Hello! I am Vasundhara. I am born and was brought up in Satara, Maharashtra State, India. A beautiful scenic town situated amidst seven hills, Satara is a five picturesque hour drive from Mumbai. As a child, I was always fascinated by the beauty I found around me. My eyes used to form objects by seeing uneven shapes of stones, clouds, tiles, brown crust of chapati (flatbread). Anything could be endearing for my visualization.
But nobody, including me, realised my exceptional talent for drawing until the age of 6, when I enlarged an approximately 5cm sized image of Lord Krishna into the 3ft tall sketch on the blackboard without scales. Everyone was amazed! I remember my father clicking my picture along with the sketch in his camera. Maybe that’s how I started. It felt so good when my drawings made everyone happy.
The encouragement I received from my grandmother had a profound impact on my paintings that you see today. I have seen her sewing and knitting beautiful things, along with her absolute hand for beautiful rangolis. So, I would definitely say that it is in my genes, as in family, my parents are pretty much obsessed about perfection, and I perceive them as a blessing. Also, there are many members in my family who can draw perfect lines and sketch sometimes, but they’re all in different fields, and never enrolled themselves in the Fine Arts because there was no Art School in our town those days.
But I was very sure and clear about my goals at a very young age. I did not want to go into the fields of commerce or science (the only options we had in our town, moreover it would have added another two years of waiting to go for G D Art & I had no patience to wait). I used to participate in drawing competitions, and even though I bagged the first place in my batch, unfortunately it was never considered as a core subject to include in grades.
At the age of 15, I took the big decision of my life. I somehow gathered courage and told my art teacher in the school that I wanted to pursue my education in Fine Art, that I wanted to do G.D. Arts (Graduate Diploma in Arts). My teacher considered the conversation with warmest regards, later to find out my father’s agreement to my decision and wanting to send me to Pune (two hours’ drive from my town, which was a big deal for my family then, as sending daughters away for education was something they weren’t familiar and comfortable with), where I could pursue my dreams.
I was amazed, excited and nervous at the same time. To achieve my dream, I had to leave my loving family, my town, my comfort zone and go to Pune City, which has a rich legacy in education and considered as the Oxford of India.
My 10th standard exams were over and like every year I bought a new drawing book for myself, so that I could draw the way I wanted to with no worries about other subjects like history, maths etc. My results were out and I passed with 56% which was not something to be proud of, but still I distributed sweets to all the members of my family and friends as a funny ritual. The next day my father took me to Pune to get a prospectus of the college. I glided with joy after seeing the college of my dream. I wonder how hard it was for my parents. I am grateful they could control their emotions while sending me away for my education, or rather, for the sake of my dream.
I got the admission for Foundation (1st year) in Bharati Kala Mahavidyalaya, Pune. On the desired date, my parents and siblings came to drop me to the hostel. Thankfully, one of our relatives were there to guide me till the second day of college, until which whom I was supposed to stay with. I didn’t realise the pain I was going through staying far from my family. I used to cry a lot (as if someone had forced me to go away from them). But college was a blissful distraction. I used to learn deliberately and most importantly enjoy everything which came along my way.
My professors appreciated me all the time. The things I learnt in college still stand strong, the values cherished every day. I had learnt good understanding of light, shadows, depth, perspective at that age. I used to do my assignments in poster colours aka gouache. I never tried watercolours those days (which is a regret, how I wish I had known it is a delight of painting). I stood out first in the annual examination among girls and second in the class. I wanted to continue in the same college for the next four years but as I hadn’t completed my 12th grade, I wasn’t qualified for the degree course.
I had to move to another college which has a Diploma course, which is equivalent to a Degree, that’s how they call it, `Graduate Diploma in Art’ aka G.D. Art. I was selected through merit in Abhinav Kala Mahavidyalaya, Pune, for the Elementary (2nd year). I got to learn the things which are efficacious for a lifetime. My personality developed from a shy girl to a confident artist. I became proficient in subjects like life drawing, illustration, graphic design, caricature, portraits, calligraphy and typography.
Even at this stage, I never considered watercolours for my projects. I used to do it in acrylics when I had to paint on the canvas. I had plenty free time in those days and I hardly did plein-air landscape paintings in poster colour. I remember doing a commission work of 6ft x 6ft mural in acrylics and I bought a first model of 3.2mp camera phone for myself, to help with my projects. In those days I was a career enthusiast and often dreamed of making a career in painting.
I worked as a graphic designer in TimeOut Bengaluru Magazine after I was married. Needless to say, life changed completely as I moved to Bangaluru, Karnataka State with my husband. A state where the regional language was different than my native place. I feel fortunate to have wise in-laws, who always encouraged my art even though everyone comes from a technical background and didn’t know what exactly I was going to do with my degree. I used to get few commission works and for that I had to search for materials which was not as easy as it used to be in Pune. I had to start everything from scratch.
