Shwetabh Suman – The Young Self Taught & Talented Artist
When I interview someone my key intention is always to know the person better and the journey he/she witnessed in achieving the position. Artistic people are a bit different than people in other creative fields. At least I experienced the same. So this time I meet an amazingly talented artist who passionately in love with his creative talent. Yes, this time we have with us very talented Shwetabh Suman. The session was amazing and want my readers to know what he shared with me during the interview.
1)Welcome to the platform of Indiacafe24.com. Shwetabh we are glad to have you with us. please share with our readers about your childhood, educational background, and your family?
Thank you, India Café 24, for letting me share some part of me with everybody. I will try my best to answer your every question full of me.
I had a resource-less yet very pampered and creative childhood. We didn’t have enough to eat and spend but we had our great parents whose open mind and love shaped me well. I was taught by my father and mother when I was a child as couldn’t afford a school. That time I felt sad for this coz kid of my age went school. But now I have a completely opposite opinion. My father was also interested in art but as his parents didn’t support his creative side, he couldn’t get an opportunity to grow the artist in him.
He fought back by supporting me in art. Sister was, though, not much interested in creating artworks but had a great interest in creativity as a beholder. My mother is very creative.
From cooking to knitting, embroidery, stitching, and fabric painting she has always been the center of attraction among friends and relatives. Therefore, I got a favorable environment to let the artist inside me bud. I finished by metric from my hometown Saharsa, Bihar. When I lost interest in engineering, I got admitted to Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi for my bachelor’s in the school of foreign language and literature (South Korean studies). Though I took many different paths my circumstances eventually pushed me to be what I am today, your artist! It was above all my father who made this possible. He is also my first art critic and my first fan too. Hahah!
2) If we look into the life of a child we will see that parents give attention to education more than the creative field. As an artist what is your view in this scenario? Do you feel that the time has arrived where an equal balance is a must between education and creativity in a kid’s life?
I am very fortunate that my parents supported me in the creative field too. That’s why I can tell you how productive is the result when you don’t have to unleash your creativity stealthily with guilt inside. Education- an extremely manipulated word! It has been rolled again by so many boring, irresponsible persons that it has completely lost its meaning. Education once meant to be creative unlike now when we keep following the pattern of 8. I am presenting a solid argument in support of what I said.
The majority of entrepreneurs and development scholars agree that slowly after 1950 we have lost our vertical progress and are only indulged in horizontal progress. In short, vertical progress is the progress aimed at doing something new… expanding level-wise. For example, if someone lands on the moon for the first time in the world that is some vertical progress made. In other instances, if one country goes to the moon every other country is just striving to tail the country which made the vertical progress. This is called horizontal progress. Globalization is one such example.
This vertical progress needs innovation, creativity. But we have so much to cram and a great burden to get
a secure job that we leave creativity… coz creativity can throw you in insecurity. Creating something new is not exciting in the beginning. It can scare the hell out of you! Here comes the role of parents. And so, I, of course, feel that equal balance is essential between studies and creativity. A personality can never be complete without a touch of creativity.
3) In your case how creativity came to life and why you choose painting and art over other creative fields?
There was always great lust for creativity in me. When I was a mere toddler I used to draw
lines on soil and on dishes with leftover gravy. There were phases when the creativity was burdened by studies. Besides I could never lose touch with it.
I never chose painting in my life….It chose me. Moreover, besides painting, I am interested in many other creative fields. I play the flute, do recitals, storytelling, yoga, martial art, bodybuilding
I just do whatever I love to do. But painting came first in life. I always ignored it and tried to get a regular job or to crack some shiny government jobs but Painting dragged me closer and closer providing me with food, shelter, respect, and identity. I was never an artist. The beloved public made me one!
4) Who witnessed the spark of an artist in you for the first time?
It was my father. He is also my first art critic and my first fan too. Hahah!
5) What is your area of specialization in the artistic world? What other forms of artwork you due besides your area of specialization?
Portraiture & figurative oil paintings and teaching art is my area of specialization. Besides
these I do concept art, comics, digital artworks etc.
6) Where you got your first training in painting?
