Interview with Komal Thoria, Portrait Artist

Interview with Komal Thoria, Portrait Artist

Komal Thoria is an illustrator, designer, and a freelance artist who has been a mentee to the highly respected Mr.Sadashiv Sawant, where she learnt the intricacies of applied arts, worked under him, assisted him with projects, to evolve as an artist, and be a guide to fellow artists, just like her mentor – Sadashiv Sawant. 

Komal has come a long way in her career. From working in a call center, and commissioning a portrait for just Rs. 250 to now charging as much as Rs. 15,000 for a portrait. She has seen it all, and evolved as an artist, and a professional who now has big plans for her future. 

In this interview we talk to Komal about her evolution as an artist, her dream projects and her message to fellow artists.


What’s your earliest memory of sketching?

The earliest memory that I have of sketching is when I was maybe 3 or 5 years old. My family realized that I had something in me when it came to sketching, I was naturally good at it. Since I was good at Maths my dad thought Science, or Commerce would be a suitable choice. After that, however, I failed in a couple of subjects. It was then that I realised that I wasn’t meant for this and so I took up Applied Arts and worked in a few production houses and different places. There I got the opportunity to learn and work under Sadashiv Sir.

Did you have any formal training in your formative years or was it just you figuring stuff out on your own?

It was my Mom who put me into tuition. There I got informal training for a couple of years. But mainly I used to recreate art using Youtube videos, and I have been a self-motivated learner since my childhood. My family left me on my own, they were not much concerned as long as I was doing something or the other. 


How did you transition to getting trained in a more formal setup?

I never felt like going to a fancy institute to learn Applied Arts, I wanted to be a part of an upcoming institute and actively contribute towards its growth. Hence I went to Asmita Applied art Academy, which was founded by Ashish sir. I’ve  learned a lot there but most of all I’ve enjoyed it a lot. It was there that I met Sadashiv Sir in a 3 day art workshop. 

Who has been your role model in this journey?

I’m still in the process of exploring myself and I want to make my own path. I guess that’s why my role Models keep changing. I Look up to Ashish sir and Sadashiv sir. Sadashiv Sir is like a father figure to me. I Love Sadashiv Sir’s observation skills, and that’s something which I want to learn, and incorporate more in my life. 

Over the years, you have made so many artworks, which one do you regard as your Masterpiece?

I’ve never really thought about it that way. I don’t know if I have a Masterpiece. Sadashiv Sir likes my Still Life artworks. I guess the Mountain sketch would be my best work. I have created a series on nurturance. I have done it a while back but haven’t posted it anywhere yet. I really like drawing hands for some reason. Like me and my grandmother’s, then me and my mother’s and then my father’s. I want to go deeper into this form of art, and I wonder how it’ll turn out.
How do you decide the price for your artworks?

So, the first portrait that I sold was for Rs.250. My first few clients weren’t particularly happy with my work. I took the criticism in a constructive way and identified my shortcomings. I wanted to improve, so I didn’t take any new orders for the next 6 months and I utilized this period to work on my shortcomings. After this, it got better, and I got a few foreign clients as well.

So, now I charge around 5-7k for an A4 sized portrait and around 10-15k for A3 portraits.
I know that if I take up a project, I will give my best. My clients also respect this and most clients don’t argue. I like such clients who respect the artist’s time, and their work.

Have you ever had to deal with clients who restrict your creativity?

There will always be a few clients who hamper your creativity but it’s not really their fault, they don’t perceive art the same way us artists do. Therefore, I always educate them about the process of creating art, and how I would be going about with the project, and most importantly the WHY aspect of it.

A lot of times, my clients want me to draw half a face or make a portrait out of random selfies. Now, this obviously won’t look good. I tell them quite frankly that there is significant money and effort involved on both our parts and the artwork that you’re paying me for is meant to be lifelong. Therefore it’s advisable that you select a proper image, rather than settling with poorly shot pictures, where either the photo isn’t well lit, or blurred.

A lot of clients ask me not to put my signature or even any trace of mine on the final parcel. I make it a point to charge extra to fulfill such demands.

Moreover, I have my personal projects that allow me to experiment, and style my artwork the way I want it to.

What’s your view on the much talked about ‘Artistic Temperament’?

I feel that creative temperament is necessary for an artist. Clients need to give artists the freedom that they require. Artists need that space and scope for creativity. I have had some arguments over this with my clients. On many occasions, clients give very tight deadlines. They need to understand that the work we do takes time, and if rushed, we are compromising on quality.

I, for one, like to take my time. I have also declined clients who wanted big orders within a couple of days. But when I do take up a project, I know that what I’ll give would be the best, and I have hardly had any clients who were dissatisfied with my work.


Over the years you may have worked with other artists. How has the experience been for you?

It has been an amazing experience. Everybody’s got their own beautiful journey, and perceptions. It has been fun sharing our experiences and to be able to be a part of someone else’s journey. One thing that I’ve realised after interacting with so many artists is that art is connected to freedom of expression. You need to be able to freely express your thoughts and feelings, if you want to progress as an artist.

