In an era of digitalisation, technicality and a stressful work environment, what is it that keeps one calm, thoughtful and alive? Thomas Merton had once said that “art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time”.

It’s interesting to see how there’s a rise in women taking up painting, some for the first time, some after decades, to connect the lines between the mind, painting and the world. These women, alongside their successful careers, are making time to pick up the brush and get on with it.

Talk to people who paint and they’ll tell you that a painting has the opportunity to become everything. The simple act of observation, during the process of painting, is a deep, mysterious and beautiful thing.

We asked a few women about their passion for painting and what drives them to pick up the brush with the same amount of enthusiasm every time. These women believe that the varieties of art forms we are surrounded by come together to create a personable atmosphere that they choose to live in.

A new perspective

Aparna Jain experienced her joy of painting when she picked up the brush 18 months ago. “I wanted to do something challenging, which is why I took up painting. I’m a nature lover. I love flowers, in fact, I’m fond of gardens and love flowers growing in the garden more than in vases,” she shared.

Aparna, who manages her leadership coaching clients, diversity workshops and travels around it, believes it’s necessary that one takes out time and gets involved in an activity that offers contentment and happiness.

40's Women Painting Joy
Photo credit: Aparna Jain

She shared,  “When I started, I made it a point to paint every day. Gradually, I even started making two paintings a day and continue doing so whenever I’m home, not working or travelling.”

I’m a nature lover. I love flowers, in fact, I’m fond of gardens and love flowers growing in the garden more than in vases – Aparna

For her, waking up in the morning and doing something productive is extremely necessary since it kickstarts the day on a positive note. The style she loves is loose watercolours, something she believes has given her a new perspective. One starts noticing things around, through painting, she explained. “There are things around which you start noticing. You pay attention to more textures, colours and everything our surroundings have to offer. It’s a great source of reflection too.”

The Joy Of Painting

Drawing has always been a part of Kanika Gahlaut’s life. She said, “I am a compulsive scribbler ever since I remember – which means putting down thoughts on paper in form of diaries, or sketching and doodling or writing poetry on the last page of books, whatever catches interest, whatever comes to mind. So in that sense, drawing has been part of me. But from what I remember I had chosen writing as my chosen field earlier on. I did some oil painting in the last years of school during my holidays, and continued to draw, or paint in oils, once in a while till my late 20s or early 30s while I was making a career as a journalist, but then I simply did not find the time.”

I decided to turn to watercolour — it would be a fresh new challenge, and I liked that it was a quicker-Kanika

Kanika left her office job after 20 + years and became a blogger and freelancer. It is now that she’s found the mind space and time to return to art, after a gap of 15 years. “This time I decided to turn to watercolour — it would be a fresh new challenge, and I liked that it was a quicker, even though new and tougher medium, because it’s a challenge controlling the colours. There was some hesitation returning to art, I knew my urge to improve would take over my days and nights so I avoided it till the itch to draw could not be pushed back. So here I am, painting away!”

Drawing by the lines of nature

Talking about the new style of painting in the era of digitalisation, Kanika believes a lot has changed now. “The last time I picked up the brush, early 30s, I was coming home from work dog tired, opening up fashion magazines and referencing the photos to paint female forms in oil on paper. It was a way to de-stress. Now, the world has changed so much with the smartphone, coinciding with the time I have to pursue hobbies such as travelling and painting. In my travels, I compose a photo the way I would like to paint it and carry it back with me. Then I paint those.”

For Kanika, drawing by the lines of nature is a great joy. “I find no greater inspiration than nature — each leaf or flower or landscape is perfect, having formed to its potential, and nothing is random, illogical or out of place. So yes, there is so much to appreciate. And the more and longer you observe it, you appreciate it even more,” she reflected.

Childlike joy

Punam Chadha-Joseph shared how she took up painting and the pure childlike joy she derives from it. Her journey has been an eventful and interesting one. She shared, “The hotel industry, the world of advertising and the artistic and academic environment at home created within me a strong appreciation of both the word and art.”

40's Women Painting Joy
Photo credit: Punam Chadha-Joseph

The poems she wrote over a period of time made their way into a published collection – ‘The Soulful Seeker’, which also incorporated her sketches; both of which received great appreciation. Punam’s work of poetry and sketching, with time, not only makes her an artist but also a constant learner of new possibilities. “And as the restless spirit within me continues to seek new learnings, today I am dabbling in watercolours as my new medium of creativity and expression,” she elaborated.

Punam, who draws her inspiration from so many aspects in life, is fascinated by nature and everything around her. “On some days I’m fascinated by flowers. On others, it’s animal faces, particularly the eyes, and of late the human face has caught my fancy,” she concluded.

40's Women Painting Joy
Photo credit: Punam Chadha

Picking up the brush after three decades

Author Kiran Manral always painted, sketched and coloured as a child. It is only after three decades that she has now picked up the brush again.

She shared, “I had a fair bit of talent and interest in it. Even won a number of art competitions, including some prestigious ones. But somehow I didn’t pursue art very seriously and when I got to my second year of college, I stopped painting completely. I had taken up English Honours, and I got into journalism and writing and that’s how it has been for the past 30 years. I picked up the brush only in June this year. My son needed a greeting card made, and on an impulse, I made one with flowers. I found the process of painting very soothing, and realised that muscle memory in my hands and fingers to paint and sketch still existed. I took up trying to do one watercolour a day since then.”

Kiran calls herself an amateur and believes in learning along the way. “I’m still of course, an amateur and learning on the way, but I love to do florals, city scenes and the mountains. I find the process of painting very soothing and cathartic and it taps another unchannelled creative side of me that I had ignored for so many years,” she concluded.

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The vitality of choosing an art form has become so needful that it is not only middle-aged women,but also the ones in their twenties who are resorting to this medium to regain serenity.

25-year-old Amandeep Dhanda, a corporate executive, believes painting helps her unwind. She explained, “Being in the corporate world, with so many technicalities, I’ve always felt the need to do something that is more me – abstract and subjective.”

Amandeep, who chose a corporate job over painting for various many reasons, feels painting has always been something that’s made her feel good inside.

“Keeping up with the social protocol of talking to people, maintaining relationships and work obligations do take a toll and therefore there’s art. Art for me, on the other hand, is just me and my thoughts. So, yes, it’s important to come back to it and pick up the brush time and again. Because it is another world — flow of colours, shades and, definitely, no boundaries,” she elaborated.

Women Painting 40's
Photo credit: Amandeep Dhanda

The great thing about painting is that it retains a sense of contentment with every stroke. Images tell us a lot. They support imagination and vice-versa. When you look at a painting or a poster, you’ve chosen to hang on your living room wall, you feel happy and that is the joy we’re talking about. 

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