Rwitabina Gupta Bhaya started doodling as soon as she learnt to hold a pencil at age two. Soon, she was drawing “humans with long legs and cup handle-like arms, sometimes accompanied by oddly spelt words in funky fonts”. As she spent her evenings drawing on her slate or any notebook she could get her hands on or filling up the floor with her art, Rwitabina’s parents encouraged the little artist.
The Class X student of The Newtown School has since experimented with various media and was selected as illustrator for the West Bengal government’s Early Childhood Care and Education programme in 2020. She was one of the winners of the Edugraph 18 Under 18 Awards.
“My mother saw me spending hours doodling on a slate or a notebook, so she started to lay out art supplies on the bed and let me do whatever I wanted. My parents never took art and craft as wasting paper or making a mess and always bought me supplies they thought I'd like. Even to this day, they randomly surprise me with little things, like a can of spray paint or some pretty-looking paper,” Rwitabina said.
The Newtown School student has been training in art for 15 years and is currently a student of Amar Guha. “He is an incredible painter and has a studio set-up where it’s less of an art class and more of providing us with the resources to draw,” Rwitabina said.
Working with different mediums
As a child, Rwitabina started off with whatever she could lay her hands on — chalk on the floor, coloured pencils on the last page of her parents’ notebooks. It was her first art teacher, Swapna Mukherjee, who suggested to Rwitabina’s parents that they never throw away anything that could be recycled. “Ever since our house has had a pile of junk stuffed away and most of it usually ends up as a decorative piece or something functional,” Rwitabina said.
Guha has encouraged Rwitabina to experiment with charcoal, oil, acrylic, graphite and mixed media.
“For me, acrylic and water colour are the most challenging. They dry quickly, so you really have to work fast around them. I generally go for oil painting, which you can sit and take your time with. I’m not someone who completely sketches out things before doing it. I like to trust the process and go with it,” the young artist said.
She has also been dabbling in digital art and graphic designing. “I like the freedom that it allows. There is a lot that you can work with and there are no boundaries in terms of colour and digital material. There are also unlimited resources online where you can learn how to excel at it,” Rwitabina said.
Artwork by Rwitabina. SOURCE: Rwitabina
Working for the West Bengal government
Rwitabina’s work has been recognised by the West Bengal Government Early Childhood Care and Education programme. With the world moving onto the digital platform, this storytelling programme, too, needed illustration to serve as an aid and Rwitabina fit the role. “In 2020, the West Bengal government was running a campaign where they were telling stories and needed illustrations for them. This is where I came in and illustrated a few stories for their online storytelling sessions,” she said.
Learnings from art
Art, for Rwitabina, is the best way to relax. “It lets me think, makes me creative. Art isn’t just how realistically you can draw, it’s about how beautiful your work is and what impact it creates,” she said.
“Before the pandemic I had school, sports and a lot of other things that took up my time. During the lockdown, I could draw for hours without any distraction and I wouldn’t feel tired. That has definitely helped improve my skills.”
Rwitabina is drawn to artists who create an impact with their work. She lists four of her favourites. “Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work speaks a lot to me as a person of colour. He was a Black artist in '80s America where racism was very prevalent. Petra Collins does the most creative music videos and artwork in general. Her work is mostly in the film industry. Also, Wes Anderson. He isn’t stuck with what is expected of him by the industry. I do like Jamini Roy a lot. He breaks the boundaries when there is an expectation of doing realistic art,” she said.
Edugraph 18 Under 18 Award
Even the littlest appreciation can spark creativity and the Edugraph 18 Under 18 Award, Rwitabina feels, will help her improve.
“I think in the long run I would want to master the art of filmmaking and creative direction. It can be a lot of set design with post-production. That has a lot of potential,” she said.
The Newtown School principal Satabdi Goswami Bhattacharjee wished Rwitabina luck. “Rwitabina is poised and artistically inclined, and expresses herself poignantly through her work. Her commitment towards her craft is commendable and we see her creating a niche for herself in the vibrant world of art,” she said.