From painting a wall in college to hitching a ride and going to Bombay to attend an artist’s exhibition to requesting her to teach him painting, and then becoming one of the most talented muralists. Kartikey Sharma’s journey is one big roller coaster ride but as they say, hard work does pay off, and so, he also believes it was all worth it!
Kartikey Sharma, a graffiti artist, and an entrepreneur who hails from Pune, is passionate about painting murals. He has painted over 50 walls, including one for St+art India. Sharma believes his illustration style is Surrealism, and for him, it is like the poetry of painting. His artistic journey began when he was a kid. “As much as I can remember, I was always an artist. My first memory of painting or drawing started in my 1st grade when I used to draw planes on the top left corner of my notebook”, he says.
As he grew up, he felt the pressure to do well in his studies. Later, when Kartikey joined engineering, he along with his few friends, decided to paint a wall for the college fest. Though the wall didn’t turn out to be great, the love for painting walls didn’t go anywhere. In fact, it became stronger for Kartikey. In the 3rd year of engineering, when he started his internship, Kartikey realized engineering wasn’t something he wanted to continue.
“I think that’s when I made my mind to pursue art as a career. Also, one day when I saw an advertisement about a solo exhibition of a female artist happening in Mumbai, I ran from the office and hitched a ride to Mumbai just to meet her”, he says. Kartikey even convinced the artist to let him stay at her place for 15 days. ” I observed her and learned as much as I could. Later, I pulled the same trick on the director of the JJ school of arts and convinced him to let me sit in his classes. I promised him that I will not disturb anyone. I sat in many classes, made a few friends, and learned everything that was to learn from there”, he says.
Meanwhile, he also completed his degree and told his parents about going back to Pune to pursue his career. “I even lied that I had savings and many work opportunities. My dad even said that I might destroy my life. It took some time( a lot), loans from friends, sleepless nights, no fuel on the bike, skipped meals, and even losing weight before I started getting decent work in the next 2 years.”, he says.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that life had been a real roller coaster ride for Kartikey. But, even though he was disheartened, he did not lose his determination. “I have come a long way and now I am only dependent on painting to sustain myself”, he further adds.
But before these two years, it was difficult for him to get projects, and it was another journey on its own. Thanks to the popularity of social media and the awareness, people started recognizing his talent. “It was not a very popular concept, I was not famous enough, and so, there was no way I could afford a gallery show. People didn’t pay much either, so the effort to return ratio was not favourable. I remember my friend Thombare and Harpreet bhaiya, fed me for months, because I had no money at all and was too ashamed to ask my parents for any. In the initial years, it was difficult to get clients”, he explains.
After a while, it started getting better for him. New projects were in line, and his artworks started getting popular. “People’s reaction to the massive piece is humbling. The satisfaction of creating and finishing a painting is the most amazing thing about being an artist. Especially when the size of the mural is huge, the scale excited me the most”, says Kartikey.
In the year 2018, he finally hosted his first solo exhibition. In 2019, he started a campaign, “Clean and Paint Pune”, to paint 100 walls in the city. ” I just wanted to paint as many walls as I could in the city. I wanted to do it for my own satisfaction to see art around me”, he mentions. Kartikey now aims to create work opportunities for as many artists as possible. ” If I grow, many other people in my team will grow. So the plan is to just keep creating opportunities in whatever form possible”, he further adds.
Other than painting massive murals and graffitis, Kartikey loves writing. “I have been writing for years, but I don’t call myself a poet. Though I try to be one”, he says. This talented Punekar is also an entrepreneur and is part of a sustainable clothing brand Burger Bae. ” It was actually founded by my dear friend Rohan, and all the credit to its success goes to him. When it was started we didn’t know it would get this popular. So, we are happy with its progress”, he says.
Quick 5 feat. Kartikey Sharma!
1. Your favourite local shop in Pune for buying art essentials?
2. If you have to make an illustration of a local place, a spot in a city, or favourite eatery, which place would that be?
It has to be the French Window! It is a small cafe where you will find me every day!
3. Indian Graffiti artists, you look up to?
Afzan Pirazade hands down are the best muralist in India and extremely underrated.
4. One tip for all the artists and illustrators out there?
Persistence is the answer to everything. And dreams do come true.
5. If not painting, what would we find you doing?
Building a new company 😉 I don’t talk much about my entrepreneur side but I love working on businesses. Otherwise, it’ll be reading.