I hardly received funds from the clients which was minimal compared to my efforts and contribution to fetch perfect results. But it certainly gave me different subjects to work on and helped me learn new things. It was heart-warming when people didn’t know me, yet tried to trust my work. Later on, I got pregnant and took a huge break and my baby became my passion. I was enjoying the contrast in my world. My basic trait of enjoying the beauty never diminished and I used to feel the nature intently with my baby now. It developed the little world in my womb. My childhood literally came back to life.
When my little one was about 4 years, I gradually tried to explore the spectrum of my art. I fashioned handmade greeting cards along with customized envelope from scratch. I designed my logo as `Piece of Mind’ and received orders for customised work. It used to fulfill my creative yearnings. I managed to paint some canvases with a different illustrative character. I exhibited my work in Chitra Santhe (Art Market) where artists from all over India get an opportunity of exhibiting their work for a day. My work did good business and I acquired good connections in the field. When I finally felt settled, my husband was relocated to Scotland.
I was going to get a new world but, for that, I had to leave so many things behind, again! I had to search things related to my art, again! I had to prove my talent in the unknown place, again! Most importantly, I couldn’t carry my beloved art materials which I had gathered after all these years. Obviously buying things related to art is not easy. It is quite challenging financially and qualitatively.
We moved to Glasgow in Scotland (a place I had never heard of before). It was love at first site. It released a true artist hidden inside me. Naturally, it took a few months to find what I could do with my art here. As being in a new country has its own many challenges. After dropping my child to school, I used to walk miles in search of materials and waited for my calling. My husband encouraged me to advertise my cards in the Scottish Design Exchange, but unfortunately I could not reach my expected targets. I was completely embarrassed but did not give up on hope.
One fine day, a friend took me to Glasgow City Mission (GCM). I met a few of the kindest people who work for homeless and refugees. In order to gain proficiency in the English language, everyone was welcome to attend. It encouraged interactions from people all over the world and it was a huge confidence boost for me. I had a look at their event schedules and it said ‘Art’ on Fridays. I was overjoyed to see this and I went there on Friday and was enchanted by the lovely artistic aura of the place. People were doing everything related to art, sketching, painting, pottery. I tried pottery for the first time and it blew my mind. I found it very satisfying. I started looking forward to Fridays.
Once, I observed an artist painting a wreath with watercolours and I also felt like experimenting. I borrowed a lightly tinted paper and gave watercolour a try. It was extremely overwhelming. I sensibly invested in WHSmith watercolours and A4 watercolour paper book and started experimenting with it. I first painted live, sitting in my living room. It was a view of sunlight falling on the bedroom. I was happy with the result. The next day, I captured a sunset image while going to a grocery shop. I painted it after returning home by seeing it on my phone. It took me nearly 2 hours to complete it. I was stunned with the alluring effect of watercolours. I wanted to do more.
I referred another image from Edinburgh, which I had captured from a hop on-hop off bus. I was satisfied when I discovered I could do better than I expected. I have a habit of clicking pictures on my phone. I don’t own any DSLR camera as of now. So that’s how I took a shine to this new side of my art. I never stopped from that point. Later on, I got to know that, for watercolours, I should use good quality paper, which must be 100% cotton. I didn’t want to buy it immediately, though I dreamt of painting on that. I wanted to gain more confidence to achieve the best results.
Also, those papers were expensive to start experimenting with. (I always considered my logo ‘Piece Of Mind’ (POM) is going to present me as my brand. And I had no funds remaining at POM. Even though my better half would love to invest, I didn’t want to treat myself with easier options. Challenges can bring out the best in you. So, I bought an A4 size Cass Art watercolour book after I completed my first book with good results. I started posting my work on Instagram. I made a video of the book flipping by taking help from GCM. My second book was a bigger accomplishment.
I do not own a studio for my art yet. As my work requires a lot of floor space, I paint in my living room sitting beside my kid’s toy arrangements. It is funny and challenging at the same time. It is my dream to own a studio plus workspace, with ample amount of natural light, a good storage space for materials, a desk, an easel, and essential gadgets like DSLR camera, scanner, printer.
Now, I am working on my third book, an A3 sized Winsor & Newton watercolour book. From the first painting in this book, I was elevated with the relaxing strokes I painted on it. I have bought three shades of Winsor & Newton professional watercolour tubes. The paper felt very beautiful for the washes and it dries out late so it helps to do wet on wet technique easily. Also, the texture is amazing to see the pigment granulation. Every painting I paint is a subject of profound happiness.
The credit goes to Glasgow and its environment, for being purveyors of eternal beauty of its buildings. I got inspired seeing this and my real talent started to transpire. I wish I had known my passion for paintings much earlier. Being a homemaker, I face many obstacles and get involved in many time consuming chores which keeps me from my painting, but I manage to find the time to engage in my fancy for watercolours. I give myself more challenges to overcome the anxiety of painting complex subjects. Believe me it works the best!
I am someone who prefers looking for art materials rather than jewellery, accessories and clothing. People think I should invest in gold, which can be useful in the future. Either way they’re right. But each piece I create is more precious than gold for me. I may not earn today. But it will be respected even after my life! Gold can be melted and turned into another piece. My paintings will be engraved in many hearts and remain forever as a beautiful memory. Thank you for reading and I wish you all the best for your artistic journey!