After four years of working as an IT engineer, Shreya Gupta quit her job in India and moved to New York to pursue her dream of becoming an artist. A graduate of School of Visual Arts, she is now working with Google, The New York Times, Fast Company, and many other relevant companies. This is the fascinating story of an incredibly talented and hard-working artist.
What do you do?
I am an illustrator based in New York. I make pictures that tell stories for books, magazines, newspapers and also for packaging.
Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?
“If someone else can do it, so can I”, inspiring words told to a very young me by my grandpa that I always held on to.
What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?
– Facing midlife crisis in my mid 20s because of my IT job.
– Rediscovering my love for art upon coming across illustration.
– Coming to US to study illustration and pursue it.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
I am currently illustrating book jacket for a publishing house and have a couple gallery shows scheduled next year. There is another project that I will start working on soon, a deluxe vinyl album cover which I am very excited about.
What is your dream project?
As I progress in my career, my dream project changes. So the current one is to collaborate with an apparel or product based brand like ceramics, and illustrate for their products.
What places are important to you?
For me a particular place is important because the people there are important to me. Pune, where I was working before I came to US, is very important because I got my first job there, learnt a lot from it and made lifelong friends. I love New York City, because here I feel like I can be who I want to be and do the work I love with people who share the same feeling and passion for it.
What is the best advice you’ve been given, or wish you had been told sooner?
You don’t have to be a genius to come up with good ideas. Everyone starts at cliches. It’s up to you how much you can work on it to take it to an interesting idea- told by my teacher in my final year.
What is one facet of your field that you want to see change?
Definitely the pricing structure, which is so vague that sometimes it’s hard to even figure out if I am getting paid fairly for my job or not.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
My undergrad degree is in Computer Science Engineering and I worked as an IT engineer for 4 years. I applied to art school while still working there. Made 21 illustrations over the span of one year, 20 of those were in my admission portfolio. Got selected in MFA Illustration program at SVA. Came to US just after a month from quitting my job in India with no prior formal illustration or art education. I hope this was surprising.
What do you want to be asked about that no one ever asks you?
I wish people talked about football (soccer) with me more. I love that sport!
Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?
My supportive female network are definitely my girlfriends. They help me out when I’m stuck or being indecisive, we do a lot of fun things together and they are also my inspiration. In my family, my mom and my sister are very supportive. Although they don’t quite get what I do, they are always there to listen to me complain when things don’t go right and always cheer me on. My mom even stayed up until midnight just so she could be the first one to see my Google doodle launch! Also back when I decided to quit IT and wanted to go to US to pursue illustration, although future seemed uncertain, my mom supported my decision because she knew that was what I really looked forward to do.
Can you share a creative experience that you have found defining?
Oh yes! When I was in India and my peak of frustration was at its highest because of my boss at the IT job, I was browsing through random artwork and came across Yuko Shimizu’s work. I was so intrigued by her work that I spent 2 hours on her website! It was through her work that I got interested in illustration and later pursued it.
Please tell us about your work
Her illustrations contain patterns of lines and abstract elements that are always narrating a story – from how women in science are coming forward to confront sexual harassment to the tale of a magician fighting zombies while traveling dangerous lands. There are so many details in each picture that you can spend several minutes observing them without losing a spark of interest. Personally, I find captivating the usage of color in each of her works.
Shreya says that her stylistic approach isn’t hugely affected by her Indian upbringing, and that is evident. I would even dare to say that her work is somehow influenced by Japanese art – Yuko Shimizu, for example.
She has created visual stories for books, magazines, newspapers, as well as for packagings, and has recently signed with a literary agent with plans to start working on her own children’s book. It is impossible to know what the future holds for this artist, but whatever it is, I am sure it will be as brilliant and beautiful as her work.