It takes a tremendous leap of faith to plunge into something completely out of your comfort zone, especially when you have a lot to lose by giving up your mainstream career !
Aanchal Gupta, our next pathbreaker, Artist, Muralist and Founder of the brand ‘The Art Pitcher’, creates customized canvas paintings, animal & human portraits, conducts corporate art events, as well as paints art murals indoors & outdoors to inculcate the power of art.
Aanchal talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about her initial foray into the world of corporate risk management and deciding to take the calculated risk of giving up her corporate job to follow her calling in the world of Art !
For students, no power is great enough to stop you when you have already made up your mind to do what you truly believe in !
Aanchal, tell us about Your background?
I grew up in the state of Delhi and completed most of my education there. As a kid, my mother enrolled me in classical dance and music classes since she wanted me to engage in activities other than studies. As a result, in school, I used to participate in anything and everything that used to come my way, be it art, dance, music, debate, sports etc.Though i did not know what my interests were back then, I was definitely an active child with a good academic score (of course, just relatively!).
What did you do for graduation/post graduation?
After completing my school where I had taken Commerce with Maths as subjects, I did my Bachelors in Economics from Kirori Mal College, Delhi University and my Masters in Economics from the Delhi School of Economics. I also did an Executive Program in Business Analytics from IIM Calcutta.
What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?
I always had an interest in the field of art, but I never thought that this could indeed be a real career option. Therefore, I never chose to become a professional artist, but instead, it was a gradual process that led me to becoming one.
Every college has a lot of societies engaging in extracurricular activities, and I had an opportunity to be a part of one such society. Here, at the Fine Arts Society, we were a group of 8-9 artists with different art skills, conducting a lot of art exhibitions together. As I spent three years with these people, learning most of the things I didn’t know about art, my interest in this field grew manifold.
Doing a few art murals, winning state level and national level art competitions and being able to sell a few of my paintings at early stages of my life made me more inclined towards practicing art even more passionately.
How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path
Even though my educational qualification and the jobs I took up after that pointed in the opposite direction to my path of becoming an artist, but I feel and believe that every step that I took in my life contributed towards my decision to become one.
As soon as I completed my post graduation, I got placed in a real estate MNC firm Knight Frank in Mumbai where I worked as a Research Associate and a Valuation Consultant. Since it was my first job in a new city, I didn’t question the type of work or the feeling of not being satisfied. I just kept on giving my best with a constant thought in my head that ‘maybe this is how it is, maybe this is how corporate life is’. I used to come home and paint at least thrice a week in a very small space (we know how big Mumbai apartments are!). Sometimes, the painting was for a friend’s birthday gift and at other times, just to feel connected to my art.
I wanted to explore working in other domains and just like any other individual who wants to get a pay rise after working for a year; I started to apply for other job roles. Eventually, I switched from Real Estate to the Banking Industry and started working with HDFC Bank as a Risk Analyst. I started liking this new role so much that it felt like I was getting paid to learn. From using various regression techniques to modeling banking scorecards, almost everything was interesting and challenging. To widen my knowledge base in this area, I decided to take up a course in Business Analytics from IIM Calcutta. So now, I was working Monday to Friday in the office and taking courses on the weekends. Among all this, I also took part and won in various office art competitions that used to happen occasionally.
One night, while scrolling through social media, I came across an ad for the Comic Con Exhibit happening in a few states across India. Despite having no time from work and the course I was studying, all I could think about was how badly I wanted to be an art exhibitor at Comic Con, an event that I had been attending as an audience member for a long time. After preparing for the event for 6 months day and night, I was finally able to exhibit my art at a three day superhero themed Comic Con in Delhi. This was a turning point in my life since the success and the feedback from the exhibition made me realize that I could make money out of something I really love.
I worked at HDFC Bank in Mumbai for 2.5 years and decided to move back home to Delhi so that I could stay close to my parents while I work, take out time for my art and tap into the market of art in Delhi. I got placed into American Express as a Portfolio Analyst. I started working to the best of my potential at the organization and tried to be consistent at honing my art skills during the weekends. I also took part in office events involving logo designing, videography etc.
With the rise in the popularity of Instagram, I decided to put up some of my works online for sale. To my surprise, the artworks were well appreciated and I was able to make sales every month. I wanted to become even better at art so that every next artwork would be better than the previous one. But with just about 24 hours every day, I started to juggle my office work with painting, which took a toll on my mental health. I would call this a second turning point in my life (first being during Comic Con as I had mentioned). After working here for 2 years, I decided to weigh my passion for art above the short period of satisfaction I used to get working at every other job.
After working for 5 years in the corporate world and having saved enough money for a few years, I took a leap of faith in myself to go all-in, thus, becoming a full time professional artist.
How did you get your first break?