I am a self-taught artist. There is no training kind of thing I could afford. But I cannot refuse that I have learned things from many books, this life, and other artists’ styles. Some of them are Sir Ram Prakash Ramani, Sir Vijender Sharma, Sir Andrew Loomis, and Sir Scott McCloud.
7) Which as per you is your best creation to date and why? ( Share the image of the creation)
I am sorry I cannot decide which one is my best creation to date. I don’t compare coz it only
brings misery. I just enjoy the process. But I am sharing here some of the works which were
loved by my supporters.
8) What as per you is the responsibility of an artist towards the society?
This question is, I think, one of the most important and fruitful questions. I, thank you for giving me an opportunity to answer this. When we talk of artists in relation to the society often there’s an image that artists don’t give a damn, they break the rules, they defy social norms, they are anti-society, and blah blah. Let’s see closely what is this and why is it so? I request you to be patient and try to understand all the arguments and explanations I am going to give below as these things if looked upon with a prejudiced perspective are potent to create a huge misunderstanding.
society is made up of individuals and it is for the individuals. But like all the other things there is also a side where the grass is not so green. And that side is the creativity.
Now, what’s creativity??? Creativity is the potential of creating something new, something innovative, something unique, unprecedented. In simpler words, it should not be all about copying some great things and just make some difference to evade copyright jaws. And we know that every single individual is unique in himself or herself.
So the more individual you will be the more creative you will be. Being more individual means being independent of established norms so that you can think something outside the box, something which is not already established by society.
On the contrary, society is a mass… where we take the common of all the individuals and form a norm and try to melt down all the unique traits of the individuals using commonly established moral parameters and also sometimes with brute force. When we look back at our history we find that almost all of the barbaric events in our societies have been caused by this ‘not completely shedding off or keeping the personal opinions below the societal norms by individuals’.
So, does it mean that I am against societies?? No! Absolutely not! Society is very essential for survival. But at the same time with survival security forms comfort zones which is the greatest enemy of creativity. This enemy is defeated by growing individually. So for creative progress along with survival security, we need a balance of individual and societal ways of living.
Now coming to the point of artists’ famous so-called ‘anti-social’ behavior, it is now easy to understand why artists don’t listen to society. The reason is that they want to grow as an individual. But the growing individual doesn’t necessarily mean fighting all the social norms. It is just not compromising your individual preferences for being a cattle in the herd.
The most interesting thing is that besides being different from the herd and being rebellious what all they do for the progress of the society sometimes even without caring about their finance and even life. This is beautiful. So in one sentence- “The artists defy society only to see those truths which the society fails to see and to show the later those truths eventually.”
Therefore, the artists’ responsibility towards society is to be an honest pair of eyes with a braveheart for society.
9) You are an established art teacher. So what should be the key element for a strong and effective Guru Shisya relationship?
Guru-shishya relationship, I think starts with the Guru. Nowadays often there is a very common complaint that students don’t respect their teachers. There are always questions with great emphasis on ‘students’ morality’. But often we ignore the falsehood and deception offered by the teachers and the educational institutions. In the hide of ‘compulsory attendance’ teachers pass time even in national-level universities. You can get an idea about what I am saying by just looking for the answer to one question.
what is the reason behind the majority of teachers and professors choosing this profession of teaching???? Unemployment and failure in getting a high paying job. Here I am talking about the majority and not all the teachers. In their 12th if you will ask the youths – who wants to be a teacher?
You will hardly get a name. Almost everyone dreams of being a successful doctor, engineer, artist, and so on. And when they fail to be so their last resort is to be a teacher and to somehow earn their bread and butter. In such a scenario how can we expect a passionate class by a passionate teacher? And how can we expect from the students that they will love institutions, teachers and the curriculum?
I am saying all these from my own experience as a school student, university student, and now as an art teacher. In my courses often I have students elder than me and sometimes even double my age. I always place them higher than me and never expect more than general respect from any of my students. Also, I never try to be much formal in classes.
