In the chaotic throes of Face Book notorious for its memes, selfies, “ one like=one Amen”, politics/race-baiting posts and what not, I once stumbled upon a friend’s link to a wonderland of a blog, full of sketches/doodles/paintings and with a few lines scribbled below, which were funny and often thought-provoking in their brevity. The blog is none other than My Sketchbook Project, and its owner/blogger is the extremely talented Sreetama Ray, an expat living in Singapore. Her blog is possibly my favorite in this blogo-sphere, not because it combines my love for art and prose, but because of the simplicity with which her pen-strokes bring out the beauty in the mundane affairs of life. Her sketches range from still life to nature to daily observations to humans (of all kinds) to animals and each of them enthrall you with their bold strokes, splashes of color and eye for detail. Add to it her wicked sense of humor and sometimes poignant observation of the irony of life itself, and you find yourself stopping, pausing, thinking and admiring her work in the whirlwind of chores that engulf you daily. Bottom line, her blog “my sketchbook project” is both a joy and respite for tired urban souls.
(Photo source: Sreetama’s Instagram account, with due permission)
Sree and I got in touch and that started a friendship forged over love for art and furry, wet-nosed kids (she is owned by her adorable pooch Bao Bao) across thousands of miles, between two cities near two different oceans. She visited USA this year and stopped by San Francisco where we finally got a chance to meet. An extremely warm and generous person, she finally gave into my persuasion and sent me an original sketch (shown above) for my first guest blog post. So without further ado, here is a Q&A with Sreetama, to peek into her life and her insanely talented blog My Sketchbook Project. You can also follow her on her FB page and her Instagram account. Thanks Sreetama for this wonderful post!
A) Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am Sreetama Ray! I am a brown, 30-something Bengali woman and these are not just descriptors, they form my identity as a human being. I am a trailing spouse and a communication specialist, living the life of a first-time expat in sunny Singapore. I was born in India in the 1980s with severe myopia, which went undiagnosed until I was 8 or 9 years old. So, much of my childhood was viewed by me in splotches of shapes and colors – sort of like looking at the world from inside a taxi cab when it’s raining down the window panes. I am incredibly indoor-sy and I prefer the company of my dog over any other human.
B) What motivated you to start the blog My Sketchbook Project?
This blog started as my visual diary. When I moved to Singapore I didn’t have a job and I had no friends. I didn’t want to wake up in the morning and some days I wouldn’t change out of my PJs or bathe. Sometimes, a whole work week would go by without leaving the house or seeing another person. So I started this blog to give my life a little purpose. A project, where every day, I post one small sketch about my life in a new place. I figured it would be mostly written posts with little scribbles on the side (which is how it was for a while).
C) I am a crazy cuckoo fan of your sketches, and I am sure I am not alone. Do you have any formal training in painting/sketching? How do you choose your subjects for sketching for My Sketchbook project?
These scribbles eventually became a little more elaborate. Then, I wanted them to better express what I was thinking, so I had to learn more, and so I had to teach myself from the great master, the Internet. I don’t have any formal training and I began by imitating other artists and illustrators who I liked. Eventually, My Sketchbook project pushed me to find my own voice in illustration.
I don’t really choose a subject because most days there aren’t any choices. Just the one thing on my mind – the one incident, the one thing I saw, the one song I heard, one memory, one poet. I sit in my studio and the I just begin.
D) What is the best thing about blogging? And, what makes it seem challenging on some days?
The best part for me is the element of self-publishing – you don’t need validation from a magazine or a newspaper or a critic. You create something, you put it out there for the world to see. It’s as simple as that.
The challenging part came a bit later. Initially, I would post and forget about it. I wouldn’t bother about views or likes. I blogged because, why not. Unfortunately, this changed quickly. I started getting regular readers and soon I was obsessed. I downloaded the app on my phone – even on holidays, I was checking how many “likes” I had received. Then I started checking my stats, worrying about which time of day to post. This was the most challenging – the vying for validation. I once did a post on how I find Asian girls sexy and it got a tremendous number of views. It wasn’t a spectacular drawing so I just knew that people had arrived on my page looking for porn. So for the next few posts I tried to include sexy things in the title, even if the content didn’t match. Eventually, I slacked and so, the numbers fell. As did my morale. I suddenly felt that there was not enough reason for me to write or paint any more. That’s when I consciously changed my thinking and moved back to art for the sake of art.
E) A few lines on San Francisco, please?
San Francisco is beautiful – in every way. What else is there to say!
F) Finally, a rapid fire round of Q&A.
a) Favorite city you’ve lived so far? New Delhi
b) One celebrity (past/present) you would choose to be if you could be anyone that your heart desired? I have never idolized a famous person. But from time to time I want to be someone else. Sometimes I fantasize, sometimes I pretend. One of things I love to do is become someone else for strangers I meet on a flight. I lie to them about everything – I become a completely different person for a few hours and it gives me such pleasure.
c) Favorite food? Phuchka
d) Favorite artist (painter)? There are too many.
e) Favorite activity? Sleeping and eating.
f) One random fact about you that is weird/funny/gross/national secret/anything goes.
I think about sex a lot. Not about actually having it but if a person or something about a person fascinates me, I think about what it would be like to be intimate with them. It’s not limited by looks, age or even gender.
Thank you for stopping by! If you enjoyed this post, read my other guest collaboration post here.