Are all artistes dreamers?

Illustrator Gaurav Ogale on being the black sheep in a family of engineers, exhibiting at a Moroccan gallery and why art isn’t intimidating

With the excuse of understanding art, we put Mumbai-based artiste Gaurav Ogale on the hot seat. Are artistes and innovators cut from the same cloth?

Both are labelled dreamers, they take an idea often considered insane, and create it, and they see the same things in a different way. We think Leonardo Da Vinci, who swung both ways, would agree.
Talking to Gaurav; IMG_9262

When did you know you wanted to be an artiste?

As a kid I always drew, dreamed a lot and would observe people very closely. My grandfather was an art collector and told me lot of stories about Monet’s garden, about Van Gogh and many more. I always knew that I would someday do something that would be closely knit art, colours and stories.

Did you have any inhibitions about pursuing it as a career?

Yes, a lot of them, I still do because I come from a family of engineers. But my parents gave me lot of freedom to travel, explore myself and my art. So I have always been the black sheep of the family. The career I have chosen is very closely associated with art but more to the commercial aspect. But someday I would love to be a fulltime painter.

What does a day in your life look like?

Although most of my time these days goes in working on commercial works with agencies and individuals, it was quite different just a little while ago. A day in my life is full of drawing, colours, experiments with food and recipes and writing. I make sure I draw and write everyday no matter what time I get home after work. Recently, I have been spending a lot of time on developing prints and patterns for textiles. In that sense I am quite a workaholic.

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What inspires you?

Minimalistic things, conversations, smell of old textiles, spices and a lot of nostalgia. I am a very nostalgic person and it coyly finds its way in most of my creations.

What materials do you engage with for your work?

Watercolours are like my confidant, I cannot spend a day without them. I also use Rotring pens, dry pastels and threads. My little handbound journals are my constant companions. I keep collecting different rusted things that I find on the streets, old restaurant bills, subtle fabrics and uncanny pale things which occupy so much of my journals.

Tell us about your projects. 

I primarily work on illustration oriented projects commercially. My personal works are derived more from my travels, conversations with people and cooking. In February this year, I was invited for an illustration and culinary residency at The Ultra Laboratory in Casablanca, Morocco which also led to the first international showcase of my illustrated visual journals. I then travelled through Marrakech and Rabat where I worked on more journals and met a lot more interesting folks.

Later, when I was back to Bombay I collaborated with TaxiFabric for their first illustrated cab. That was beautiful and I was quite overwhelmed by the kind of scale that project eventually unfolded into.

I am also a commissioned illustrator with the National Geographic Traveller magazine so we work on dreamy travel oriented illustrations together.

A lot of your work deals with miniatures, what is the thought behind that?

When I was little I was always the silent one, the timid one. So my presence was hardly noticed by anybody. With my miniature books, I feel the same. They have so many stories inside them but only the ones who notice them get to hear them out. The little books often mesmerize everyone and I used to do that too as a child with my stories, mimicry and shenanigans.

What are you working on currently?

A couple of interesting things; I now work at a design agency in Bombay where we are working on an interesting project which will soon be launched. Along with that I have been spending a lot of time on my own limited edition merchandise and then there are some commissioned illustrations which keep happening.

Marrakech Journal TaxiFabric illustrated cab

How does geography of the local culture of a place affect your work?

For someone like me, it’s the biggest factor. For example in Morocco, the architecture of the place had such an impact on me that all the arches, columns, intricate alleys and windows made their way into my books. When I was in Varanasi last year, the chaos and dust all around created a lot of commotion in my palette. In Dharamsala, I found a lot of breathing space between my journal pages. It’s all so unbelievably intuitive.

Many people feel intimidated by art, what would you like to say to such audiences?

We all dress up in the morning, see what we would like to wear and how it makes us feel. We set the table in a certain pattern; arrange our homes in a certain order; that’s art for me. It’s everywhere until we make a big deal out of it.

Where is the Indian art scene lacking as compared to the West?

Honestly, it isn’t lacking anywhere; rather we are at par if not ahead or perhaps even ahead of many. What we lack is acceptance and the urge to know more about a certain artist/designer or his/her style of work. We are very ‘definition’ oriented, and that’s our biggest weakness. Like, we do not care to know if being an artist is different from being a designer or an illustrator. Or what it means to be a curator. So a little bit of coexistence is what we lack.

What advice would you give budding artistes?

Talk about your passion to everyone you meet; you never know who would help you spread your wings and fly. Also especially if one is pursuing art as a career, develop an interest in creative writing, extensive reading and the English language. And most importantly don’t hesitate before sharing your creations on social media platforms, blogs and websites. You got to be on the radar or else you will be lost in the crowd. Don’t really care in explaining to anyone what ‘exactly you do’.

The Wall Project, Dharamsala


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