I got paid for the first time in my life for a 250 sq.ft. Art Mural that I did for an MBA institute in Greater Noida even before I started working at my first job. I would always call that as my first break. I had secured that opportunity from my Facebook Art Page. It was followed by another Art Mural on the Exterior Walls of a Cricket Stadium in Haryana. And then, of course, my first job as an Associate Consultant at a real estate firm Knight Frank which was a Campus Placement at Delhi School of Economics.
What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?
Being an introvert for most of my life, I was always hesitant to express my views on any subject matter. But as I took up more work and any opportunity that came my way, I had to meet more people which eventually helped me overcome this.
I always used to paint in a closed room; therefore painting a mural in front of a large number of people wasn’t easy. I had to mentally prepare myself to allow people to watch the process of making art.
Another challenge when you plan to do something new is that you don’t know how it will turn out to be. All I did was trust myself when I took up my first job and the first art project.
Where do you work now? Tell us what you do
I am a self-taught Artist and Founder of the brand ‘The Art Pitcher’ with demonstrated history of selling stationery ( https://www.theartpitcher.in/ ) creating customized canvas paintings as a part of home decor, conducting art workshops to inculcate the power of art and beautifying walls & spaces. My expertise is in conducting corporate art events, animal & human portraits with extreme precision as well as art murals indoors & outdoors.
Since I work in almost all the dimensions related to the field of art, there are challenges at every step whenever anything new has to be implemented. For example, when I converted my hand painted artworks into the covers of notebooks and calendars for the first time, I had to research and think about things like quality of the pages, types and sizes of notebooks, pricing, date of launch, website changes, payment gateways, advertising, target audience and so on. But with consistent effort and detailed self-learning, I was able to achieve the same.
Other examples of challenges would be deciding on the concept & types of paints for a wall mural, making sure people are enjoying themselves while taking art workshops and understanding what the customer wants while working on a customized painting.
Consistency is the key to acquiring all the skills and overcoming the challenges. In the field of art, as you keep making artworks and become better at it, the opportunities start to flow in. Apart from that, one has to keep themselves updated with whatever is going on around in the market by listening to podcasts, reading articles, watching videos, exploring artforms, etc.
My typical day starts the night before, where I lay down the things that I have to do the next day. This helps to kick start the day on an energetic note. Being an art entrepreneur involves doing a lot of operational things other than just creating art. So, I usually dedicate the first half of my day for the painting orders or for practicing art as I am more efficient during that time and the other half of the day for checking my mails, collaborations, calls, deliveries, etc. I also believe in working out regularly as it keeps me active and motivated.
The best part about my job is that I feel the day is too short as I am able to enjoy each and every minute of my journey so far. I have to hold myself accountable for any action and I have full control over the work I decide to take on.
How does your work benefit society?
Working as an artist will give you the benefit of creating your own work and audience. You will be able to join a community of creative people as well as teach art to any age group of individuals. Most importantly, turning your passion into career will give you utmost satisfaction.
Art as a practice can foster healing and mental well-being. I believe that this therapeutic field can help in reducing the stress faced by individuals, thus, resulting in a better society. For instance, imagine that by teaching and creating art in your surroundings, you are able to minimize the anger, anxiety, depression and emotional difficulties faced by people, no feeling could be better than that. You will be able to create a visible positive impact!
With respect to making a living out of it, art is still a niche. But there will always be places looking out for artists be it art studios, residential places, commercial work spaces, hospitals, faces, schools and so on. All you have to do is become better at your art by being consistent with it !
Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!
I painted a 300 sq.ft mural for an Office Space in Delhi, the biggest artwork I have done till date. It took 5 days to paint the wall of the office cafeteria. I also took a one day workshop with the employees of this organization and taught them how to paint a wall as a part of their Holi Event Activity. The enthusiasm and the excitement, with which everyone participated, made my day. This experience is very close to my heart, something I can never forget!
Your advice to students based on your experience?
Whether you want to pursue Art as your career, or anything else, do it only if you love it. It is important to feel motivated and not confused. You don’t always have to take risks to become successful, but you definitely have to step out of your comfort zone and work hard to reach heights.
Taking small consistent steps, connecting with people, improving your own skill set and combining it with knowledge will help you reach your long term goal.
I also believe that “Failure or the mistakes made is a key to all your learnings, whereas kindness is a key to Success”. So be kind and compassionate at every step in your life.
My vision is threefold :
1. Make art accessible and affordable for all the art & home decor lovers.
2. Develop self-awareness in individuals via the creative art process of self exploration & Art Therapy. In other words, teach and spread art among the young children who want to pursue this as a hobby/career as well as among the adults looking for an escape route due to increased levels of daily stress.
3. Beautification of our surroundings through wall murals, thus creating a positive impact.
My future plans will always be on these lines though I will be working towards expanding the scope and magnitude of it.
Website : https://www.theartpitcher.in/
Instagram (theartpitcher) : https://www.instagram.com/theartpitcher/