Sapna Jain is an Indian abstract artist based in Dubai. An accountant by profession, she taught herself how to paint five years ago and has achieved a lot as a relative newcomer in the art scene. She has exhibited her art in various shows in the UAE as well as in India and London. She has also won awards and has sold her work internationally to collectors in Japan, London, Singapore, and Australia. Her success has proven that you don’t necessarily need a formal arts education to become a professional artist.
Creativity Undefined spoke with her about her creative journey, how she marketed herself and the inspiration that drives her.
Tell us about your artistic journey. What is your earliest memory of creating art and how did you become the artist you are now?
I always used to admire art, but during my days as a student I never thought of pursuing it as a career option or would rather say was not aware of the courses and degrees available. As I was a meritorious student the general thought towards me by everyone was studying and getting a mainstream degree, so I went on to pursue chartered accountancy. I seriously picked up brushes 5 years back. Portraits and photographs did not inspire me. I wanted to create something which the viewers would partially see and partially interpret based on their imagination. After a lot of experiments and techniques and mediums I finally found my calling in acrylics and developed my own style of storytelling.
When did you start painting professionally? What inspired you to take the leap and how did you teach yourself to paint?
I started painting 5 years back. It was “Ajala” a small venture by two young people, Narmeen and Bayo Hasan. With them, I created a painting, “selfless love”, to support the social cause of Dr. Dilip Ghanekari, a surgeon based in Gold Coast who operates on children with cleft lip and accidental burns. From then there was no stopping. I participated in lots of curated and open call exhibitions, won awards and got featured in many national magazines, did lots of commissioned work and sales. I believe practice makes a man perfect as no one but you yourself can be your best teacher. Total awareness of one’s faults and acceptance and also trying to figure out a solution is the way to teach and progress.
How would you describe your style? Who/What are your greatest influences and how did you develop your style?
Abstract art always inspired and attracted me, but somehow, I couldn’t portray my feelings by just applying layers of colors. They would look ornamental and beautiful, but not emotional. All my works revolve around some kind of psychic messages. Thus, in quest of such forms of art, I slowly developed my own style which thankfully is so lovingly accepted by my audiences. I am deeply inspired by works of the legendary M.F. Hussain.
What is your favourite medium and why?
My favourite medium is acrylic as it gives me a wide scope to experiment and also gives me ease to experiment with textures.
How has life as an expat influenced your art and creative process?
Living in Dubai is a blessing when it comes to art, because of different nationalities, scope of sales and acceptance increases. With such kind of acceptance and love, certainly as an artist it boosts morale and encouragement.
Was it difficult to establish yourself in the local arts scene as a fairly new self-taught artist? How did you manage to achieve so much in such a short period of time?
Luckily, I would say art is a field where only good work matters and degrees and training don’t influence. But as a self-taught artist, I knew I had to practice and grow more and also clearly develop a style which people would associate with me. By God’s grace I have the strong support of a few elderly artist colleagues who always inspire me to strive for more. Well, I believe I have “miles to go before I claim success”.
What were the most successful marketing tactics you used to get into shows and sell your paintings internationally?
It is said that when you enter any business, you should learn the rules of business. So, I did the same thing. I do lots of research on galleries and media who can help spread my work and those who resonate with my style.
What hidden gems should people know about in the UAE’s arts community?
Well, with art being talked about so much in the UAE, nothing remains hidden.
What are your favourite tools and tricks for creating texture in your work?
My favourite tool is the palette knife. Greatest trick to create texture work is to experiment with everything and anything one can see from kitchen tools to leaves, papers…the trick is to be original and inspiring.
Is there a painting you would never part with? If so, which one is it and why?
Yes, I have a black and white Buddha painting, which I would never like to part with. Though the painting did not take long hours to finish—I would say it was rather very quick—but the peace that it emancipates is something rare to achieve. Besides, it is my son’s favourite one.
Looking back, what was your greatest achievement and your greatest challenge? Why?
My greatest achievements are my collectors’ reviews. Nothing satisfies me more than a happy client. My greatest challenge is yet to come.
Is there anything that you would’ve done differently or wished had happened differently? What? Why?
I just wish that I would have also studied fine arts with finance and had taken this artistic calling early in my career.
Where do you draw your inspiration from? Has that changed since the pandemic hit last year? Why?
Relationships, children, and nature are an eternal part of my paintings.I find inspiration in every little thing. Sometimes children cycling or playing, a loving couple, and even a quote inspires me. During the pandemic, I read lots of books by Rhonda Byrne and her words have inspired many of my paintings.
How do you overcome artist’s block?
I love my work as an artist. The moment I pick up pencils and brushes, for me, this world becomes non-existent. I feel this is just a technical term used for self-glory. If artists start facing mood swings, who comes as a saviour?
Who would you jump at the chance to collaborate with, if given the chance? Why?
I would certainly jump to collaborate with Gnana Dickam as he is one artist whom I admire and undoubtedly love his works.
The pandemic’s had a lasting impact on everyone. What was the biggest adjustment that you’ve had to make?
The pandemic left me with less “me time” with family around, schools closed and children being at home. Being a mother, I had to double up my role as emotional support, as a teacher and as a friend to my children as they were most affected emotionally.
Do you think that you’ll maintain any changes once things return to normal? If yes, what and why? If no, why?
During the pandemic and lockdown, I developed a strong understanding of my children’s behaviour and we are now more close and open to each other than ever. I wish to maintain the same bond.
What shifts have you observed from creatives? Will these last beyond the pandemic? Why?
Creatives laid off from agencies are opting for freelance work, which allows them to be more independent and flexible. I think there is quite a lot of fragmentation on the creative side with lots of people moving to freelance, and brands and companies need to adapt to this new style to be able to work with a bigger pool of talents.
What developments have you observed in the arts community? What changes would you like to see?
Earlier there was a lot of dependence on art galleries for sales. But since the pandemic, with everything and everyone being online, artists have become more and more self-reliant as far as sales are concerned. I urge all my fellow artists to support good work and stop promoting plagiarism.
What are you currently working on? Can you share some details about some upcoming projects?
Currently, I am working on a series which will highlight love, relationships, and family. Currently, I am preparing for World Art Dubai.
What advice would you share with anyone starting out that you wished someone had told you?
Art is a very subjective term. Don’t let the sale bother you. Just keep on working and practicing. Sales is the outcome of good work and the right exposure.
What’s the WORST piece of advice you’ve ever been given and why?
I was told that art can be done as a hobby and is not considered a serious profession. I feel that though in the initial days of your artistic journey we do need financial support from other jobs, in a matter of years and in time, art provides you many avenues to earn and explore.
What’s a goal that you hope to achieve, personally and professionally, in the next five years?
I wish to collaborate with interior designers, launch my hand-painted textile line and achieve a solo exhibition for myself.