Sanjukta Sen was born in India, brought up in Singapore and is currently residing in the UK. Currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Politics and International Relations at the University of Cambridge, she has grown up in an environment where art is highly appreciated – her father and sister are very into film and photography and her mother has been a practicing artist for almost 20 years now. She used to dabble in the usual arts and crafts as a child, but has only taken art up properly in the last two months when she needed something to keep her sane during the infamously stressful “exam term.” She does the odd illustration and graphic design commission here and there for the university newspaper, Varsity, as well as her college newsletter, Griffin and various societies.
1. What’s your medium of choice and what do you love about it?
I primarily sketch things from life and I am too impatient to use pencils/erasers, so I put ink straight down onto the paper and wash my sketches with watercolour. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I love the spontaneity of the whole process. Once ink is down, it’s down and you can’t change it and instead of trying to plan every stroke you just end up going with the flow and accept what you put down. Similarly, you really can’t control watercolours – they have a mind of their own and flow and mix with each other. I’m still learning to embrace this anarchy and take joy in the novelness of the effect it produces compared to a more controllable medium.
2. What are you working on right now? What’s on your camera/desk/easel or in your studio?
I’m always sketching things around me – people, buildings, mundane everyday objects. As such I don’t have specific projects that I’m continuously working on. However, I do have a separate summer sketchbook that I am maintaining in parallel with my other sketchbooks – I’m drawing a building or two in every city that I’ve visited in the last few weeks and will visit in the next few months (we get very long summer breaks!). Moreover, since next year will be my last year in Cambridge, I plan on dedicating a significant portion of my free time to sketching everything in this city – from the restaurants to the theaters to the colleges to the libraries and museums – you get the drift. What I will then do with these sketches I have not decided yet, but I want to record every single thing in this city in some sort of a visual diary and share it with people.
3. What practices/activities are most valuable to your creative process?
I love being inspired. I often go into bookshops and sit in the corner flicking through books on urban sketching, or illustration, or graphic design in general. I spend hours online looking through the works of artists, their styles, what they find interesting, their medium of choice etc. It’s what keeps me inspired to continue working. It can be very demotivating seeing all these wonderful artists online on instagram etc. and thinking “I’ll never be that good, is it worth continuing?” Yes, it is, mainly because everyone has to start off somewhere. I’ve only been sketching properly for about 2 months now, I have years and years ahead of me and browsing through artists’ works and inspiring myself gets me excited about seeing where I end up.
4. What’s one thing you want to share with others about your art and/or process?
I want my art to make people happy, or at least happier. One of my artistic inspirations is Quentin Blake – he went to the same Cambridge college as I go to now and I’ve had the fortune to meet him. In his interviews he talks a lot about wanting to make people happy through his art, and he definitely does that. I’ve created an unofficial mascot for my college – the Downing Hedgehog – and every week I produce a cartoon of him doing something cute or motivating. Cambridge especially can be an extremely difficult environment to live and study in, and through both my illustrations and urban sketches I try to put a happier spin to everything. I don’t have a “style” yet but I would love to have one that radiates positivity. I’m working on it.
5. What advice would you give to your young artist self?
I’m still reasonably young and definitely very newborn to the art community, so I wouldn’t necessarily have any advice to give myself two months ago. One thing I do need to keep in mind though, both when I started off and in the future, is that not everything I do will be great, or even half-good. I am going to have spells of terrible sketches (and I already have had them), but I need to not get frustrated and keep going at it.