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Conversations with Nisha Shankar

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nisha Shankar.

Nisha, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I’ve been drawing ever since I could talk. It started with long car rides in the winter with my mom who’d let me doodle on her old bank and Zellers receipts. I’d fill in every blank space because there was something about the clutter of shapes, words, and scribbles that made me happy. I moved on to that old continuous feed printer paper, the ones that were a billion sheets of trees and when you’d drop it you’d spend all day trying to accordion-fold it back together. I’d write and illustrate my own stories and flip-books and would always give my finished “masterpieces” away as gifts but would unfortunately never refill the printer paper because I was only six. Finally, I found a bigger canvas AKA my bedroom wall and some old acrylic paints and that was it… That feeling of having so much space to create whatever I want.

I was born and raised in the Canadian prairies (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) to two Indian-Immigrants who always encouraged my art. They’d buy me supplies and put me in expensive art classes, even though we couldn’t afford it, and what I learned was that I was going to need to work twice as hard to get to where I wanted in life. I studied Comparative Religions and Fine Arts in college and something about the religious scriptures filled with color and story juxtaposed by an empty canvas just made sense together, which is why you’ll often see spiritual themes at play in my work. I moved to Vancouver BC to study Screenwriting and to continue painting and selling my work but then fell in love and made the big move to LA where I’m currently based. 

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It’s been a bumpy road that’s also been filled with many great highs. Moving to a new country was difficult and the paperwork was gruelling but California has summer all year and I get to be with my partner so it’s a win. Pursuing a new career has been daunting but I’ve met amazing people along the way. Making friends in your thirties is super awkward but I’ve formed some genuine friendships that I’m incredibly grateful for. These last few years have been crazy and unpredictable and surreal in a lot of ways but also pretty magical

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I’m both a Comedy Writer and a Mixed-Media Painter. The former is what I currently do and the latter is something I’ll continue to do on the side until someone pries that cold dead paintbrush from my cold dead hands. In terms of my art, I’m obsessed with layers and colors and I paint in a fluid and organic style that’s on the edge of messy-wild-WTF (is she doing) but comes together eventually. There’s a sense of movement in my paintings from the natural splatters and drips that I let do their thing. I tend to start my first layer with watercolor, build depth with acrylic, and then refine with ink and 90’s gel pens. I’ve got a relatively frenetic mad-woman style of painting that isn’t for everyone, but it works for me, and I almost always listen to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill while painting.

My most recent series of paintings are watercolor portraits of animals that explore the dynamic relationship between humans and animals, power and submission, and chaos and balance, as well as a series of paintings inspired by the traditional hand mudras of India where I physically paint people’s hands (as well as a backdrop) and take still-life photographs. My work is experimental and abstract and always colorful, but I find so much joy in blending different mediums and I especially love collaborating with others.

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you?
I’ve been extremely lucky to get to where I am today because of the support and love from friends and family. I’ve been lucky to connect with new people, personally and professionally, who have been generous with their time, energy, and advice. In terms of my writing career, I was lucky enough to meet the right people at the right time. In terms of my art, I’m always lucky to find people who want to purchase my art and fuel my bank account. It’s still crazy to me that people have my paintings hanging on their walls. Also, as much as I wanted to move to LA, I never really thought it would happen, so I am pretty damn lucky that I actually get to live here and do all of these creative things with people that I love.

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Image Credits:
Kelly Tatham
Angie Ip

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