Micro Art and Macro Dreams: Susrita Samantaray
“I was born in Cuttack in Odisha. Cuttack City. I am 26 years old. I did my schooling in DAV Public School. Then I got a dual Biotechnology degree at KIIT University. So, I moved to Bhubaneshwar. There I studied one course for 5 years. During that course period and during the practical time we used to get lots of free time period so I used to draw illustrations behind my lab copies, diaries as a pastime. It grew as a hobby and then I was interested in Scientific Illustrations. And slowly I started making posters and illustrations in my University, through that to International Conferences. In JNU also I got a first prize in a conference. That happened in 2017. This was in Synthetic Biology and I did everything – all illustrations by hand. Very minute work is what I preferred. Some unique type of things. This moved forward in my dissertation. Though I was working in the lab, I still did this to pass the time. After that I got a job in National Innovation Foundation India, which is an autonomous body of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. I started working as an innovation associate. My work involved scientific illustrator and commentary. I also worked on innovative booklet covers and posters.”
How was your school and neighbourhood? Did they inspire you for the good or was it another challenge to bear/fit in with them?
Actually, when I used to draw, my friends used to encourage me a lot. They used to tell me constantly. Even If I used to draw a small thing they would say (tell) me- ‘Arey do this on a large scale! Do this that, it’ll look good.’ They also gave me a lot of examples. They told me to use Instagram to connect to the international artists. It gave me a lot of inspiration. My friends used to surprise me with (laughs) art stuff regularly – Pens, Colour Pens, Art Copies. They always gave me gifts related to art.
They used to sometimes call teachers over to our desk in the lab and show them that I was scribbling instead of studying. The teachers would obviously scold me but over all, they were very understanding and supportive. The Seniors too! Not just immediate seniors but Super Seniors also played a great role. They encouraged me a lot to something. Every person encouraged me to be unique!
In the Traditional Learning system of India, we have experienced rote learning as an evident fallout. Even the parents stress on the same because of numeric results but due to this the creativity of the kids is curbed. Susrita completes the question- Haan woh chala jaata hai (Yes, the creativity goes away!) What are your views on this?
Mera maan nah hai parents also play a great role. (I think parents also play a great role.) Friends wagera depend karta hai voh toh karte rahenge (Friends will keep doing it), if you are lucky enough you will get a bunch of good friends who will keep pushing you forward. But I think jo traditional way hai wahan parents should also acknowledge that the child is also creative. They should recognize which field is that. I mean I totally shifted. That was not an easy task for me to do kyunki my work was totally on research. Biotechnology mein research is very different than Art. Like one time in my dissertation, I totally fell apart. I didn’t want to continue further and do PhD and do this lab work anymore so I totally convinced my Mentor, Even talked to my Director that I cannot continue to do this. I told them to please help me to shift this to other options (the subjects). I thought that I will shift to NIFT for designing to continue my courses and all otherwise. But it was luck that I got in NIF for Illustrations ka kaam mil gaya. Matlab research se Art line mein aana was a big step. That time, jo dissertation k liye jo project period hota hai na that was really a hard time for me because previously I thought ki Artist as a hobby k liye but further I will go with PhD. So, that was the shift.
Even though hobbies tend to encourage and help us maintain a good well-being, many people opt out of it since it comes with a lot of risk Susrita completes- Lots of responsibilities as well. So how do you think these traditional jobs like a doctor’s or an engineer’s – the supposedly well-paying ones and well-being ones are different?
From my experience, if you have patience and if you are rightly encouraged while you constantly look for opportunities, it would be good. Matlab ek timeline banalo. (Make a timeline for yourself) I mean it will be a new field and you might be lacking that experience but always say that “Let me try; Why can’t I do?” I think people are also shifting to creativity courses. Now even in research, there is a new era- its advanced now, not like the old boring research. I think people are realising k Doctor Engineer k alawa there are other things. I think they should go for creativity since you chose it yourself. You know your risk. You also have interest and you can put your best skills to use. I think a troubleshooting mechanism is adopted because life only happens once and you don’t want to end up regretting your choices. There are 100 questions.
Being an artist comes with a lot of introspection. What do you think about the Creative Process along the lines of this introspection?
