From the colour palette to the overall theme, everything about her designs is beautiful and we cannot get enough of them! This nature-enthusiast is blessing our eyes with feed that's all about happy people in the backdrop of leaves, flowers, mountains, and more.
Ria Mohta is an Illustrator, and Architect, who is currently working from Goa. Her career as an Illustrator incidentally started when she was pursuing her undergraduate degree in Architecture. It was when she developed a strong passion for visual arts and design. Ever since it's been a journey of learning new skills and exploring her creative being.
From hosting her first pop-up at the age of 19 to designing a filter for her college with Snapchat and recently founding Pen and Chai, a community for Indian homegrown designers to talk, share and engage, Ria Mohta has come a long way. She loves being occupied and thrives on achieving more. She has worked with various renowned brands and works for international clients as well. You can find her by the window drooling over a hot cinnamon latte, sketching, or hugging random dogs. We had a conversation with Ria Mohta about her work and much more so scroll right down!
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am an Independent Illustrator, Brand designer, and Architect currently based in Goa.
Travelling is something I really love, immersing in different cultures, and spending time with nature, it is something that reflects in the work I do. I can be found scribbling on my tablet sipping coffee.
Can you walk us through your journey of becoming an illustrator and an architect?
As a kid, I was always inclined toward arts. But I would say my entrepreneurial journey began somewhere around my second year as a UG student when I wanted a sketchpad (you know how architects are with stationeries!) but couldn't find anything attractive. So, I decided to make one! I went around college waiting for people to ask, “Hey! That’s a cool sketchpad. Where did you get it from?”
Slowly, I started selling painted and (poorly) illustrated merchandise in college, just as a side pocket money-making business. I discovered people really liked it, and I fell passionately in love with illustration as I self-learned things. Slowly, I put up my first pop-up at the age of 19 at a friend's NGO event and got sold out in a day! Eventually, I participated in more local events while learning digital illustration. You can say I was a walking zombie balancing two things in college, and many nights of sleep were killed!
But, ever since then, it’s been a journey of self-teaching and discovering and having lots of fun with it. A few months after that, Snapchat commissioned me to make a filter for my college, and that was the first time I realized this could be more than a pocket money-making business and decided to take up illustration seriously.
What were the challenges you faced and what are the challenges you are facing now?
Coming from a background where I learned most things from Instagram and self-learning, it came with its own bunch of challenges. Since design as a field is so diverse, there is a lack of standardization, especially, in the freelance world. I had very few sources to refer to since a lot of things are kept opaque.
For example, how you should price your work, how do you distribute payment slabs, a contract, and getting your work copyrighted are a few things I learned the hard way through some bad experiences and feel being a part of the Industry now, these things should be kept more transparent and accessible. I have recently started writing blogs on my website, and that's my contribution to helping people navigate into freelancing better.
What’s your illustration style? Where does Ria Mohta find her inspiration?
My Illustration style, per se, is experimental and fun. It’s as raw and natural as working with crayons and pencils. I take inspiration from little joys in life, happy and silly little moments, and nature. So, there’s always a new style I am bouncing on with an excuse that I get inspired by my surroundings.
A lot of your artworks use nature as one of their major elements. What was your inspiration? Tell us about your colour palette.
I feel my colour palette comes from the fact that I pursued architecture and was attracted to contemporary design and materials like terracotta, clay, mud, concrete, and wood that reciprocated in my colour sense being muted, natural, contrasted against bright and summery. I feel it also comes from the fact that I am very close to nature and wildlife (I wanted to become a wildlife explorer as a kid, but that’s another story). So, I feel reflections from my past have kind of stuck with me and keep flashing on my style unintentionally.
A thought, or a story behind your work that is close to your heart.
That’s a tricky one, because a lot of time, illustrations that I do thinking of something else are perceived differently by my audience. Like, one of my personal works that were inspired by my grandma doing crochet that I just made as a gift to her, received so many heartfelt stories that I ended up selling it as prints. That’s one piece that has always led to some heartwarming stories and conversations, and the fact that “All grandmas are the same!”