Everything goes with a very informal fun way of cracking jokes and laughing together. Still, never I have got a single student who even once disrespected me or tried to defy me or behaved in
I am amazed to see their affection and respect to such a level I think I am getting more than what I deserve! Such is our relationship! The truth is that the students are very thirsty for honest teachers, selfless sharing of knowledge by them, and lots of love from teachers and institutions. You, the teachers, are honest??? And respect your students?? Then there’s definitely gonna be a very healthy, warm, and supportive Guru-Shishya relationship!
10) Who are your favorite artists and the ones who inspired you in this field?
I have been a very monkey mind with lots of curiosity which made me have a test of many art styles and look into many artists’ portfolios for inspiration. Though I cannot name them all I am giving a few names whose works left a strong impression on me. In contemporary artists, I am very much impressed by Sir Vijender Sharma and Sir Bijay Biswal from India, Sir Leonid Afemov, and Sir Igor Sakharov from Russia, and Cuban-American artist Sir Cesar Santos.
Sir Salvador Dali, Sir Claude Monet, Sir Vincent Van Gogh, Madam Frida Kahlo, Sir Andrew Loomis, and Sir Rembrandt are my favourites from past. Sir Scott McCloud and Sir Charlie Adlard are my favourite comics artists.
11) Family support is very important to pursue a career in the creative field as the scope of success is not assured. How your family supported you in your journey as an artist?
Absolutely! There are many instances of our stars scattered in the dirt only because they had to
compromise with their passion for the sake of their family. I feel I am lucky to get a very supportive family. Though I had a different kind of serious problem, the problem of money. And as I was a single child who was born very late! Now you can think of the pressure of being a future single bread-winner for the family. Due to these what all my parents expected from me was pursuing my art dream along with my efforts to having a mainstream job. It seemed logical to me too as at the end of the day you need to feed yourself something real to get going.
So I worked double. Pursuing my foreign language course at JNU along with art practices. But soon art began fetching me money and slowly it liberated me and I shifted to fulltime art especially when my psychiatrist told me to leave everything and give all of my time to art. And it also healed my bipolar disorder.
When I finished my graduation my father was already 60+. I didn’t get time to experiment much but I always experimented and took risks but as overtime. And now when I am earning a humble livelihood my parents are very satisfied.
12) Achievements and Recognitions are a must for any type of work we do. Please share your achievements and success story as an artist.
The greatest achievement is the satisfaction itself. And the more satisfied We are the more otherworldly achievements we get. My achievements started with some awards I won here and there but there is a reason why I don’t consider awards as true achievements.
When I was a kid I was very famous throughout my district for art. I participated in some art
competitions organized by press, foundations, and clubs and I was the biggest fuss at the
competition avenue but never could manage to get selected ever…and those who got selected had not even a good general skill of creation. I knew the reason…..and hopefully, you all know.
I felt cheated! I felt disrespected! After some scams, I took a vow to prove myself my true worth by making the real art world the judge and not some group or personally funded clubs. I, personally believe that We cannot judge artworks completely. We can only judge to some extent, like media handling, according to pre-established rules of composition, figurative anatomy, and other such universal parameters but as the way of presentation can vary for each artwork we can never judge them completely without being wrong.
My true achievement was when I got my first art commission. Another achievement was when my practice work was sold to New York.
Selection of my works in some great art galleries in New York followed soon after this. To my surprise soon after I got appreciated by the west I began getting recognition here in India by our folks too! One of my beloved achievements was when I was selected as the art instructor at the University level Fine Art Club in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
After that, I got honor of being a judge in some art competitions… though let me tell you those were my most freaking moments also. I was invited as a jury at a state-level competition at Assam House, Delhi.
Another dream achievement was working in collaboration with Canada based multi-award
winner Hollywood writer/producer Charles Hall. Now my students are bringing awards and also are making their place in the professional art world.
Some of them have also turned full-time artists. The love and appreciation of my students, my collectors, my friends and fans all are my achievements.
About success story, I have few words for all those creative brave-hearts out there struggling- “Forget about selling for a while, sit back, work with heart- improve work quality- be unique share and spread your work as much as you can- and the money follows you!”
13) Do you think that Indian people are ready to pay the right price for the work of an artist? Or there is a specific niche of people who are ready to pay?
