"Your Art Is Your Superpower. Use It Well!"- Sangeeta Prayaga

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1. Tell us more about your background and journey.

I am a Computer Science Engineer by education and was working as a Software Developer in the US after completing my Master's program. The daily drudgery of work and commute made me feel homesick sometimes. 

Around that time, one of my friends introduced me to the therapeutic effects of drawing mandalas. Every day after work, I found myself drawing mandalas. With time and practice, my mandalas kept getting bigger and more complex. 

Soon, if you came to my apartment, you would find mandalas on all the walls, tons of canvases filled with my mandala design experiments and mandalas around the Starbucks logo on the coffee cups sitting on my kitchen counter! I created an Instagram page to share my work and aptly named it parttime.artist. 

In one fit of inspiration, a therapy elephant named Ganpat Rao was created! Through him and his friends, I told stories and covered topics like bullying, mental health and sustainable living which were very important to me. They were a big hit!

 It was astonishing that so many people resonated with the voice of Ganpat Rao and his friends. Cute couples started reaching out to me for "love gifts" and big corporates for interior decor! I started taking mandala workshops for beginners and the response was heart-warming! 

In one of my workshops, someone commented on my work saying "her hands itself are like a compass", that's when a friend suggested a new name for my brand! 

After a lot of thinking and calculating, I quit my job. I am now known as Miss Compass Hands! This is one of the most recent and biggest milestones in my journey as an artist!

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

Becoming a full-time artist was definitely on my mind for quite some time. I used to take up commission work as a part-time artist. 

It brought me so much joy when my clients sent pictures of my work hanging on the walls of their new homes or to find my work in big outlets like FabIndia, or pictures of cute couples gifting the cards with the illustrations I custom made for them! 

My passion for art brought a smile to people's faces! In January 2020, I finally decided to become a full-time artist and started my online store where I sold my mandalas, art prints and baby elephant merch. 

My journey from being a part-time artist to having my own store and a brand name "Miss Compass Hands" has been incredible. Each day, as a businesswoman (still giggle when I call myself a businesswoman) and as an artist, I have been learning something new. Every day has been an adventure!

3. Is it a financially stable career?

I have a lot of people in life who are full-time artists. That gave me the confidence to take up art full-time. But it wasn't a decision made overnight. Honestly, it takes some time to find the right clients and customers for your work. 

Emailing all the potential clients, reaching out to them on Instagram, or any other platform is all part of the hustle. Like any other business, art business also requires a lot of planning, networking and marketing. Having a stable income as an artist is possible, but it needs more effort than other regular jobs! 

Also, a full-time artist can have more than one source of income. From freelancing, business, commission work, workshops etc. That's why I find myself working on all seven days of the week! (Not complaining. haha!)

4. Who is your favourite illustrator and why?

It's hard for me to name one! There are so many artists out there who I love!

First, Alicia Souza. Have been a huge fan of her work. She easily makes us say "awww" when we look at her art, her merchandise, and her stories!

Second, doodleodrama and greenhumor. They use their illustrations to talk about real issues! They inspire me to do the same! I really look up to their work.

Third, Rashmi Krishnappa. She is one of my favourite mandala artists. She uses her art and amalgamates it with different other Indian artforms! I am highly inspired by her work.

5. Where do you get inspired to create art?

I have recently realized that I get inspired by anything and everything I see around me! My mandalas are usually inspired by other art forms such as classical dance forms, mythology, portraits, meditation etc.

For all my illustrations, I like to draw about little life lessons learned over the years, real issues which need to be talked about and little joys of life! :)

6. What does your typical day look like?

Like Ganpat Rao, his creator too is a morning person and likes to sip a coffee as soon as she wakes up! My day starts with writing down my tasks to do and prioritizing them. It is usually a mixture of various kinds of works, depending on the deadlines. 

Designing logos, illustrating comic strips, designing various merchandises for my store, packing and shipping all the orders, illustrations for different clients etc. 

I take tiny breaks in between to draw illustrations for my wonderful followers on social media platforms while binging on Brooklyn nine-nine! My work takes around 12 hours to finish and as a one-woman army, I enjoy it thoroughly!

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

I myself am still learning and would call myself a future aspiring artist, but I would like to share a few things I learned the hard way, in my journey as an artist so far.

1. Do take some time out for self-improvement every day. Very important to polish your skills.

2. Do not worry about increasing the reach on just one social media platform. Have your work shared on various platforms, which will be great when you decide to start selling your work. You'd have different types of audience appreciating and buying your art.

3. When a client reaches out to you for your design and disappears after a while, don't be disheartened and lower your prices. Look at the brighter side that people are considering your work as an option for their design. The right client is just around the corner.

4. Always be a learner!

5. Your art is your superpower. Use it well!

8. Which is your favourite book and why?

It's so hard to choose one as so many books have impacted my life in different ways. After thinking for a while, there's this one book which really, specifically had an impact on me as an artist. The book is called "Rafa My story" by Rafael Nadal.

The manner in which Rafael Nadal admits to all his flaws and opens up at the most definitive moments of his life is endearing, to say the least. In addition to all this, the book offers valuable life lessons in endurance, hard work, grabbing opportunities, never giving up, discipline and humility.

I find myself quoting and taking examples from the book all the time! Highly recommend it to everyone!

- Sangeeta Prayaga , Ilustrator

- Interviewed by Shilpy Sharan