"Always Be Honest With Your Work" - Siddesh Gautam

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1. Tell us more about your background and journey.

I’m an alumnus of National Institute of Fashion Technology, Mumbai and National Institute of Design, Gandhinagar. As a design student as per my Under-graduation and Post-graduation, I was trained for the fashion and apparel industry. But, by the end of my academic journey, I started to drift from commercial design, towards social design through my classroom projects and graduation project. 

Yet, post-academic, I worked as a commercial designer for two years under Studio Gendaphool, Pune, a multi-disciplinary design studio started by my friends and me. During my stay in Pune, I got involved with the Dalit movement and started to take a keen interest in the movement and political scenario globally.

 I decided to give my full time to the movement and social design, for which I shifted to Delhi. Currently, I am based out of Delhi and practice social design and visual design independently.
I was born in a small handicraft town Nagina in western Uttar Pradesh. As a kid, I was brought up in a very liberal and radical environment. 

My father’s involvement in the employee’s union and my grandfather’s indulgence in politics reflected upon all the siblings and cousins of our family in some way or the other. My current work is the continuity of the values that were taught to me as a kid and the values that were and are to be broken by me as an educated and woke adult.

My work is a personification of my personal spiritual journey. I share my glasses with the world in the hope of inspiring a deeper connection between people through design. My work is to encourage people to live deeply, love fearlessly, and to appreciate this heavenly place called Earth.

2. When did you decide you wanted to be a painter/illustrator?

I never decided to be an illustrator in the first place. Like any kid, I had my dilemma with becoming an astronaut or a locomotive driver. I wanted to be a pilot before I was prescribed glasses. I also wanted to be an IAS officer for a while. 

Basically, I was a dreamer, and I still want to do different things. I would not suffice myself as an illustrator, I am also an educator, activist, writer, social designer, concept designer, apparel designer, graphic designer and so on. And I wish to learn much more and be much more as I continue to survive.

3. Is it a financially stable career?

As I mentioned above, I involve myself in various creative fields, it is hard for me to see the accountability of illustrations as a single entity in my career so far. In any conventional field of design, time is one of the biggest and most risky investment for a young graduate/practitioner. 

I believe financial stability depends on how well one does that investment of time. In my case, some of my months are financially very harsh and difficult, but the social capital that I earn from my work keeps me going.

4. Who is your favourite illustrator and why?

It’s hard to name one. Adolphe Cassandre, Paul Rand, Saul Bass, M.C. Escher, Milton Glaser, Andy Warhol, Satyajit Ray, David Carson and Yuko Shimizu are a few who are always on my fingertips. 
The originality of their work and its deeper connection with the viewers make their work more than life. As a student of the history of visual art, these artists have intimidated me the most with their work.

5. Where do you get inspired to create art?

I am an avid reader. Reading helps me come up with ideas and projects that I can perform as a visual communicator. While minimalism and post-modernist thought are the main influence of my work, my work is based on in-depth research on the subject. 

I aim to create much more than superficially beautiful objects. I work to challenge your preconceptions, expand your mind, honour the sacred, and evoke feelings of adventure, exploration, and deep human connection.

6. What does your typical day look like?

I start most of my days with music. I love to listen and explore music. My day automatically gets better if I discover a new song that blows my mind. I work from home, where I have a dedicated space for my studio. I start my work with reading news and articles around my current work and replying to emails and messages. 

The first half of my day is basically denoted to the creation of new ideas and concepts and later half of the day goes into the implementation part. I cook my own food, which gives me ample time off from my work. I generally finish my day with doodles or scribbling on my notebook while watching a movie or talking to friends on the phone.

7. What piece of advice would you like to give to future aspiring illustrators?

Always be honest with your work. Honesty is the best policy, at least for us creative people.

8. Which is your favourite book and why?

Again, it is really hard to name one. As per my current readings, I loved Jhoothan by Omprakash Valmiki and An Appeal to the Young by Peter Kropotkin for their radical writing. Annihilation of Caste by Dr Ambedkar was an eye-opener for me and it continues to guide me. 

George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm and two other influential books that I admire. Godan and Gitanjali are my all-time favourite text from the sub-continent, about the sub-continent.

Interview by - Shamayla

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