Like other questions, this question is also very important, deep, and at the same time helpful for everyone struggling.
If you ask me to reply in one word keeping in mind the majority I will say,” No!” But before jumping a notch up and blaming the people I like to add something. There are fair
reasons for this.
Some of the significant reasons include lack of artistic taste and awareness (for that the art the industry is responsible because of its nature of keeping everything in blue and the art institutions which only teach to draw useless lines without every enlightening about what actually is the goal of those lines in art), lack of purchase power, extremely uneven distribution of money (The actual population that can afford to pay the deserving amount to the artists are even below 2-3%), the pitiful condition of intellectual property right awareness and weak Indian laws related to IP.
Those who are hungry cannot afford to comment on the design of a pizza package. When we are above roti, kapda aur makaan (food, cloth and shelter) then only we will seek for meaning of life. Only after the basics come art, culture, literature and spirituality. And majority of our
countrymen are struggling for these three basics.
14) Once upon a time you were a student and now you have students. So how different you as a student were from today’s generation of the student?
I don’t see much difference because most of the students in my courses are elders. But if I compare those younger ones to me as the student I was I find one stark difference. They are far more active, intelligent and all-rounder than I was. It seems the evolution rate has sped up multiple times in recent 10 years.
15) Artists need inspiration…. In your case who is the inspiration?
Yes, it is very true that artists need inspiration. In my case, it is not always the same. Inspirations are very random as I have a monkey mind. Sometimes I change my mind several times in a single day about what I want to do. But I am mentioning here in general where most of my inspirations come from.
I watch movies and series to get my most of the inspirations. Being a loner I find it easy to access the whole world through my 23 inches HP window. Hahaha! Talking about the kind of feeling I would say dark stuffs inspire me more.
That’s the reason why I love watching mystery, horror, thriller and psycho-thriller creations more. Other genre is deep philosophical books or movies related to human psychology, evolution of the world and the quantum mechanics.
16) Please share your experience with the horror/thriller comics project you are into in collaboration with the renowned Film writer from Canada, Mr. Charles Hall.
The project is a horror/thriller story where a young boy sets out to rid his hometown of a wild animal that has been killing the townspeople’s pets, only to wind up becoming its next target. It is a throwback to films of the 1980s centering on Americana and nuclear family values (think Silver Bullet).
The reason I loved this project lies in the broad possibilities of creating chilling environments. The other reason for me being excited about this project is that the screenplay has already bagged one international awards and 2-time nomination.
As I had to do extensive research for the project we extended the deadline and soon, probably
by the time the outbreak is over, we will publish the project “Deadhorse Lick”
17) What are your learnings in life as an artist which you want the young aspiring artists should know?
Being true and honest to yourself, hard work, using your energy mindfully, perseverance, and challenging your comfort zone relentlessly is what’s gonna bring you the cake. I learned this over time and now I follow these for my progress and so want you all to know that these things, though talked about a lot, have great potential to bring revolution to your lives.
18) What are your other passions in life?
Teaching, music, playing the flute, fitness, martial arts, yoga, storytelling & reciting, cooking and eating, reading books, writing, and wandering in the Himalayas.
19) What are your future plans?
I want to bring revolution in the field of art by spreading awareness among art enthusiasts, teaching art to the passionates, and building an organized creative market that brings funds for the artists of India. Aimed at this purpose I started a proprietorship firm “WritArt” which is being loved by many. Soon we will be working on many fronts from education to animation movie creations and exhibitions. Currently, we are doing great in art education and courses are available throughout the year.
20) what would have been your career choice if not an artist?
It is tough to say as I have never been stable when it comes to career. Being in the army, police, fitness trainer, businessman, bodybuilder, martial arts trainer, writer, and more have been on my list but I have always been confused by my changing taste. Thanks to art! it relieved me out of this depressing confusion.
21) Describe Shwetabh Suman in One line?
It is so difficult question to answer. It took me 2 days searching for the answer and still I am not confident whether I am missing something or many things but what I am gonna write below is the true version that I see of myself.
‘Shwetabh Suman is a moody, dark, very curious, unstable, sometimes rude, high dreaming,
never giving-up, unpredictable person’