Meet Marzia Ali, an artist and entrepreneur

Meet Marzia Ali, an artist and entrepreneur

Interview with Marzia ali, an artist and entrepreneur

Marzia Ali is a versatile artist based in Hyderabad who specializes in resin, fluid, oil, space art and watercolor. She is also the founder of  –
The Duende Box “, which is the first art subscription box from India. She is known for conducting workshops all across the country to educate people and impart artistic skills. 

Here are a few excerpts from the quick chat that we had with her.

Every artist has their own definition of art. What is yours?

More often, we live in our minds than we do in the present moment, and I believe that art is an entirely different world where you can truly be yourself and live on your own terms. Art for me is a way to express freedom of the mind and soul.

Were you inclined towards art, right from your childhood or did you develop the passion over the years?

I grew up watching my mother paint. In fact, she is the one who made sure that I got involved in creative activities. Over the years, I tried my hands on different media and found my forte to lie in resin and fluid art.

How did you come up with the idea of – The Duende Box? How has the journey been?

The idea of Duende Box popped up when I realized that there’s not a single art subscription box service in India. Having been raised with the idea of – “If you don’t find something you need, be the first to innovate it”, I started it.

I began to collaborate with brands that produce art supplies in India and artists. As my business grew, I also launched my own products. Over the years, I have been approached by other companies to launch their art supplies. 

A good understanding of the market and my passion, had led to Duende box becoming the largest subscription box chain of India, and I aim to make it the largest subscription box in the world.

The journey so far has been amazing. I have learned so much and met so many talented people who have given me an in-depth knowledge about the e-commerce industry and subscription boxes. 

Can you name some of the artists whom you look up to?

My mother and then comes Maliha Abbas, a prominent activist and an artist. She has inspired me in many ways and has helped me in becoming what I am today.

I am also deeply inspired by the amazing metaphysical artist Tanya Shatseva, she is one of the artists who beautifully strikes out the balance between science, metaphysics, mythology, and art.

What can one expect from your art workshops?

Workshops are a great way to network with fellow artists and get to know the latest trends in the field of art.  Be it Resin art , watercolor or alcohol ink workshops, one will get to experience art in a different way and learn the art form in detail. 

The instructors are always available to guide and answer the questions.  We also conceptualize new ideas to make the experience memorable, for instance we conduct paint parties. 

We ensure that even a participant who has no knowledge about the artwork will walk out confidently and will be able to create art by themselves in the future. 

What exciting plans do you have in the coming  years?

Honestly, the list is really too long. But few major plans that I am currently working on are, starting a few more subscription boxes which would eventually serve people in different fields. I also plan on starting a personal art gallery in a few upcoming years. Along with it, I’ve been working on creating a definite brand for eco-friendly art supplies.

If you were to learn another art form, what would it be?

I would definitely get into sculptors and pottery. These two art forms attract me the most and I have been trying to get my hands on it for a really long time. 

Throughout your journey, who has been your biggest support?

My parents have been a constant support throughout the journey; My uncle and my Grandmother who pushed me to do the things that I love; My best friends, Sharmila and Bushra, I call them the backbone of all my events as they’ve played the biggest part in all the successful events. 

Hamad Jowher, my mentor has been extremely kind when it comes to helping me with my business. My teachers have always been positive about my future. Last but not the least, my Instagram Fam who have always appreciated me for my work

What advice would you give to the budding artists?

Always accept challenges and opportunities, don’t even miss the smallest one, you never know if that is the key you’ve always been looking for! And the day you reach the top, remember to appreciate and be grateful to the people who have always supported you in your journey and lift the ones who are trying to get the key.

What are your thoughts on Stoned Santa?

If someone’s looking for some personal touch gifting ideas then their search ends here. I really love the gifting solutions that Stoned Santa offers, and the way this team has been trying to be a way for artists to communicate with the world.  I would recommend each one of you to definitely gift your loved ones with their customized string art, which I love the most. 

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Interview with Sanjana Chatlani, founder of the Bombay Lettering Company

Interview with Sanjana Chatlani, founder of the Bombay Lettering Company

Bringing words to life with Sanjana Chatlani

Sanjana Chatlani is a calligrapher, lettering artist and an entrepreneur based in Mumbai. She brings words to life through her beautiful lettering strokes. Having discovered her passion for calligraphy and lettering, she quit her corporate job to start – ‘The Bombay Lettering Company’, which has now become a home-grown brand.  

With the strong belief that calligraphy adds a handmade and personal touch that is irreplaceable, she has succeeded to create a wide range of products, from personalised letters to corporate packaging.

Let’s read more to find out how Sanjana turned her passion into a profession

How do you define art?

Art, to me, is anything that lets me express myself. It’s about pouring all my emotions onto the paper.

