Neetu Sharma is an award-winning artist and picture book author-illustrator. She works with various medium with ease and has several exhibitions to her name. Neetu has celebrated art for over two decades.
Q. How did you start out as an artist? What inspired you?
Well, I’ve never really given it a thought, but just about anything creative tickles my mind. I don’t think one becomes an artist one fine day, it is a gradual process. Vibrant colours inspire me painted on canvases inspire me. Art shops and new colours excite
Q. How did you sell your first painting?
My husband was sailing at that time and I had a lot of time to myself. He’d bought me Bob Ross’ book of landscape paintings. That is the first time I realized the importance of the wonders that technique can do in painting. However, sometimes it was a struggle
just to know a few basic terms like “Black Gesso.” When I asked for it in the art shop, the shopkeeper looked really blank and so I found an alternative in black fabric paint. I originally started out by making my paintings on Bukram. Despite my lack of technique
at that point, it was fun to churn out one painting every day. I rolled all these paintings and stored them in a box. Eventually, I threw them out, and my husband was furious. He got them back and put them in a box. As luck would have it, a friend of his saw these paintings, loved them and insisted on buying them. He left an envelope with five hundred rupees in it. It was my first commission as an artist, as
you might say.
Q. How did you progress into painting? Where all have you sold your paintings?
Initially, when I started out I was exhibiting my stuff in a gallery in Kochin. What I made at that point was a lot of still life. They were really small paintings meant for putting on walls for purely decorative reasons. When the first twenty-five went quickly, it gave me
confidence that people were ready to buy a painting that was made by me in their drawing room. But at that time it was more commercial for me. Over the years that I enjoyed painting mythological themes on the canvas. Painting Indian Goddess and
gods give me a particular kind of calm. Art can be more than just a beautiful piece hanging on the wall. If there is anything I
have realized in my journey as an artist, art can mean different things to different people.
Over the years, my paintings were exhibited in Kochin, Bombay, Delhi, Wellington and Vizag. A lot of my paintings also went abroad. Three life-sized have adorned the walls of the Chief of Naval Staff.
Q. So how come you progressed into writing books?
Being an educationist and having the opportunity to work in a school, which gave me the liberty to apply myself creatively, I ended up making puppets to teach my students new concepts. Only then the idea struck me. I made my first craft book, called Puppet Craft. The book has gone into re-print over 6 times now, and it has kindle versions in different languages. It was my first big break with Scholastics. I try every that every book has an interesting element of illustration. While one book is completely illustrated in applique work, one has been made by moulding plasticine. One of my books has even won an award from the Federation of Indian Publishers.
Q. Have you progressed into wearable art?
Yes, actually I have! The unexpected element of taking one form of art and applying it somewhere else is what excites me. For example, when you take folk art, and instead of painting it on a wall, you transfer it on to something like a dupatta which you wear, it’s
like wearing art! Quite exciting! When I started out with this concept it was relatively new. Although, now we see it in bulk. So I started out by painting on Duppatas, Curtains, Sarees. I would wear them, and of course, I would be asked where do I buy
my clothes from? And that is when I started with the concept of “Wearable Art.” I ended up starting a jewellery store, which also worked under the same brand name of Paneni, which has been working for over a decade.
Q. So what kind of jewellery did you make?
The internet is my guru in many ways. I learnt different techniques from the internet and eventually designed Statement Jewellery. All this includes wire-wrapped jewellery which is so traditional and yet so interesting and contemporary. I bake clay and mould each
bead to make terracotta jewellery. Then, of course, I make accessories which are made out of Horn and Bone beads, Semi-precious stones, Trade beads, Glass beads, and lots more.
Q. What are your future plans as an artist?
I find it difficult to stick to only one kind of art form at one point. This can be a problem sometimes because when you are constantly moving from one art form to another. There might not be a level of expertise achieved per say. However, I feel like the
biggest advantage is that I get to constantly explore new types of art forms and I am excited to learn new things every day. Art is subjective. To me, art is sheer joy.