have those two things work together. However, sometimes the business is overpowering and I realize I need to stop and draw. That’s why I love my daily drawings, everyday love, before emails, marketing, and sometimes before my morning tea, I create a new illustration. Everyday. So even if I have tons of other work, I know that I’ve created something that day.
You go to lots of art and comic shows. What is your favorite experience from any of those?
I love comic conventions because the people are incredible! They support artists, writers and creators unlike any others! They have a lot of heart and I absolutely love seeing all the hand-crafted costumes. At craft fairs, I love to shop! Really! I love supporting other artists and creatives, and I’ve found some of the best gifts there… But above all else, at both kinds of shows, my favorite experience is connecting with other small business folks and artists. I’ve made some long lasting friendships through those shows, and at times doing a show feels like one big reunion. It’s a lovely feeling.