8 QUESTIONS WITH DESIGNER NEHA KAMATH
WORDS BY BHAVIKA THAKKAR
Neha Kamath wears many hats. She’s a graphic designer, a lettering artist and a mural painter. Her work has moved out of the digital realm and onto walls in restaurants, a dance studio and a taxi in Mumbai. The City Story caught up with Neha as she spoke about her work, how she gets to paid to draw on people’s walls and how The Bold and The Beautiful served up important life lessons.
TCS: You have a minute to tell us about your childhood – go!
NK: Jalebis, dance, spinach soup, gymnastics and art class. Let me elaborate I grew up in Bombay. My childhood was pretty eventful! My family made sure I was a Jack-of-all-trades kind of girl. I spent my evenings and weekends swimming, doing gymnastics, learning Indian classical music (naptime), going for Shiamak Davar’s dance classes, drinking spinach soup and attending art class. Art class was my favourite, because after class we’d stop at Sandesh in Matunga for jalebis. Honestly, I looked forward to art class anyway, but being hypnotized while watching the jalebi batter being swirled into the oil every week after class was an added bonus.
I also did regular stuff like watching TV. Like most ’80s kids I watched The Flintstones, He-Man and Mahabharat. And The Bold and The Beautiful, which today has helped me digest the craziness of this world quite easily. Thanks Ridge and Brooke. And Taylor.
TCS: Were you one of those kids who always excelled in art class and that eventually lead to graphic design? What was the sequence of events?
NK: Here’s the sequence of events in bullet points:
- I was good at art in school and used to do a lot of art assignments (many of them for my friends) and ended up winning a lot of prizes.
- After school I did a foundation in Art and Design at Central St. Martins in London and got introduced to a whole new universe of design from product design to graphic design and even ceramics.
- I moved back to Mumbai and studied Applied Art at Rachana
- And now I’m sitting and giving this interview
TCS: Do you have a favorite drawing from your childhood? What’s the story behind it?
NK: I drew Van Gogh’s flowers right after my parents took me to the Van Gogh museum when I was five. According to five-year-old me, it looked exactly like Van Gogh’s. It would be a fun experiment to see how I’d paint that today.
Every summer my grandmother would stick a new sheet of chart paper on the living room wall every day, and I was allowed to go crazy on it, but not one millimeter outside of it. So when paint started dripping from Charlie Chaplin’s foot, I just made it look like he was wearing heels. I was quite proud of how I managed to save that drawing.
TCS: You work across platforms – digital as well as manual. Which do you prefer and why?
NK: That’s a tough one. I’m tempted to say manual because I love doing hand-lettering but I also love animation. I enjoy making stop motion videos, which is sometimes a mix of digital and manual.
TCS: Your murals and chalk art are seen in a lot of restaurants/cafés in the city and I believe all of this started off with you waking up one morning and drawing on your bedroom wall. Is that true?
NK: Yes. I had a clock on a column in my room, and one day I took a black marker and decided to draw the Big Ben around it. It took me a couple of hours. I even documented the whole process and made a stop motion video out of it. Around the same time, a friend was opening a dance and yoga studio and asked me to do some art on one of the walls. I had never done anything like it before but I went for it. I documented the process and made another stop motion video, which I posted on social media. Soon after, I started getting calls for chalk art and people were asking me if I’m a chalk artist. Chalk was just another medium for me, but I enjoyed working with it and this led to me working on murals for a couple of restaurants around Mumbai. Looking back, I don’t think I was a chalk artist/expert but I was just excited about what I was doing and went for it. It was a lot of hard work. Standing on a ladder and drawing for hours leads to a lot of aches and pains, but it was all worth it.
TCS: Do you have a favourite artist or work of art? What do you like about them?
Jessica Hische for her beautiful lettering, Gemma Correll, Cecile Dormeau and Jean Jullien for their simple yet humorous cartoons and Van Gogh because seeing his ‘Sunflowers’ was like my introduction to art and that will always be dear to me.
TCS: What do you like to do when you’re bored/not working, besides drawing on your bedroom wall?
NK: I enjoy working on personal projects. This would usually be a short animation, which I’d post on my Instagram account. I am known to have a talent for always singing the wrong lyrics. So I I’ve turned that into a project and hand-letter the completely bizarre lyrics that I’m always singing. I’ve also recently started learning to play the piano. I absolutely love it but my mother has to hear me play my beginner version of Ode to Joy probably 10 times everyday.
TCS: What are the three things you’d save in case of a fire (in your house)?
NK: A watch my dad bought me when I was 14. A letter that my grandmother wrote me when I was studying in London, telling me about how I mustn’t forget my roots and the importance of knowing Marathi. After which she has written a whole paragraph of Marathi bad words. Classic! And a golden pineapple – which is a really random and somewhat useless artifact but I wanted one for months and then it made its way to me in the most unexpected way.
Neha Kamath's work can be seen at:
Le15 Pâtisserie, Siffin Apartments, Ground Floor, Dr BR Ambedkar Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 052. Phone: 097690 77309
Tangerine Arts Studio, 9, 2nd Floor, Rukhsana, Off Pali Hill, Bandra 400 050. Phone: 098673 69960
Terttulia, Shivaji Park, Ground Floor, Hotel Parkway, Ranade Road Extension, Shivaji Sea Face Road, Shivaji Park, Dadar (w), Mumbai 400 028. Phone: 022 6002 0202