There is an art in pretty little things. There is beauty in regular balconies, crowded cafes, parks, our homes, its windows, and whatnot. And Swarnavo Datta finds his inspiration to draw from the same. Look at his Instagram feed, and you’ll start finding beauty in nooks and corners too.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am Swarnavo (Swar). A 28 year old full-time corporate trainer and also a freelance Illustrator from Calcutta. I am currently based out of Bangalore. I started sketching at the age of 3 and never really took a break!
Can you walk us through your journey of becoming an illustrator?
Sure! I am a Bengali. And like a lot of other people from Bengal, my family has been interested in music and art forever. From a very young age, I had an art teacher coming home every week to help me learn. Art classes (and music classes) went on till pretty late. I guess I was going to an art class till my board exams.
After that studies took the front seat, of course, I found myself in an Engineering college pursuing a degree in Electrical Engineering. Art took a back seat for sure, but it didn’t stop.
I continued making art through college and even when I got a job. In 2016 I started actively posting my artwork on my Instagram page. That was the first time I opened my sketchbook to the world which of course was not an easy decision for me. Majorly because my art had always been a personal thing to me.
Slowly the page picked up the pace. I guess it was in December 2017 when I was first approached for a commissioned artwork, and from there the second leg of my journey began. Since then I have had the opportunity to work for hundreds of people, a bunch of brands, and even try my hand at an experimental product line.
What is your illustration style? Where do you find your inspiration?
Style, that is a difficult question. Personally I am still on the way to discovering my style. I believe I have a few different styles compared to only one. You would see me doing children’s book illustrations and then detailed portraits as well.
It feels good when people come up and say that they see a particular style in my work. I am yet to see that through my own eyes.
Inspiration is easy. A lot of my work is inspired by things I see around me. People, environments, experiences. At the beginning of the lockdown, I did an entire series called the Balcony series. It was based on the things I would see in the balconies in the buildings around my house in Bangalore. Just everyday people doing everyday things.
Tell us the thought, or a story behind your work that is close to your heart.
This has to be the recent series I did on my page called Chotto Red Riding Hood. A 16 page illustrated story on my Instagram page. It is an adaptation of the classic Little Red Riding Hood into an Indian setting based in rural Bengal.
I spent close to a month working on the illustrations. Added elements from my personal experiences of growing up in Bengal. Played around with the characters, angles, color schemes. This is one project where I used my creative freedom to the fullest. Needless to say, I am very happy with the project. Also, it was quite well received by people who follow me on Instagram.
If not illustrating, what else we would find Swarnavo Datta doing?
Conducting soft-skills workshops in office (over MS Teams for the past few months). I love to cook; I spend a lot of time in the kitchen.
I play the guitar, ukulele, learning to play the keyboard. Collect and read graphic novels. If there is time left, I play some FIFA on my PC.
Indian Illustrators you look up to?
Quite a few actually. There’s Prashant Miranda, Upamanyu Bhattacharya, Alicia Souza, Joyeeta Joyart to name a few.
Swarnavo Datta, What is about Kolkata you love and adore the most?
The feeling. I don’t know how else to describe it. That city has a charm of its own. Every inch of the city (especially the northern and central side) has a specific character to it. The city and its love for art and music is quite special.
I have lived across the country (Bhubaneswar, Hyderabad, Pune, Mysore, Bangalore), but nothing even comes close to Calcutta. Of course, this answer is biased.
If you have to make an illustration of a local place, a spot in a city, or favourite eatery, which place would that be?
In Calcutta, the northern parts of the city close to the river.
You have been living in Bangalore for a while, tell us your favourite local spots!
That is one good thing about Bangalore. You have options for every mood (quite like Calcutta). Places on top of my list would be Cubbon park (my favourite), DYU art café, Church street (Blossoms bookstore). The area around the Vidhana Soudha with its old-world charm. I have been reading a lot about this city’s history. The love for old Bangalore comes from there.
What are your future plans? Any other details you would like to share.
Future plans would definitely be able to take up art full time. Maybe have a studio set up with lots of light, space, and time to keep creating. Learn pottery and maybe take that up professionally as well. Have a bunch of illustrated books published. That is the dream!