If not illustrating, what else would you be doing right now?
Well, to be honest, I am always illustrating (kind of a nerd there), but when I take a break from a client and personal work; I go around exploring on my bike or go trekking, or swimming, just some things to take a tiny social detox break. But, I come back with more inspiration to load myself with new work, so detox never goes as planned.
Indian artists or illustrators, do you look up to?
Interestingly, I would say a lot of people inspired me to become who I am today. When I started out, I would stalk a lot of illustrators and try to navigate through my own style. To name a few, I adore the works by Debanshu Moulik, Upamanyu. B, Vaibhav studios, Alicia Souza, etc. Now I am friends with some of the really cool illustrators like Annie, Rahul & Rohan, and plenty more that I meet through pop-ups and events that leave me so damn inspired!
If you had to make an illustration of a local place, a spot in a city, or a favourite eatery, which place would it be?
Lately, I have been pretty fascinated by Goan Bars. Tiny, Crampy little bars that hold so much drama. People dancing, singing, hugging, drinking, laughing, and just living is so beautiful. I think I would definitely try and illustrate the Susegad side of Goa, where people just come out as themselves with no judgments or barriers.
Can you walk us through the process of setting up a shop at an event? Like things to remember, the challenges, and everything.
Setting up a shop for an event is happy anxiousness that fades away when people walk in. I think, to start with, it’s really about how organized you are and how creative you can be with the available resources.
My recent events at Goa collective Bazaar in Goa, made me construct a small bedsheet wall clipped on Bamboos using dozens of clips. That acted as a display wall for my prints. Our bamboo bedsheet set-up looked so huge that people noticed it from far beyond, and chuckled, saying “you really did stand out”. Well, that’s the thing with markets, it lets you shamelessly market yourself, and your work, and one should never be afraid to go all out. Even, if through a makeshift bamboo stall.
You have been in Goa for a while, tell us about your favourite local spots! How did it affect your art?
Since I have been working remotely from Goa, I end up spending a lot of my days at coworking spaces and cafes. And trust me, Goa has one of the most beautiful lush green cafes that just makes you feel luxurious! Highly recommend a few of my favourite coworking spaces: Barefoot, Cafe Rasa, Clay Cowork, Big Fat sandwiches, etc.
Goa has truly left an impact on the way I see life and hence my work. It’s a place that teaches you slow living and makes you conscious and self-aware. My art has become more nature and country living inclined. It has helped me make better plants because there's so much green around! One walk to the grocery store and I come back with 20 photos of plants to be used as references.
Your journey has been quite inspiring and you have come so far, what according to you is your biggest achievement?
Might seem very modest, but, as a designer or an Illustrator, or an architect; one’s biggest achievement will really be when it connects with people or makes them laugh, ponder, inspire or relate. One of my most loved works isn’t the most technically brilliant or polished; but, one that has some meaning and base behind it.
What is the difference according to you between Ria Mohta as an illustrator and Ria Mohta as an architect?
Since I practice both as an Illustrator and an Architect, there are often times when two different personalities come out. I feel that since Illustration is a medium so personal to me, it really brings out the candid, silly, experimental Ria; whereas, Architecture cannot be silly or too experimental, because you'll just end up with a lawsuit.
Share your favourite anecdote related to art.
Well, since I always struggle to make people understand the difference between art and design, I came across something funny that left a deep impact on how one views art and design and also really explains everything very simply. It was a quote from a book that read “Good Art is Interpreted. Good design is Understood” Cool, isn’t it?
Ria Mohta, tell us about your future plans!
Some really big things are coming up. The past year has really helped me understand my customers and focus more on my merchandise shop. So, I am finally taking some bigger steps from a brand’s perspective. I have also made it a point to travel more this year and connect with more illustrators and designers.