How’s the role of a mentor for an artist different from being an artist?

I teach gesture drawing, realism, and I even share the common mistakes that artists usually commit early on. I speak about how your brain fools you while sketching. Once I start teaching I feel so energetic. A lot of students have approached me with questions after the workshop so I feel that maybe the workshop was good, and I think I am constantly evolving as a teacher.


How have your students fared ?

Well, I’ve seen amazing results. My students are quite talented and they’re doing really well. I just pat myself on the back when I see my students doing well. I’m a chilled out kind of a teacher. I try to be a friend, not a teacher. I’ve never felt the need of being too professional with them, and I’m always open to share my feelings

I feel my students have got a lot of potential. Some of them are as confused as I was when I started off. I help them correct their course, wherever I can so that they don’t make the same mistakes I made while I was learning, and evolving.

I’ve been teaching for almost 5 years now. I’ve taught older people as well. Their attitude of not giving up really inspires me. If someone at the age of 40-45 manages a family, a job and still makes time to pursue their interests and passion, that is something that truly inspires me. I get to learn a lot from my students.

What’s your take on Digital art ?

I don’t do a lot of digital art. Although I love handmade art, I plan to start doing digital art again. The main problem is that I’m not mindful while doing it. But, I know it is Important to know the basics of Digital Art. This year I plan to get a grip on my Digital Art skills. I have done a few digital caricatures recently but have kept them to myself, haven’t posted it anywhere, but let’s see how it goes.


Every artist has some idea of a dream project that they intend to work upon, what is your idea of a dream project?

I always wanted to make a big waterfall, maybe in my house.I don’t really know why I’m so fascinated with waterfalls. Maybe it’s the textures of a waterfall or the pounding of water which excites me. I want to make a big waterfall. This project will take the life out of me but yeah I’m excited. But as of now, I’m not really looking for a dream project, it’ll come with time. I’m more excited about small little things, at the moment.

What are some other things that you plan to do moving ahead?

I want to make people reconnect with art. Many of us do like to express ourselves through one art form or another, but not a lot of us pursue it. I wish to start with my mom who I feel is very creative. I want to give people hope. I want to be the booster in everybody’s lives. I do actually boost up people wherever I work. So spreading smiles, and joy through my art could be one of the things I’d want to continue doing.

Everyone is not able to follow their passion, let alone make a career out of it. What’s your message to those who intend to take this leap of faith on their passion?

I’d just like to say that you should be doing what you love, and that money isn’t everything. Once you realise who you are and what you’re meant to be just follow that dream. Independence comes from realizing one’s dreams. Find your purpose and work towards achieving it.

I’m always happy and dissatisfied because I always want to improve myself. That’s why I say that your dream is gonna make you happy. There’s no point running after luxuries, life is a journey. Just enjoy it, while you’re at it.

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Meet Bijay Biswaal, whose paintings traveled the world

Meet Bijay Biswaal, whose paintings traveled the world

Meet the Railwayman – Artist Bijay Biswaal, whose paintings traveled the world

Artist – Bijay Biswaal, quit his full-time job with the Indian Railways to pursue his career in art full-time and is now famous for his work across the world. 

We learned about his humble beginnings and his transition from a railwayman to a world-famous painter who has traveled the world creating art and spreading joy.

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

I have never tried to define art, it’s not something that can be explained in words or phrases. It’s felt by the heart, and not the mind. For me Art is a form of expression, a form of passion with no boundaries. Art makes me truly happy.

How did you get started with art? 

When I was 3 or 4, I remember picking up burnt wood charcoal from the earthen stoves my mom would cook on, painting the walls of my house and getting scolded by my mother. As a child, I would pick any surface and start drawing and doodling.

When I joined the school I started scribbling on the slate with chalk, and I would end up drawing something or the other, irrespective of the surface. Art came to me naturally.

How did you choose Train as a subject for your paintings? 

I was posted in the Indian Railways, and the majority of my work involved spending time in the trains and the platforms, and I think I did not choose the train, it chose me. 

When I started painting trains, a lot of my friends told me – It is such a boring and metallic thing to paint, but I did not pay attention to that, and soon enough Trains have become a world-famous genre in painting. 

I think sometimes Subjects choose you, and sometimes Art chooses you. 

Where do you draw your inspiration from? 

Nature and music. I sometimes end up painting 8-9 hours in my studio listening to music, while I groove my body and the paintbrush on a canvas, and I think there is a spiritual connection, and that is my moment of ecstasy. 

How did you know it’s time to take art full-time and decided to take retirement from the Railways?

It was always in my mind, all I wanted was to paint. It would break my heart when I had to leave my canvases empty and go to work. I would wait for my shifts to get over so that I could go back and paint, no matter what time it was, I would never sleep with an incomplete canvas. Never! 

My wife –Pranati Biswaal, played a huge role in helping me gather the strength and the courage to take this decision because she always believed in me.

