Garima Dhawan is an Indian artist, living and working in the US since 2001. Her journey, from fashion and textiles to art and printmaking, is a quest to find a new visual language that creates peace and harmony.
1) Tell us a little about yourself, and your calling as a creative?
I was born and raised in India and moved to the US in 2001 to pursue a masters in Textile Design at the Rhode Island School of Design . Having trained and worked as a fashion designer, I wanted to learn more about textiles, and also a new way of seeing. Going to RISD was the beginning of a complete new way of thinking and doing and finding my own creative voice. I am currently studying printmaking at the Art Students League of New York, and focusing on developing prints and patterns that evoke an emotional response – Happiness by Design.
2) Discuss your process and where you get your inspiration from?
I think with my hands…so the beginning of all my work is drawing, painting, collage, and printing (silkscreen & photolithography). Once I scan them at high resolution, I then play with the layouts and colours in Photoshop.. Going back and forth, between the digital and the real world, gives me clarity and a way to move forward.
When I go for walks, my mind becomes quiet and I see things, growing, changing and evolving in nature. That is very inspiring for me. A lot of the things picked up on these meanderings – flowers, leaves, branches, stones etc find their way into my work, so they are quite personal. I also love to cook and the alchemy of different elements coming together and transforming is always interesting to me.
3) Describe your workspace? What is the one thing there you can’t live without?
I have a studio at the back of our home. It’s perfect because it’s a little away from the hustle and bustle of the everyday and has great natural light. It’s my own personal space where I can just be and tinker with ideas. I have a small collection of art, design and cooking books, a few plants, my laptop, scanner, printer, a working table, pencils, paints, brushes, a stack of prints and a gallery wall in the works.
My working studio is a printmaking studio in Manhattan where I do my printing. I can’t live without ink and paper, because I am so happy messing around with different printing techniques and working on a etching press. Seeing Ink on my hands after a good day of printing makes me happy.
4) Tell us what you do to get creative? Stay creative?
Learning is important for me to stay creative. I look at a lot of the work by contemporary artists and watch documentaries on old masters. I have always been an art history buff and love going to museums. It’s fascinating to read and watch about a certain artist and their process and then to see the real physical work. There is magic in that.
5) When did you decide you wanted to be an artist? And has the internet become a good or bad aspect to life as an artist?
I always knew I was going to work in the creative field, since I was a child. I enjoy creativity in all its manifestations whether it is visual art, dance, music, writing, cooking…because it’s all about expressing what’s within.
After working in the fashion/textile industry for over 10 years, I decided to become a full-time working artist in 2012. The Internet has been fantastic as a tool to connect with other artists and get my work out there. I had no idea about POD sites and once I started on Society6 a whole new world opened up for me. It is also a great way to stay connected to the art/design world, but I do like to spend a lot of time offline.
6) What do you like most about the art world?
The art world is full of creative and incredibly talented people and it’s a world full of ideas and expression, this is home for me. Being in New York, my friends are artists, dancers, singers, writers, actors, filmmakers, chefs and that opens up a complete new dimensions of being and creating. I can relate to their struggles and applaud their achievements because it is choosing to walk on a path less taken. That takes courage.
7) What do you dislike about the world of art?
I find that the art scene is very fast paced and there is a constant pressure to put out new work and promote oneself. I have made peace with it and follow my own pace and intuition. There is also this constant business of big companies ripping off work and producing things without giving the artist credit or fee. That is just wrong.
8) What is the toughest thing about being an artist?
When I started I had no idea how I would pay my bills as a full-time artist. It was very challenging the first few years and extremely stressful. I took on a lot of extra commercial projects to make money so I could get some time to do my work.
Apart from getting financially stable, the toughest thing about being an artist is self-doubt. It creeps in when you least expect it especially when circumstances seem stacked against you. To believe in oneself and keep going requires immense self belief and faith.
9) You have been given a room in a house to paint! Each wall has to be a different colour! Which colours do you choose and why?
It would be have to be the play of opposites to create balance. White walls with specs of silver, for the moon, offset by a wall of gold representing the solid rays of the sun. It would be the coming together of opposites to complete a full circle.
10) You are being sent to a desert island and are told you can decorate your hut with 5 famous paintings. Which do you choose and why?
Matisse – Blue Nude
Monet – Water Lilies
Van Gogh – Vase with Twelve Sunflowers
Rothko – White Center
Hokusai – The Great Wave
I love looking at these paintings over and over again. They are bold, abstract, and beautiful, have great colour, feel expansive and expressive, with a clear hand of the maker. There is also a simplicity and directness about these paintings that only comes from the mastery of one’s craft.
11) You are asked to draw an image of your favourite animal as the next painting. Which animal do you choose and why?
I would attempt drawing a lion. I admire the relaxed strength and the mane is beautiful and majestic…The King of the Jungle.
12) You’ve been asked to hold a dinner party for famous painters. Which 4 would you invite? What would b on the menu?
They would be my 4 favourites – Matisse, Monet, Vermeer & Leonardo Da Vinci for their mastery in colour, composition, perspective, light and drawing. I love to cook so it would be an elaborate feast of colours, textures, tastes, smells and wine…to engage all the 5 senses.
13) What’s your message to the World?
These are turbulent times and it’s very easy to feel disheartened. It’s good to focus on creating value and being happy and make efforts to move forward everyday and support others. That’s a good place to start.
14) Which is your favourite POD, and why?
DENY designs without a doubt. I love their products and the care they put into what they do.The team is fantastic to work with and value the artists. I am so happy to be selling on some top sites like Target, Nordstrom, Bed Bath & Beyond, Wayfair and the proudest moment was making it to Anthropologie. Society6 comes a close second because that is where I started, and became part of the artist community, which is now an integral part of my life and work.
15) Final Comments
When I came from India to do my masters I was really overwhelmed, struggled a lot in my first semester, and was at the point of giving up. One of my teachers at RISD, Maria Tulokas, really helped me see my own potential and encouraged me to keep going. Things really turned around for me and I graduated with top honors, awards and multiple job offers. I am forever grateful to her for her love and generosity of spirit. I am determined to do the same for others.