CC Conversations : Suhita Shirodkar

Sublime, beautiful and poetically attentive is what I think of her work. Her water colors are full of life yet never chaotic. Curious as a child, she’s always traveling, making notes and sketching the most vivid of urbanscapes. I am happy to introduce you to Suhita Shirodkar on Constellation Cafe.

From a trip to New York last summer.

Q.Tell me a little about yourself, about your life and how did you start / get into art.

My name is Suhita. I was born Bombay and lived in Bombay, Goa and Bangalore before I moved to San Jose, California. I always loved to draw and grew up drawing all the time, but somewhere along the way, as I trained to be a Graphic Designer, drawing fell off to the side. Over the years, more and more of what I created started and ended up on a computer, and I really, really missed working by hand. So a couple of years ago, I started drawing again in a little sketchbook. And I have never stopped.

Q.What inspires you?

Travel above everything else. Because everything is so new you look at it deeply. But I can’t travel all the time, so when I am not traveling, I try to look at the world around me as a traveller would: as if the everyday objects around me are things I’ve never seen before. It helps me look deeply, closely, and with fresh eyes at the most mundane stuff in my life.

I love working in India. Everything is aflame with color.

Q. You draw mostly about street life. Why?

I like to capture life as it happens. There is something really challenging and intriguing about trying to capture the energy and constant motion of the world around me on paper. It’s an interesting juxtaposition: to freeze it on paper while capturing it’s motion.

Q. Purely as a image, the feel might be very similar to a snapshot. Do you think that painting the scene instead of photographing it, changes the way we interpret it. Or do you think your work can be held close to the very idea of a snapshot (or that is what you’re going for?).

If you’re looking for an exact replica of a scene or an architectural drawing, I do a very poor job of that. What I aim to do is capture a feeling. Usually it is my reaction to a place, the feel of the light at that particular time, my reaction to the energy and vibe of the place. And then the quality of line, the way I use color is what makes it my take on a place, and not just an exact capture of a camera.

Ferris Wheel: This is in Hong Kong. I sketched the ferris my husband and kids took a ride.

Q. When I look at your work, it seems like you’re always moving. Restless and always walking, looking and recording. How do you record your subject without an emotional connection (as you don’t indulge in them or spend time with them) or do you think you want to present your views only as a observer and not as a participant?

I’m not shy, but I don’t usually start a conversation. But very often people come and start one just because I’m sketching. So I do end up interacting, talking, finding out about them… it’s one of the really fun parts of what I do. I sketched a construction crane one day ( image attached). It was pretty far away, and the guy was hard at work. But he came over to chat, and told me about how he really loves to draw in his spare time- which is late in the night after his day job. I really enjoy that sort of interaction. It makes the places and people I draw come alive. But it doesn’t always happen. I enjoy the interaction, but I also enjoy looking at things as an observer, from the outside. It a different point of view.

Varanasi: this is one of my favorites form a trip to Varanasi. I had just finished working on a piece I spent a good hour on and then I turned around and the light on the river was just gorgeous. This piece was probably 15 minutes form start to finish. The light was fading fast. I wanted to capture that little window of magic.

Q. Why do you choose to work with water colors?

I love the fluidity and untamed nature of the medium. With watercolors, you do your bit, the medium does it’s bit. You don’t get to control it all, atleast not how I work: wet-in-wet, and fast. It’s a very immediate medium and works well for what I try to capture: a particular moment, a sense of place, a feeling…

Q. When drawing a scene, what is it that you look for?

If it speaks to me, I draw it. It can be anything: from a classic iconic building (like the Empire state building) to an everyday scene ( like the chaatvala)

Q. Any artists you follow?

Way too many to even start listing. My watercolor hero is an artist called Charles Reid. His work has an immediacy I love. But most of my inspiration comes fromm a group of fellow sketchers called Urban Sketchers. They are sketchers all over the world who record the world as they see it. We blog our sketches at

Capitola: sketched last week at the beach while my kids played in the sand.

Q. Any projects you’re working on right now?

I’m putting together a book of my sketches from my trip to India a little over a year ago. And I have a zillion other ideas I need to evaluate and figure which ones to work on. But above all, I’m trying to sketch – between jobs, school kid pickups, weekend jaunts.

Q. Any tips for amateur artists?

Don’t think too much about it. Just go get a little sketchbook. and a pen, pencil, eraser. Carry it around with you everywhere you go and just start drawing. Not only is it fun and easy, you’ll be amazed at how interesting the everyday and mundane becomes once you draw it! I am a graphic designer by profession, not a trained artist. I do this just because I love it. I’ve only sketched on a continuous basis for a couple of years now. One trick to getting started is to just draw ( and not judge what you draw) for the first couple of months. it’s amazing how quick you will get to the point where you like what you see on the paper!

Five Wounds Railways Track: a sketch of a not-so-well off neighborhood. I did this piece for a magazine article about the restoration plans for the neighborhood.

If you’d like to see more of Suhita’s work, do visit her Blog or her Flickr page.


10 thoughts on “CC Conversations : Suhita Shirodkar

  1. These sketches are setting off so many resonances in me. And almost all of them have to do with my childhood. The illustrations of Hergé and a set of post-card sized etchings that I had found at the Oxford Bookstore in Calcutta. Love them. How effortlessly she melds the simple and the complex!

  2. Thanks all!
    The Mario Miranda comment, high praise, I am flattered! I love Mario’s work ( and lets put ay resemblance you see down to Goan blood: I’m half Goan:) ), but most of all I love what he did with his art: he didn’t put it up on a pedestal where art is something most people are intimidated by, or find inaccessible. Everyone felt comfortable commenting, liking/disliking Mario’s work. I love that. I like to call what I do drawing, or sketching with watercolor. it’s words everyone relates to.
    Accidental Fame Junkie, I grew up in India; bombay and goa. Tintin, asterix, amar chitra katha, bollywood posters.. everything works it’s way into your work, whether you know it or not:) I wish I could see the etchings you speak of… I’m curious now.

  3. I totally love here work….I’ve seen so much of Street Photography work that i could never imagine there could be something like street painting if i may call it….love the vivid colours…you have inspired me to pick up them watercolours again.

  4. If only Ms. Shirodkar can post how she sketches and paints on youtube. The paintings are so vibrant. Like her I grew up in a small temple town in south India, lives in US and returned to India after being away 20 years. She has captured the images just the way I see India now. Vibrant with life. How I wish we can learn from artists like her.

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