Kasmira Mohanty, Digital Arts Instructor at Huntington UFSD, gave us, possibly, the best description of cover art ever: “Lulu” is a melding of Parisian punk haute couture and Rangoli.
What was the inspiration for this piece?
“Lulu” came to be after a series I did for an exhibition that related to my Asian Indian heritage. I had initially struggled with the kind the imagery I wanted to create for that project. After some exploration, debate and observation it seemed fairly obvious that pattern was something I was drawn to and needed to include in any future artistic endeavors. It simply became an issue of what patterns to include, and in my case the answer was obvious: Rangoli. After that exhibition I continued to play with various parings of pattern and portraiture.
Most of your work is digital. How does the process of creating digital art differ from a more “traditional” painting on canvas?
There isn’t much of a difference. The process and considerations are the same. The majority of my work tends circle around themes and ideas I’ve been exploring over several years. There are times, like any artist, when I need a break to try something entirely new, whether it’s in relation to content or technique. Those creative departures inevitably add a fresh perspective and renewed energy when diving back into work that is more in my wheelhouse.
From there I need to decide what approach to take. The work itself generally dictates what materials and treatments will be required. Sometimes I hand render some of the material I want to use in a particular piece, scan it and then work with it either in Photoshop or Illustrator. Other times a piece starts directly on the computer, which I then print so I can layer on ink or paint. Still other times a piece may exist solely in digital format.
The main advantage I find working digitally is that I can explore variations quickly. When I’m embroiled in a project I can be impatient, in the sense that I can’t physically create quickly enough to keep up with my mind. Working digitally eases some of that anxiety for me, even if it takes weeks to complete a piece. In addition, I can play and experiment more. I’ve definitely had my share of happy accidents and the opposite, like any other artist. Working digitally is not as contrived as one might assume. In essence, I draw, paint, play with color, pattern, value, perspective…. I just do it using a tablet or mouse. All the skills a traditional artist employs are of great value to me as well.
Along the same lines, is the process different for a portrait such as this week’s cover image?
Portraits for me, whether imaginary or based on people I know, are personal. How can they not be? Every artistic and design decision has to be just right. Even when a piece is not well received by the public I still cherish the relationship I have with that particular portrait. I have that same relationship with my other work, but not as intense. They each have their own personalities that I’ve created whether it be good or bad.
How do you decide which medium to use when approaching a subject?
For me it often comes down to what mood the piece needs to project. If I desire a gritty/raw type of look, I’m likely to get out some acrylics, watercolor or spray paint and experiment with texture and values. I usually go to the computer first if I’m creating an image that needs to be more polished and precise. It gets really interesting when I sometimes layer the two.
Having been an arts educator for 17 years can you discuss the importance of arts programing in schools today?
The arts are invaluable for so many reasons. Art encompasses all the subjects. But beyond that, when I encounter someone who doesn’t think art is important I challenge them to go through their day without interacting with a single item that hasn’t been touched by a creative. The bed they slept in, their alarm clock, toothbrush, car, everything on their phone, on and on. Art is clearly something to be appreciated and enjoyed, but it’s functional as well.
I can honestly say that students having access to arts programs helps them mature into well-rounded individuals. It provides them with an opportunity to play and become innovators. Whether or not those who participate go on to become artists, I can factually say that they are more prepared for what the futures holds and are able to engage with the world around them in a more meaningful way.
If you could sit down to coffee with any artist from history, who would it be and what would you hope to talk about?
I think I’d like to throw a dinner party at my house instead and invite Frida Kahlo, Keith Haring, Van Gogh, Chuck Close, Zaha Hadid and Saul Bass. I know Chuck Close is still alive, but I just had to throw him in. I adore him. I think I would have to keep my mouth shut and let them do the talking.
Where can we find you when you’re not in school or creating art?
That’s pretty much where I am all the time, but I do escape once in a while to hit some of my favorite eateries, galleries, museums and also to travel. I prefer doing those things with my very sweet husband, friends and family whenever possible.
To see more of Kasmira Mohanty’s work visit kasmiramohanty.com.