How were you introduced to hand lettering and calligraphy? What made you pursue it?

I have always been fascinated by art since my childhood days, but never really pursued it. After college, I started working with LVMH, as luxury brand management was something that I wanted to do back then. 

Two years into my work, I began to experiment with different hand lettering scripts in order to write inspirational quotes in my free time. Instagram introduced me to a whole new world of lettering artists, I started exploring different styles and techniques.

Around the same time, my family had planned a vacation to California. I took this opportunity to reach out to a few lettering artists in San Francisco. To my surprise, they were very generous and agreed to share their knowledge with me.

After learning from them, I started to practice everyday for about 3-4 hours after work. Consistency and dedication helped me get my initial projects, mostly from my friends and family. Over time, I was approached by others for personalized projects. This is how I started off.

How has your entrepreneurial journey been so far? Could you tell us more about your company?

I called quits to my job in July 2018 to start this full time. The transition from an artist to an entrepreneur-cum-artist wasn’t an easy one. Initially it was very overwhelming as I had to play the role of an artist, marketeer and the delivery girl. Being an extrovert, it took time to become accustomed to working in isolation. It was challenging to strike the balance between creating art and managing business. 

However, I have a small team now and I am able to focus more on the creative side. We do a lot of things, from personalized letters, to working on projects for brands, corporates, wedding planners and individuals. Some of my clients include The Ritz Carlton, Michael Kors, Jimmy Choo, Rolex replica, Moet Hennessy, Zoya – A Tata product and more.

Any project that you’d like to mention?

I had the opportunity to be the calligrapher for Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’ wedding and was also asked to be present at the wedding in Jodhpur. This was a very memorable experience for me.

There was another project that was very dear to me for which I had to create a box full of handmade letters for a child who had just turned a year old so that she could read them after she grows up. I believe that calligraphy helps to bring words to life, and this project did exactly that.

What can one expect from your workshops?

I teach the introduction to pointed pen calligraphy. I make sure that they learn the basics well as that creates the foundation to build on, and I also help them understand how to use the tools as it’s the first and most important thing.

Presently, due to the quarantine, I take up one-on-one online classes for those who wish to refresh their lettering skills or want me to critique their work.

What plans do you have for your business in the coming years?

We will continue to do personalized projects and workshops. I want to focus more on our website and come up with a product line that people could choose from.

I also want to focus on conducting art therapy sessions for kids with special needs as it has given wonderful results in the past.

Could you throw some light on how art can be therapeutic?

At times we get so involved in getting the stroke correctly that we forget to breathe. Practicing a breathing pattern with every upward and downward stroke that you do is very relaxing and meditative.

Over the past 3 years, calligraphy has induced calmness in me. Calligraphy can also help kids with special needs to relax their mind. So, calligraphy and lettering are definitely therapeutic.

Who are the artists that you admire?

I look up to many calligraphers and artists who inspire me immensely. My teacher and mentor Barbara Calzolari, an Italian Master Penman, is one of my biggest inspirations. I have been trained under her to learn Copperplate calligraphy and Spencerian. 

I am also training under Achyut Palav, an Indian master calligrapher since 40 years and the most renowned in the country. He is teaching me our script – Devanagari.

Apart from them, I’ve studied and learned under different master penmen and calligraphers who have definitely helped me expand my horizon in this field. Some being – Michael Sull, Jake Weidmann, Nina Tran, Paul Antonio, Michael Ward and Sachin Shah.


Advice for young artists?

I never got any professional education in the field of art. Calligraphy just happened to me. My journey from passion to profession was very organic. 

I would like to say that if you have a passion for a particular art form, you should put in all your efforts, and at the same time be realistic. There is a huge difference between pursuing art with passion and creating art under pressure from clients with deadlines. You should take it slow, weigh out options and quit jobs to pursue art only when you are sure of having financial stability through what you’re doing.

Lastly, never become complacent and keep learning! Always be a student. Look for a mentor, someone you look up to, someone you respect and would like to learn from. Invest in yourself and focus on constantly improving your skills. 

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Meet Karthik Abhiram, a portrait artist

Meet Karthik Abhiram, a portrait artist

The big world of miniature art


Karthik Abhiram is a miniature portrait  artist and a brilliant photographer based in Hyderabad. Inspired by movies right from his childhood days, he creates beautiful portraits of different movie characters in his exclusive style on his Instagram page – Daily Movie Sketch. He also creates miniature sketches that will captivate you with its intricacies

He believes that consistency and discipline can take an artist a long way. Read on more to find out about Karthik’s creative journey.

Art can be perceived differently by different people. How do you perceive art?
For me, art comprises many things – sketches, paintings, photography and music. I believe that anything that is created by an artist with their skills is art. Every piece of art is special in it’s own way.