Creative Process…the thing with me is actually that when I sit to draw my mind totally goes blank. I don’t let other thoughts enter my mind. Any pressure or other concerns don’t seem to exist at that moment. There is complete focus and I like that! It’s a relief. Art is really healing. Plus, when it comes about personal introspection, I always try to do something new. This want of exploring, doing something new keeps up the everyday motivation though I don’t get that much time but then the thought that I can try this some other day is good. It gives encouragement, freshness. Patience I would insist is very important. Like for micro art it takes full one month and more to complete a piece. I draw for two hours every day.
You have focussed on depicting the beauty of Odisha in your works. What is the motive behind the depiction? Does the place inspire you somewhat differently?
So, there was a program at college, district level exhibition and I was going in the car. On my way back, I saw the train…it’s barricade. So, I just took a snap of the railway station over there. Then one day I got a small notepad and then I thought that itna chhota notepad hai, let me do some rough art or something. Phir I thought that Kyun na daily kuch kuch karti hun, Odisha ka kuch scenario with the photos that I had in Mobile. So first yehi Railway station waala scene draw kia, then a daily series, micro series. Here I got the inspiration that why not focus on everyday culture of Odisha-the street place or anything! So daily I used to spend 1-2 hours for the rough art. Then from there I thought that the famous monuments should be focussed upon with their Intricate micro designs.
Since you also tend to depict the daily scenes of life in Odisha in ‘Susritart’, you must have observed the challenges that people face in the everyday cycle. What are the direst challenges to women in Odisha according to you?
So, I remember one, while travelling in train only, there was a labourer-construction person so I drew them…But actually…(hesitatingly) I am afraid of portraits.
You started off with a plain A4 white sheet and a blue point pen which is labeled under as ‘Susritart’. This really inspires to find artistic revelation in even the smallest of forms. But, don’t you find the need for a bigger canvas and more colours?
I minimized using colours. All my works now are black and white. Colours I prefer but they are hectic, like changing colours every time. When I see the bigger canvas, I see months! Because micro-art demands that. One day but yes, hopefully, I’ll do it.
I know that it’s a tough question to ask but which is your most loved, hated and the most challenging art piece?
Oh, I hate the old ones. Others are decent!
When did you realize that ‘Susritart’ became a defined form? Did you get a chance to interact with similar artists?
Actually, in Buvneshwar, they shared one of my art pieces in an exhibition.
What would be your message to the young budding artists regarding the risks of experimentation?
I think would suggest them to try new type of Art. Repetition might not help. So, on Quora too I used to encourage the artists so that they invent their new (art) forms. I mean go and check the international artists, get inspired but then try to find your own art form, own style. When you have something of your own, you can say that yours is different. That it is a modified one. Also, keep practicing and showing.
One of your abstract patterns was published and displayed in the Global Bioeconomy Summit-2018 held at Berlin, how was that experience?
I think Global platforms like these are not easy things. So, I guess I feel honoured.
Please tell us about what are you involved with these days? How has working under National Innovation Foundation (NIF) been?
Experience here is improvised. I am getting a chance to draw things in digital modes-booklets, magazine covers. One of the booklets was presented to the President Kovind.
What do you think is the best aspect of micro art? Also, since it is all about the details, does it at times tend to become frustrating-like if anything minute goes wrong?
Frustrating – I have heard a lot of this word by the other artists but for me no. As I said, it is a healing and doesn’t add to frustration. Like when I turn up late, I just think that let’s draw for one hour to feel better. It feels fresh!
What are the other art forms that you practice, like for a change?
I have started exploring the digital medium a lot. So, the Digital Wallpapers, Case covers. I think they are nice. Also, Bookmarks. This is mainly because you have to draw any random patterns and for me more complications mean more interesting. I design my own wallpapers and upload them. I haven’t made it for anyone else but for myself I indulge in this heartily.
At Girl Power Talk, we believe in the philosophy, “One girl/woman empowers another. Let’s change lives together: one girl, one woman and one human being at a time.” What will be your message to global women community and young girls?
What I think that they should not be confined to studies etc. They should open up about their interests. They must partner up. The day you become independent it’s the key. People think that women are to be sent off in marriages. Focus should rather be on making them independent. It gives pleasure to spend your money- your way. You should realize that Independent happiness.