Talking about your transition from a traditional job to a totally different field – Art? 

I have always focused on my academics, and I am a MA First Class Degree holder, with a legal degree. I have always wanted to be financially secure so that I did not have to burden my father financially to buy me paint or canvas. 

The railways have always been very supportive of my art, and I think the best gift I got from my time serving the Indian Railways, was the exposure I got to the places of India, and the people around, it helped me discover my style. 

What sacrifices have you made to become what you are today? 

I would paint like a mad man, people would know me as the mad railwayman who paints all the time. Looking back, I realized I have always prioritized painting over cups of tea, a game of cards, or sleep. 

I wouldn’t call them sacrifices, because it never felt like one. 

“Best moment was to quit my job to pursue art full-time”

Best moments in life? 

Oscar moment when PM mentioned about me and my work in his “Mann ki Baat” in 2015. Another iconic moment for me was when Suresh Prabhu, Railway Minister invited me to “Rail Vikas Shivir”, and I was given one dedicated pavilion for Art. 

Speaking to him I put up my request to gift one of my paintings to our Prime Minister –  Narendra Modi, and when Mr. Modi saw it, he said “Biswaal Ji Nagpur Waale”, I have seen this painting several times on the internet, and seeing this in real life makes me truly happy. 

The same painting made history in 2018 when it was auctioned by the National Gallery of Modern Art – NGMA, Delhi for raising funds for the Namami Ganga Project.

What are your thoughts Corona and its impact on your work?

The best time to create art and this is the best time for me. I am truly happy to find this time to create and experiment with a lot of styles I earlier couldn’t because of other engagements I would have. 

Although I wouldn’t mind if I am locked down for another 6 months. However, I hope this gets over soon, and humanity is back to its usual track.  

How did you get started with the idea of hosting Art workshops, and what can one expect from such workshops? 

I love the ambiance that workshops give me. I have been to countries like Russia, Qatar, Nepal, Mauritius and so many more. Looking back I realize, I never planned for this. All these opportunities came to me, and I was happy to take these opportunities up. 

If you have the quality, you will be found. All you have to do is continue doing what you love with no strings and expectations attached to the outcome(s).

My main focus has always been to keep it simple. I truly enjoy sharing my experience with the people who come to experience art with me.

Throughout your journey, who has been your biggest support?

My wife is like a pillar of strength. She has always fuelled me with a lot of passion, and if I have to credit someone for where I am today, it would be my wife – Pranati Biswaal. 

She always wanted me to pursue art full-time, she’d always given me the support and the positive vibes I ever needed. I am grateful to her for everything. 

Art as a therapy? 

I am the happiest man, I am so positive, always. Whenever I am in my studio, I forget everything, I am transported to another dimension altogether. Paintings aren’t just colors, they are stories. 

Let’s take watercolor as a beautiful medium, all you need to do is put color on paper, and they blend to create a flavor that will make you feel ecstatic. I always compare watercolor to a game of 20-20 cricket, which is active, lively and gives you tremendous satisfaction. 

Any common man can experience this ecstasy, people suffering from dyslexia, or ADHD or concentration, you can engage people for longer if they are given colors. 

How do you think technology has changed the dynamics of art? Tradition and Technical? 

Gone are the days when you will have to find Buyers or approach Art galleries to showcase or sell your work. You are a couple of clicks away from potentially reaching millions with no one to stop you. 

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

I was in Hojer, Denmark, the only Indian artist to be invited to paint their historical sites, old barns, and distilleries. I would have made 23 paintings (Plane Air – Doing it live), the owners of the gallery that hired me would take me to different locations, we would have breakfast, and brunch, and go back in the evening. 

That feeling of capturing the rich culture of a place was ecstatic.

Have you ever felt an Art Block? How do you recommend artists to get over such creative blocks? 

Artists say I feel an Art block, writers say Writer block, people say I don’t have a mood to paint. But I am always in the mood to paint, even if I don’t want to. I will sit on the canvas and put in work to see the magic happen. 

“Just do it”, inspiration and motivation will come to you when you’re in the flow, for that state of flow you have to start, Right? 

What advice would you give to the budding artists?

Paint only if it makes you happy. Don’t add hopes to it – Will I be famous?  Will I be able to sell? Will I be able to find my own style? Put your head down and draw and sketch. 

Make as many as 20 sketches a day. Not masterpieces, just sketches and doodles.

“When asked how many artworks you would have drawn, I would have made millions of drawings and art forms”.

How can an artist discover their unique style?

The finest compliment an artist can get – “ I can identify your artwork without looking at the signature”, and I think this only comes with a lot and a lot of experience. The more you do, the closer you are to your own style. 

If you are always looking to discover your style, you will never find it. The key lies in doing what you do every day, and one day your style will find you. 

What are your thoughts on Stoned Santa?

Innovative, the fact that you are trying to show the world that Art can be gifted to people. Elegant endeavor and I hope you keep inspiring and helping more and more artists. 

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