Most of your sketches are based on movie characters. What inspired you to start these?
I’ve been a movie-buff since childhood. Drawing is my way of expressing my love for movies. Once I watch a movie, I look for key moments or visuals from there and then use that as the reference for drawings. There are many artists whom I follow on Instagram, and their work has also been an inspiration for me to improve my skills.

How have criticisms helped you shape your career?
I guess as artists, we are always very critical of our own work, and while I didn’t pursue art as a career, I still try to improve with every sketch I do. There are several aspects that one can work on – proportions, shading, colors, rendering, use of different mediums – so I try to see what other artists are doing better, and then try to apply those to my own artwork.

How has your perception of seeing things changed after painting for such a long time?
Apart from drawing, I am also passionate about photography and I think both of these have helped me to find interesting frames, patterns and visuals.

Have you collaborated with any other artists and brands, if yes how was this experience?
Brand collaborations have been very rare, but I have participated in a few art challenges. The three I can think of are –  #Inktober (where one does ink sketches in October), #DrawWithMango (theme based challenge), #AnInchAugust (doing miniature art that’s one inch square in size). The latter two are challenges initiated by friends of mine, Harish and Neha.

I always make it a point to participate in these, because the themes and concepts have helped me explore new things which were out of my  comfort zone, and also helped me to discover other artists. 

Are you ever faced with a creative block? If yes, how do you get over it?
Everyone goes through this phase. At times I feel like I do not draw enough in spite of having time due to lack of motivation or ideas. The best thing to do is to wait for the phase to pass and start looking for new sources for inspiration.

If you could go back in the past and change a decision that you made, what would it be?
I don’t think there is anything that I’d like to change.

How important is traveling for an artist? Do you seek inspiration from every place you visit?
I think travelling is definitely inspiring as it helps one to discover interesting visuals. However, for the kind of drawings I do, travelling doesn’t have a direct connection.

What advice would you give for the upcoming artists?

I would like to share a few things based on my own experience– 

Draw what you like, but do it consistently. Never compare your work with that of others as there will always be someone who’s better than you. Get inspired by others’ work and focus on getting better with your own skills. Don’t get disheartened if one sketch doesn’t turn up the way you imagined it to be, just keep moving on.

If you were to learn a new art-form, which one would it be?
If I had to pick something completely different from visual art (photography and drawing), it would be dance. 

What are your thoughts on Stoned Santa?
Any platform that helps in encouraging art and artists is appreciated! Thanks a lot Stoned Santa for the work that you are doing and thanks for this opportunity as well.

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Meet Karanveer, a water color artist

Meet Karanveer, a water color artist

Meet Karanveer – A water color artist

Karanveer is a watercolor artist and a calligraphist based in Ludhiana whose delicate and intricate paintings will make you fall in love with them. Although he’s still an engineering student, he has succeeded to make time for what he loves to do and has close to 25k followers on Instagram on which he shares his artwork.

Read on more to find out about Karanveer’s artistic journey.

What is your definition of art?

Any creation that makes others happy and provides comfort is art.

Were you inclined towards art, right from your childhood or did you develop the passion over the years? 

Right from my childhood, I have been fairly good at art and crafts. I have always had the urge to experiment with colors on the paper. I still remember how excitedly I used to fill up the sketch books during art classes.

It’s been 3 years since I started pursuing art seriously. Consistent hours of practice and persistence have helped me in refining my art style.

Are you self-taught? If yes, how has the journey been?

Yes, I have learned watercolors and calligraphy all by myself. Although initially, it was very difficult, I believe that this was the best way of learning as it has worked out wonderfully for me.

How were you introduced to water colors? What made you pursue it?

Right from my school days, I have experimented with a number of mediums including oil pastels, crayons, acrylics and charcoal. Watercolor was the one medium that I hadn’t touched.

Instagram introduced me to a whole new world of watercolor artists. This inspired me to try my hand at watercolor painting. Little did I know that this would become my forte. I love seeing the colors disperse in water, how they blend and behave to form delicate, yet ravishing artwork.

Most of your paintings are of flowers. Is there any particular reason why you enjoy doing them

I never enjoyed using pencils to sketch. When I saw other artists paint flowers without using a pencil, I fell in love with the free-flowing nature of the art-form and started painting lots and lots of them. Apart from flowers, I also love painting statues and lamps

Which are some of the most interesting projects that you have worked on? 

There was one project that I worked on, for a company based in London. It was a fashion company and I had to paint some very interesting floral patterns for them. I consider this project to be one of the most interesting ones that I’ve worked on so far.

Can you name some of the artists whom you look up to? 

Phatcharaphan and Adisorn. 

