What makes an artist? Is it a childhood spent drawing on the kitchen floor? Is it a unique style that they can call their own? Or simply the way they hold a brush…In this series of blogs, we’ll be going inside the sketchbook of some of the most interesting up and coming artists, as we learn about their artistic backstory, their craft and honing their talents.
Here we have a London-based artist with a passion for drawing the female form in all its glory. With minimalist lines, negative space and signature striking blue ink, she tells the story of embracing our bodies, and using this appreciation as a means to produce truly inspiring artwork. Please meet, Laxmi…
What’s your artistic backstory?
I’ve been drawing since I was about five — at least, that’s as far as I can remember. My parents had a corner shop, and I used to sit on the counter and draw all day while they were working. Things were so much more casual back then. Customers would come in and chat, and I would draw with them.
My parents really wanted to push me into a profession rather than something creative or rather more, a dream, but they still nurtured it regardless. To satisfy choosing a “professional career”, I went to study architecture, but I didn’t enjoy it at all. The first year was very open and creative, but when it started to become very technical in the second year, it lost its creative appeal, and no longer excited me.
After I finished my degree, I kind of forgot about what I wanted to do and got an office job. But then I had my kids. After I had my son, I wanted him to be creative and use that as an outlet, so I started to draw with him, and that’s when I really began to discover my own style.
How did you hone your unique style?
It’s relatively new. It took lots of experimenting and wanting to understand the forms that I create today.
When I started drawing again, with my son, I drew birds, but my obsession with form developed further after getting pregnant again, with my daughter, and watching my body change. The first time I was pregnant I just felt I had so little control, and no real understanding of the amazing thing my body was doing. So this time round I paid much more attention. I started to use my own body as reference and it really helped me become more and more comfortable with who I was, and how I felt in my own body. That’s something that we don’t understand. We’re so ingrained with judging ourselves, but it was this embracing of my body that helped my work flourish.
What advice would you give any aspiring artists?
What I always say is to explore. Social media is so fantastic for this. It allows you to discover so many different artists and techniques, and also understand that you don’t need a lot of materials to be able to start your artistic journey — you can start with a simple pen or pencil, and go from there.
Your art centres mostly around the female form, is there a deeper message behind your work that you want to convey?
I achieved so much by trying to learn to appreciate my own body — regardless of how happy I was with being able to control what was happening to it. And I want others to feel this way. I know that everyday you’re not going to feel this way, and it’s women in particular who are scrutinised so much in this way. I just wanted to honour that, no matter how big or small, whether you’re curvy, not curvy, I want people to feel what I feel.
Is there a unison between your use of fluid lines and femininity?
I’ve always been an artist who wants to use their hands, and naturally organic forms come out this way. It’s quite therapeutic to just let the lines flow. For some reason, this just reminds me of women; all the beautiful curves that we don’t necessarily notice. It just feels innate to femininity.
What drew you to using such a distinct colour palette in your work, is this symbolic of anything?
I started exploring blue in 2016. I came across this incredible blue ink when I was in an art store, sitting in the window in the sunshine, and I just had to see what it looked like on paper. I went home and drew one of my first blue portraits, and it was just incredible how the ink flowed. And blue especially, unlike red, or black, just seems to flow in this more organic, more natural way of working.
When my mum became ill at the end of 2017, it seemed to spark this fascination with the colour blue. After she passed away, I became obsessed with discovering old photos of her, and in so many of them she was wearing this incredible, vibrant blue which I just hadn’t noticed before. It shocked me in a way, that this colour had been so present throughout my childhood and many memories, and it became all the more important from this point onwards.
Also, when I got married 10 years ago, I wore a blue saree, which I’ve come to realise is the same blue I paint in. It’s like I’ve come full circle with it, and discovered this really organic, unconscious connection between the people I love and this colour.
Do you have a favourite piece of work (to date)?
My continuous line pieces are definitely some of my favourites. As they’re so quick, your mind doesn’t have time to prepare in advance and the outcome feels very authentic. They’re so spontaneous, you can create something within as little as 30 seconds, and I’m fascinated by what comes out of such a short time.
Why is it so important to use quality materials?
As someone who experiments a lot, you realise the difference it makes when you use quality materials. You literally can see the difference they make on the page in front of you.
When I started with inks, I struggled to find those that didn’t fade on the page. But when I started using more quality inks, it meant I could really create something that lasts and wont fade over time.
What does Derwent, as a brand, mean to you?
For me, Derwent have a specific range of materials — and it shows how hard they’ve worked to make the collection the best it can be. From this, I feel a connection to the way I create, which is the age old concept of less is more. You don’t need to have a huge range. You don’t need to have all the materials in the world to create something beautiful. It means that whenever someone produces work using their materials, it’s really unique to them, because a single product can create such a vast range of results.
You know who they are instantly, because their limited range is almost iconic, and there’s something so wonderful and unique in that.
How do Derwent’s art supplies help you create the perfect piece?
Being able to explore my art and not have to worry about the quality of the materials I’m using means more time to explore my forms. Using Derwent’s Line Makers has allowed me to do just this. They are great for detailed drawings as well as quick sketching and I have really enjoyed using them to draw my forms. They don’t bleed whilst I’m drawing which is something that is really important to my style of drawing.
Do you have any specific go-to Derwent supplies?
The Line Makers are definitely my favourite Derwent material. I like the small selection of colours meaning you are limited to spending so much time choosing a colour. The fine line is just perfect for my continuous line drawings, they flow beautifully and working in different colours means I’m able to create continuous overlapping drawings which I wouldn’t normally be able to do in just one blue.
Thank you to our talented artists for taking part in our Inside the Sketchbook series.
Find out more about Laxmi using the links below.