Hi! I’m Sanjukta Sen, and I’m from all over the place (India, Singapore, Germany!) but I’m currently finishing a degree in Politics from the University of Cambridge. I started sketching exactly a year ago as a way to keep stress-free during exam term, and set up my Instagram art blog to keep track of my progress.
I was always into art as a kid, but I never really got into it until my mother bought me my first sketchbook and brush pen in April 2014 and I’ve never looked back since. She has been my mentor throughout – she is an artist and has taught me most of what I know. The other few bits of knowledge I have picked up has been from following the hundreds of talented artists online on Instagram!
I make it a point to sketch something everyday or every few days, because I have realized that perseverance is key in this field. Most of my sketches turn out very averagely, but the trick is to keep going. I pick up a pen and sketchbook and sketch absolutely anything that is in front of me, and if I have time I give it a quick watercolor wash. I am a fan of spontaneity, and so I never sketch in pencil – I always go straight to ink.
Every time I mess up this way becomes a learning experience. Other than keeping an “everyday sketchbook”, I very often (less so during exam time though) arm myself with loose pieces of watercolor paper and go urban sketching out on the streets. I take a little stool with me and spend hours sketching on location perched on the side of the road. One of my favorite parts about this process is people stopping to chat about my art, and picking up little tidbits of information about their lives.
One nice man told me that his father, back in the 60s, had sketched every landmark in Cambridge. Another told me that watercolors confused him because he could never keep them clean in his palette but he loved it anyway. My favorite part, however, has to be when parents point me out to their little kids to distract them from crying about something or the other. It always works! I love meeting and talking to new people, and this is one of the best perks of urban sketching.
I swear by my Lamy pens and nibs (I have an Al-Star and a Joy), and I use a simple cotman half pans because I don’t do anything too fancy. I am not a traditional or proper watercolorist – I mostly work with inks and washes but I feel like that is what brings me closer to the fresh and spontaneous feeling that I aim for. I am very inspired by my favorite illustrators – Sir Quentin Blake, Felix Scheinberger, and Don Low – and often reflect on their works when I hit a creative block (which is more often than I care to admit!).
Another thing that I like to do when faced with a block is go through old sketchbooks – it is such a good feeling to see how your sketches improve and change in style over the months, and it often gets me thinking about what I can improve on or try out when I decide to start sketching again. Going to events like life drawing sessions is a good way to get back into the creative zone as well – my mother recently forced me to try out one and I have been absolutely hooked ever since. Not only is it so therapeutic, but it also improves your line work by leaps and bounds!
I started sketching as a way to teach myself something new, be productive with my free time during exams, and de-stress myself. It has turned into something much bigger than that, and has helped me venture into other fields of design and illustration for university newspapers and college events and magazines. I see Quentin Blake‘s work and the impact it has had on so many people’s happiness, and I am imbued with a want to make people happy through my art.
People messaging me to tell me that they liked my work is really rewarding, but the biggest compliment is still when my mother texts me in reply to a sketch that I have whatsapped to her – “Good job, I like the improvement”. This is the first step in what I hope will be a long and happiness-inducing journey.