If you were to learn another art form, what would it be?

I’d love to learn digital art someday. I see artists doing amazing illustrations using their iPads. Although I would still prefer a traditional art form, I would definitely like to try my hands on digital art.

If you were to go back in time and change one decision that you made, what would it be?  

Nothing! I truly believe that a person learns from his failures and I would never go back in time to fix that. 

What advice would you give to the budding artists? 

“Learn to observe things precisely!”. That will help you so much in learning. Go and explore, have fun while painting. That’s what I do 🙂

What are your thoughts on Stoned Santa?
The art community is not very big and artists definitely need a platform. I really appreciate organisations like Stoned santa for providing a platform for artists and helping them to stand on their own feet.

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Meet Niharika, an illustrator and a comic artist

Meet Niharika, an illustrator and a comic artist

Meet Niharika – an illustrator and a comic creator

Niharika is an illustrator, comic creator, and storyteller based in Noida. 

She creates quirky anecdotal illustrations that are inspired by everyday life around us on her instagram page – Doodloo By Niharika Having a keen interest in art right from her school days, Nihaarika quit her job to pursue art, full-time. 

She has been working for the past two years as a freelance illustrator. Her perseverance and ambition have gotten her opportunities to work with some big brands like Fabindia, Fortune Oil and Indigo airlines.

If you’re having a rough day, a scroll through her Instagram account can definitely lighten your mood.

Niharika spoke to us about her life as a freelance illustrator and where she gets inspiration for her illustrations from.

Have you always been inclined towards drawing or was this something that you acquired over the years?

My mother is an artist and her work influenced me to pick up art as a hobby at a very young age. I used to be fond of making handmade greeting cards for my family members for every occasion. During my school days, I used to excitedly participate in the drawing contests.

Overtime, with constant practise I got better at it and from the past 2 years I am pursuing this full time.

Have you received a formal education in art? If not, what made you pursue it?

I am a self-taught artist and have not received any formal education in the field of art.  I have completed my under-graduation in English literature and a masters in mass communication. I was introduced to the designing tools and software during my post-graduation and I started learning them on my own. After this, I went ahead to work as a graphic designer in a couple of companies.

Before taking up freelancing full-time, I used to work with the Timeliners, a sister concern of TVF (The Viral Fever). I absolutely loved the energy and creativity that my colleagues had.  They were the ones who encouraged me to pursue art. It’s been 2 years since I quit my job to pursue this full time, and there’s no looking back

Any exciting projects that are coming up?

I am in talks with a couple of brands for collaborations. Apart from that, I am planning to start a new comic series revolving around my newly married life. I’m also planning to resume the comic series that dealt with stories about my mother and I.

I am working on starting my own merchandise, and will soon be launching a website as well.

How do you deal with a creative block?

I was completely off doodling for the past couple of months as I was busy with my wedding preparation. Even though it was my own wedding, I always had productivity guilt on the back of my mind. 

Now that I have moved in with my husband, and resumed my work. I often find myself not able to focus on work at stretch. When I find myself in situations where I am not able to think of something new, I start making notes of every tiny detail of my day, right from the time I wake up. This practice helps me notice the small little incidents that could be relatable to others, and I create comics on them. 

How has the lockdown affected you?

Since my nature of work is from home, it hasn’t affected much. But, watching the news and hearing about all the suffering that’s happening around disturbs me and I wonder if I should still continue doing what I do. But on the other hand, if my comics can lighten up somebody’s mood in tough times like these, I would be truly happy.

Some of the artists whom you look up to?

Alicia Souza is an all time favourite. I completely admire her energy, consistency and work discipline.

Sumouli Dutta is another illustrator who has got such a distinct style, I just love the way she is not in competition with anyone but herself. She just focuses on spreading positivity through her comics.

If you were to go back in time and change a decision that you made? What would it be?

I would have definitely joined an arts school. This would have helped me be 5 years ahead of where I am now. In fact, I still consider joining a design school even now.

What are the problems faced by a freelancer?

The first few projects will be a struggle. Clients will have a preconceived idea of how the final output should look like. They would have seen some other artist’s work and expect you to recreate something similar, this restricts your creative freedom.

However, over time you will start getting approached by the right kind of clients who truly appreciate your style of art.

What would you advise to the budding artists?

There is a huge difference in getting inspired and simply copying. Practice alone can help you achieve your exclusive style. 

If you plan on making a livelihood from art, be patient even if you might not see any immediate returns. Have other means of income until you get well established, and then you will have the freedom to pursue art full-time. 

Thoughts about Stoned Santa?

Being a sucker for handmade art, I found your website to be very refreshing. There are many people out there wanting to give something memorable and you are providing it in one place by pooling in a lot of talent together.

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