What’s your background?
Ethnically, I am Indian. Born and bred in Kenya, I moved to the USA to study. Later, I completed my undergrad degree in Toronto, Canada. I majored in Design/Illustration.
When did you begin making art?
My earliest memory of creating art is in nursery school. I got very serious about art after finishing my A levels in Mombasa. I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career, so I took a few odd jobs and nothing satisfied me at the soul level. I would paint in the evenings and I used to fantasize about making it my ‘job’.
What does your work aim to say?
My work celebrates the mundane. I paint flowers, people and occasionally animals. I paint to create a 3D space on a 2D surface. Therein lies my challenge. I really love the idea of creating ‘space’ in a painting using just colour.
Who are your biggest influences?
My teachers, college professors, and colleagues have influenced me to paint. My parents have also always encouraged me to stay creative. They love my paintings. I used to paint with a friend in Toronto. His voice is often still in my head. He was an old man and he taught me a great deal about painting.
In Art History, I often refer to the work of Richard Diebenkorn and Paul Cezanne whenever I am stuck, so you can say they influence some of my work.
Which current art world trends are you following?
“Trends are for the anxious. I don’t follow trends…I make them!” Lord Maclean
I teach art at a high school. My students love to challenge me with their favourite trends. I find myself drawing superheroes!! That is something I never thought I would do. Anime is a huge deal with students, but I try to encourage them to draw in their own style rather than copying Anime. Having said that, I may have developed a new obsession with rather small works of art done with a biro pen.
Where do you find inspiration?
My favourite quote is “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” — Pablo Picasso. It may sound narcissistic, but I find encouragement and inspiration in my previous paintings-ones that I feel are successful. I study them to see how I made it work before, and I have to encourage myself to believe that if I did it before, I can do it again. Life around us is also inspiring. Nature is the greatest artist of all and I celebrate the same by painting natural forms.
When is your favourite time of day to create?
I am a morning person. I am most fresh, clearheaded, and motivated in the morning. But then again…anytime is creative time.
How has your style changed over time?
I used to think only super realistic work is art. I used to paint extremely blended and realistic paintings that took months to complete. Now I paint in a much looser style. I still struggle with letting go of control, but it’s getting there.
What are your favourite and least favourite parts of professional art?
My favourite parts are creating and teaching art. I love discussing art with other artists and designers. Least favourite has to be selling art and negotiating deals.
Describe your ideal working environment.
I like working alone in my studio. I have painted with others though. Having an artist residency where like-minded people can paint together would be really awesome.
Describe your dream project.
I would really love to be commissioned to create art for cafes and hospitals.
Describe the best piece of art you’ve created.
I think the best is yet to come!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? What advice do you have for others starting out
The best advice I have been given…that would be to celebrate my own style and strokes. It is when you try to paint like someone else, using their style…that is when you begin to get into frustrations.
For others starting out: draw a lot of still life. Keep objects in front of you and draw. Learning colour theory early on is also essential.
What’s your most embarrassing moment in art?
I think flipping through art history textbooks with my students….sometimes we see nudes and I feel more embarrassed than they do. Even though I am not at all prudish, I am teaching kids, so I try to limit their exposure if I can help it.
What wouldn’t you do without?
The internet. Am I right? Everyone, everywhere depends on it for everything.
How do you balance your time in the studio with other commitments such as a part-time job, family ?
I work full time. these days I have adapted to painting small paintings and in watercolour, so they don’t take much time and I can still create daily.
Covid and the lockdown helped me focus a lot, so I spent a lot of quality time with family and did a lot of painting during that time.
I spend time with my family after work and on weekends.
How do you know when a work is finished?
It’s never that it is finished…At some point, I have to just stop because I feel like if I go back into it again, I will ruin what is there already. Other times, I have a deadline so I am forced to stop and call it ‘done’.
What’s your work-day like?
I am an early riser, so I am up by 5 am. I pray, meditate, shower, etc., then, I am at work by 7 am. I teach art so I prepare for my classes for the day. It involves a lot of research and it does not feel like work at all. I really enjoy teaching. I am
done teaching by about 3. Usually, I am home by 3.30 and then I paint or draw a little. I have to stay healthy, so I go to the gym for an hour or so. After dinner, I am with my family. We play card games or just talk for a while. Bedtime is around 10.
Where can I get prints of your paintings or find you?
I have not started making prints yet, but you can buy my work either directly from me (0737-800-594, or @millymamma on Instagram.) or from Diani Art Gallery.