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A Chat With Ashwin Chikerur – an Urban Sketcher and a Designer from Pune

Ashwin Chikerur from Pune has always been intrigued by art. As a child, he used to flip through his grandfather’s art books and as a grown-up, his love for his daughter started an exciting journey of quick sketches.

Even though he was out of touch with art for a few years, he found his way back to what he truly loves. Today he is a visual designer and every Saturday,  he heads out with his group, Urban Sketcher Pune, no matter the weather and creates lovely watercolour sketches of his environment. 

Meet Ashwin! Our urban sketcher of the day 🙂

The final creation – a scene in Bali.

  • Hello, Ashwin it’s great to be able to have a chat with you. Please say hello to our readers. 

Hello! My name is Ashwin Chikerur, I am currently residing in Pune. I would consider myself a passionate artist, driven designer, and an engineer (by mistake). I’m always drawn to things in the bracket of art and design and have been working in the creative industry for more than 17 years now.

Fisherman Wharf – San Francisco

Cannery Row – California

  • Tell us when sparked your interest in art.

There were various parts of my childhood which were very art-centric. Going through my grandfather’s landscapes was possibly a start. He died long before I was born but I was fascinated by the stories I heard about him, and I rummaged through all his artworks which were about 30-40 years old. Mom’s rangolis and paper sketches and artworks created by my uncle also held a strong significance for me. Inspiration was plenty in the family, but it also took a lot of practice, books, and motivation from my dad.

His daughter sketching away.

Ashwin sketching his daughter while she sketches

  • Tell us how you began sketching and your journey till today.

I started sketching on a regular basis right after my daughter was born. I used to look at her in absolute wonder and draw one sketch of her almost every day. As she grew up, the sketches became more and more interesting. It progressed from her rolling to walking, to playing, even other silly small things like potty training! It was my way of capturing her moments. I still have hundreds of them, some of them are framed all through my house.  

Live sketching and watercolours, in particular, I have been doing since college (1995) as solace from my busy engineering work. I was inspired by the Milind Mulick & Ian Sidaway books. I recall buying the book by Gaby Campanario (best known for the weekly column ‘Seattle Sketcher’ – founder of the Urban Sketcher) and sketching inside the book. It was just so absorbing and I loved the idea. I also further learnt about the Pune Chapter, lead by Ar. Sanjeev Joshi.  

Unfortunately, I lost touch with it for about 7-10 years, when I started to focus on my career in engineering. Thankfully, I found my way back to my passion 3 years ago and in the last 2 years, I decided to start actively carving out a few hours in the week for some me-time and work on my paintings. I guess a firm resolve is all you need to get things rolling!

Union Square – San Francisco

Colours and more colours

  • How do you pick your subjects?

Some of my favourite subjects are a combination of natural elements (trees, shrubs, various greenery, flowers, branches and more), some architecture and people to add to the drama. In reality, I never decide beforehand what I want to sketch even though it’s a location I have visited before. I let the day, the mood and the ambiance guide me. 

  • Tell us about your sketchers group. How often do you meet and what happens at the meets?

USP – Urban Sketchers Pune is a fabulous proactive group focused on sketching and other related events. This group builds synergy and a sense of belonging for regular people. Each member is usually focused and engrossed in capturing their surroundings in their own varied and unique ways.

Every Sunday morning, I get up at 7 and leave despite a late Saturday night! It’s an obsession/ No competition, no preaching, no tutors, just like-minded people who love what they do.

Beloved Equipment

Pictures by him and his daughter

  • How long does it take you to create an artwork?

I take between 15-45 mins. It should take more time but I am an impatient guy. I always say “spontaneity is a resort of an impatient man”. But I do ponder and observe for a long time before starting. 

Postures and excitement in the scene draws an artist

  • How has your upbringing influenced your perception of the world or specifically art?

We are the summation of our past experiences, teachings and the people we meet and get inspired by. My dad used to get me old imported magazines of products, sports and more – back in the 90’s – from book exhibits. Some of my favourite subjects were the amazing photos of skateboarders, snowboarders and surfers.  

  • Why did you choose watercolours over other tools?

I don’t have a specific reason but I recall it being just perfect for me. Besides always being told about the skills my grandfather had, watercolours feel like life, you have to keep flowing. You have to practice really hard to know the relationship between yourself and your tools. 

Each kind of paper, colour, the breaks you take, the hues you choose, the quantity of water you use, all of it defines your painting and style. While I do use pencils and inks sometimes, my impatience has bound me to use watercolours. Hopefully, in the future, I would be able to explore other mediums and work in mixed media.

Old buildings are beautiful

Oddly designed structures

  • What do you do full-time?

I have my own design studio ‘Studio Vitamin D’ in Pune. Being a visual designer from IDC – IIT Mumbai,  I run this studio with my business partner, Parag N. We work on anything interesting and challenging in the area of Visual Design. We also run an India-centric initiative of narrating Indian stories in a graphical way through products, called KOSH – a culture quest. 

  • Your favourite piece?

None as such but I adore anything amidst nature and/or people, especially if it has vivid colours and engaging movement. A few sketching experiences I do remember strongly are: 

  1. Sketching in 0-degree weather at Lake Tahoe and Lake Geneva, I remember my frozen fingers. 
  2. Sketching in the rain and a massive crowd at Kasba Ganapati 
  3. Lastly, sketching at 42 degrees in Jadhavgadh

My favourite colours are Gamboge, Leaf Green, Ocean Teal Blue and Ultramarine. 

Art is for me while design is for others. Art is evocative while design is usable. Art is subjective while design is objective. But I believe, art and design create a fabulous overlap and with mutual respect, it could grow beautifully together. I also believe that you should do what you love, do it consistently and long enough and your persistence will get you to where you want to go.

Rekhatan – a sketching event organized at Kolhapur by a group of architects.

To keep up with Ashwin’s inspiring creations follow him on Instagram!

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