Das Kahaniyaan – 2 – A tale of Madhubani and doodles

Das Kahaniyaan – 2 – A tale of Madhubani and doodles

Shikha Karn, a Madhubani artist, video producer, and documentary filmmaker based out of Chennai talks to us about her journey, anecdotes of art excursions, and how young artists can find their footing in the industry. We delved into her journey and process of self-actualization, and how her growth as an artist has changed her perspective from art being a means to an end and made it more process-oriented. 

On being asked where her fascination and interest stems from, Karn tells us about her mother –   also a Madhubani artist, who imbibed in her the skills to hone the art form from a very young age. While interested in other art forms, and trying to find her footing as an artist, Karn says that “I realised my flair for Madhubani only after a series of trials and errors.” While Madhubani was the first artform she ever dipped her foot in, “The chase, for me, was always for the unknown.”, she tells us.

In our conversation, as we trace the path of her growth, she tells us about an art excursion trip to Jitwarpur in 2018. In the same, she immersed herself in the culture of her surroundings and had an opportunity to interact with artisans whose livelihoods depended on their paintings. This trip exposed Karn to the nuanced history and heritage of the art form. She stresses heavily the importance of artists putting in the effort to learn the nitty-gritties and the cultural backgrounds of their art forms. The trip catalysed her focus on the art form, imploring her to practice it with utmost diligence. On the importance of cultural understanding of art forms, she expands on her inspirations and muse – which isn’t a person or event, rather the history and philosophy of the art itself – she believes that it would be an insincere disservice to the art form, were she to choose one person as her only influence. The gradations and depth of the form motivate her to continue exploring it further: she’s constantly found asking questions like “Why are there fishes in most Madhubani paintings? Why do leaves look the way they do in these paintings?”

Describing her relationship with her art form as one that took some time to solidify, Karn tells us about the inherent sense of self-doubt that comes with being an artist. She credits her actualising as an artist and moving forward from crippling self-doubt to her friends and their constant encouragement. Previously, she practiced art as a way to reach the end goal, the tangible, visual product. In the growth she has experienced, she now finds the process of making art meditative and considerably more enjoyable: finding serenity in having the agency to make art out of scratch and having the ability to correct mistakes with care and precision, even if it takes time. Telling us about her routine of unwinding; every evening, after having finished her tasks and chores for the day, she turns to her art as a means of slowing down from the hustle and bustle of productivity: feeling at one with her art.

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For her younger audiences interested in art, she advises, “paying attention to their natural talents and building on them. The same goes for filmmaking.” The creative field of art, while varied, requires precision, practice, and time. It is practice and perfecting one’s skills that will help them incorporate their ideas and channel their emotions into their art. For artists suffering from creative blocks, she suggests, “recreating their favorite pieces and keeping those for themselves.” She strongly advises that younger artists utilise the internet in order to learn and grow, as there is no dearth of resources to learn the art from, especially today.

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