Why developing your own style and personality are important for success – insights from GAAF artists

In this photo essay on the Goa Affordable Art Festival, we showcase a range of creative works along with artistic insights on interpretation, practice, and experimentation.
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Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 480 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery. world music festivaltelecom expomillets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.

The Goa Affordable Art Festival (GAAF), featuring 900 artworks by 270 artists, held its third edition at the Museum of Goa. The RMZ Foundation also brought a selection of these artworks to Bengaluru’s RMZ Ecoworld Gallery. In this photo essay, we share creative insights from two of the exhibiting artists, Christeena Shaju and Parimal Vaghela.

See our earlier interviews with Dr Subodh Kerkar, co-founder of GAAF and founding director of the Museum of Goa, and Anu Menda, managing trustee of RMZ Foundation.

(Note: These photographs from the museum were taken before the national lockdown due to the coronavirus. The visit to the exhibition was not in violation of any public safety guidelines.)

Christeena Shaju

“Art is a response, an expression, an extension of myself. It is a record of what I think, know, and experience,” explains Christeena Shaju, in a chat with YourStory. Art becomes a source for searching, processing, and ultimately making peace with the varied experiences, she adds.

“Each artwork portrays emotions and events that have impacted me,” she says. Christeena is Assistant Professor at the Department of Fine Arts, Stella Maris College (Chennai). She handles both art history and studio art courses. Her interests also include cane weaving, and she has presented papers on this craft at multiple conferences.

Her teaching activities have shifted online due to the coronavirus lockdown. “Although this is a massive change from the usual arrangement, the courses are being successfully facilitated online,” she proudly says.

Christeena grew up in the UAE, where there was little scope for outdoor games. Video and board games drew her attention, particularly the pixelated imagery, which has now become the defining and most identifiable characteristic of her art. Her artworks are priced from Rs 3,000 to Rs 30,000.

“My experiences and memories, fused with diverse facets of games, form the focus of my artworks. The process involves meticulous painting of each pixel to assemble the forms,” she explains. Some of her works are titled My Pink Chair and Fragile (a reflection of emotional health during the lockdown).

“Success according to me would mean validation, which includes positive responses, accolades, acknowledgements, and the ability to inspire future artists,” Christeena says. She calls for broader art appreciation and awareness in India, through integration of art in public spaces and implementing art appreciation courses in schools.

Her next projects are based on the multi-layered nature of approaching games from a child’s perspective. “The lockdown period has got me thinking about several aspects of humanity. Some of my ongoing works are a response to the current scenario informed by my experience of the lockdown,” Christeena explains.

She advises audiences to view, contemplate, and experience art by immersing themselves completely in it, and finding a connection with it. “Context plays an important role in understanding and appreciating artworks but art is always open for interpretation,” she says. Certain works may seem more relatable than others.

Christeena also offers words of advice for aspiring artists. “The key word is practice! Practice is the way to get it right. Start today and stay motivated. Dedicate a few hours every day for art,” she says.

“Create – be it doodles, drawings, sketches, paintings – the possibilities are umpteen. Creative blocks do arise along the way. As the creative process is intense, mind blocks are part of it,” she cautions. “Read, observe, experiment and express yourself. That will lead you to what you are looking for,” Christeena sums up.

Parimal Vaghela

A civil engineer by profession, painting has always been a passion since childhood for Parimal Vaghela.

“I do not believe that an artist can only be cultivated in art schools or art institutions. Art is rather a matter of one's individuality and personal feelings,” he explains.

He believes in the aesthetic appreciation of art and not just the intellectual, and views art as an exploration of the soul. Over the last ten years, he has painted landscape, figures and portraits.

“I paint in the hyper-realistic style. Gradually, I developed my identity in still-life paintings using newspapers. I believe it developed naturally, just as a plant grows naturally,” he describes. He switched from oil to acrylic since it dries quicker with minimum possibility of dust sticking on it, thus making the painting look fresher.

Parimal says he was fortunate to receive encouragement and appreciation for his paintings from his childhood days. He drew a lot on books and magazines for research, and interacted with international artists, art institutions, and art auction house like Christies and Sotheby’s to improve his understanding of art.

“I am not a very prolific artist. I created about 250 artworks during my career,” he modestly says. He has participated in a few art festivals, and exhibited in about 25 solo shows in galleries across India. His artworks are priced from Rs 15,000 to Rs 1,50,000.

He wishes there were more opportunities for realistic paintings in India as compared to Western markets. He views artistic success as derived from commercial sales as well as internal exploration, which gives strength to hold on.

“It is very difficult to improve art appreciation in India; art is not seen as an essential commodity. Therefore art institutions and galleries provide a fair platform to eligible artists,” Parimal explains.

For GAAF, he prepared works painted on challenging objects like utensils, glass, cloth and newspapers. “I wish to stun the viewer with my painting. I try to create a painting that can be enjoyed by the common people, without any complications or explanations,” he says.

“I do not wish to convey any message or advice through my paintings as this world is full of philosophers and advisers,” Parimal jokes. He describes his artistic journey as the flow of a river, who derives her path naturally. He also views the coronavirus crisis and lockdown as an opportunity to contemplate and concentrate on the creation of art.

“Art can best be interpreted by putting oneself in the place of the artist,” he explains. But many audience members are very generous in appreciation, but less interested in buying, he observes.

He also offers tips for aspiring artists. “If you are able to earn a living, then stick to your own belief. Most importantly, develop your own identity and be damn serious about your work,” Parimal signs off.

Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and find new ways of exploring your creative core?

See also the YourStory pocketbook ‘Proverbs and Quotes for Entrepreneurs: A World of Inspiration for Startups,’ accessible as apps for Apple and Android devices.