Dreamy imagery is at the heart of New York based illustrator Shreya Gupta’s practice
Charmingly whimsical, and at times unsettling, the illustrations of New York based artist Shreya Gupta are sure to stir the imagination. Shreya speaks to us about how she works, where she finds inspiration and more.
As a kid I was encouraged to study, instead of doing other activities, so I didn’t draw much, unlike other illustrators. I first started drawing when I was told that I was “too young” to carry around a camera. So because I couldn’t take pictures, I started drawing the places and things I wanted to remember. This is how I was first introduced to art.
Eventually I became interested in drawing, but never imagined it could be considered a career choice. In India, art as a profession is not encouraged. So fast forward a few years and I found myself finishing an Undergraduate degree in Computer Science Engineering. Shortly after I got a job as a Networking Engineer in a big IT company in India. However, after working there for around two and a half years I became very frustrated, and realised that I needed to make a change. It was around that time that two of my friends quit their job to pursue careers in different creative fields.
Their decisions got me thinking; if they could do it, so could I. So I researched different creative fields and found Illustration. I spent a year creating a portfolio and then applied to three art schools, finally being selected for an MFA program at the School of Visual Arts. Having some of the most illustrious illustrators and designers in the field mentor me – along with very talented and supportive peers – was a dream. During my second year, I was contacted by the Creative Director of Fast Company, then Florian Bachleda, who commissioned me to create a series of illustrations for an online article. You could say that that was when my creative journey truly began!
I now live in Kew Gardens, New York, working out of my apartment. New York is always pulsing with art, with a huge variety of creative events, exhibitions, gallery shows, art fairs and more. Society of Illustrators is also based here. Perhaps because so many illustrators live here, there is a competitive feeling that keeps one motivated to keep producing their best work. Many of my friends are also based in New York, so we often go to various events and museums together, to fuel our creativity together, most recently Comics Art Brooklyn.
I think a creative identity evolves as an organic process. We are constantly observing and absorbing what we experience and come across, incorporating what we find interesting into our work; and experimenting with what may make our work look more interesting. My work evolved most when I created a personal series of illustrations based on Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. I’d also developed an interest in graphic design and started reading books that contributed to my illustrations.
One of my teachers always said…never hold your work precious, and be able to take others criticism, otherwise you’ll never improve.
I’m almost always working either on commissions or personal work for my portfolio. I use my “free” time to do the business part of illustration. But when I do take a break from work I go to the city to hangout with friends, and also eat! I love food and always like to try new restaurants. I also can’t get enough of going to museums; New York has so many amazing ones to visit!
I have a small studio setup in my apartment. It’s a quiet space, which works for me. I need quiet when thinking of solutions. A quiet place with my kitchen a few steps away is good for me. My creative toolkit is both traditional and digital. I start with thumbnails and sketches on paper. After a sketch is finalised, I use Microns and pencil to finish it. I then scan it and colour it on Photoshop.
A project I really admire, has been Rovina Cai’s book with Folio Society, Wuthering Heights. Since then I’ve been really interested in their books, and would love to work with them. I’m a huge reader. I have many books by Shaun Tan which include The Arrival, Lost & Found, Rules of Summer and Tales from Outer Suburbia. I love them all. Mirko Ilic’s Fist to Face is a very inspiring book for both illustrators and designers alike. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino is also a novel of visually rich short stories, guaranteed to boggle the mind.
I loved James Jean’s recent collaboration with Prada. That’s definitely an aim of mine, to collaborate with a brand to create illustrations or patterns for wearable products! Right now, currently working with a literary magazine in in UK, and illustrating a book jacket for a publisher in India. Then there are two more group shows that I’m scheduled to do in Gallery1988 next year. There’s also a dream project that I’m currently working on, but it’s under an NDA so can’t talk about it… but do check out my social media or website later this month to find out more!
I intend to continue working on personal projects alongside commercial work. I’m also planning to reach out to agencies soon, so they can handle the business side of things, allowing me to focus more upon being creative. I’ve recently discovered a new love for ceramics, and so may also explore creating a line of vases, plates, and bowls with illustrations or patterns on it.