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“Painting Has Become My Confessional” An Interview with Self-Taught Artist Sarah from Nagaland

We recently connected with a budding artist from Nagaland, who was just starting her journey into the art world. We were intrigued to gain insight into an artist’s early experiences and thoughts, to explore their creative process in its nascent stages and discover their aspirations for the future of their art.

Meet Sarah, a self-taught artist from Dimapur, Nagaland, whose earnest work caught our attention. Over a chat, we talk about her creative theme and process, the challenges that artists encounter when starting out, and her plan to explore socio-political narratives in her future artwork. She also shares how painting has become her confessional. For Sarah, every stroke on the canvas is a humble attempt to learn, accept and grow from every mistake made.

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Sarah – a self-taught artist from Dimapur, Nagaland

  • R&L: To start off, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background, your hobbies etc.

Sarah: My Ao (Naga) name is Temjen, but online, I often go by Sarah – a nickname lovingly given to me by my Aba. I pursued both my graduate and post-graduate studies in political science. Currently, I am residing in Dimapur and studying for the state PCS exam. I paint as a hobby. Growing up, art has been a constant presence in my life.                               

  • R&L: Your art often features animals and nature. What draws you to these subjects, and how do you use them to convey your message?

Sarah: Like many artists before me, I have found nature to be a great source of inspiration. It offers an endless array of possibilities to experiment with different mediums and techniques. Painting nature is forgiving in that there are often happy accidents that occur. I also believe it is natural for us to want to paint animals because it is in our evolutionary DNA to do so.

“I paint whatever I feel at a particular point in my life. For example, “The Piscean” was painted during a time when I was fascinated with feng shui. When painting landscapes, I rarely use photographs. Instead, I focus on the use of color to create a mood. I don’t pre-mix my colors but rather choose subdued or vibrant ones based on the feeling I want to convey. Color has always been a profound aspect of my art.”

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The Piscean by Sarah from Dimapur

  • R&L: Can you walk us through your creative process and how you develop your ideas into finished pieces?

Sarah: I usually choose an idea from my notes, where I jot down concepts and ideas throughout the week. Then, I work on these ideas gradually alongside my studies.

  • R&L: What role does your personal identity play in your artwork? Are there certain themes or experiences that you often explore through your pieces?

Sarah: I consider my art journey to still be in its embryonic stage. It has helped me contemplate the changes in my life and make sense of the chaos of daily life. Painting has become my confessional, and every creation is a humble attempt to teach myself how to paint, accepting and learning from my mistakes along the way.

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Art by Sarah

  • R&L: As a young artist, what are some of the challenges you face in getting your work seen and recognized?

Sarah: As a novice myself, I have found that staying consistent to hone my craft has been a bit of a hurdle. However, I have noticed that the art scene in Nagaland has picked up good traction with the opening of galleries and the use of social media and pop-up events to showcase local artists.

“I feel most of the issues faced by artists are internalized turmoil, as art sometimes can be a lonely journey and requires a lot of self discovery and introspection.”

Rootsandleisure_self-taught artist-sarah

Self-taught artist Sarah

  • R&L: Many artists struggle with finding their artistic voice. How did you find yours, and what advice would you give to other young artists searching for theirs?

Sarah: With my limited knowledge and experience, I would say, try as many mediums as possible in the beginning. This way, you can get a sense of what each medium requires, such as the rules within the pages. For example, oil painting requires starting from dark to light, while watercolors require starting from light to darker layering.

By experimenting with different mediums, you can develop a solid understanding of your own preferences and choose your niche or even try mixed media. Variety is the spice of life, and authentic creativity can be daunting. I would advise you to keep creating even when you doubt yourself. Hold on to the resonance that comes with creating something truly unique and meaningful to you.

  • R&L: How do you see your art evolving in the future?

Sarah: In the foreseeable future, I plan to focus more on human subjects in my art. Given my background in political science, I am particularly drawn to the kind of art that conveys a socio-political narrative and reinterprets stories and textiles. In terms of technique, I admire Klimt’s use of color and the way Rembrandt uses dramatic shadow forms.

  • R&L: What message or feeling do you hope to convey to viewers through your art, and how do you want people to engage with it?

Sarah: At present, my artwork is purely driven by emotions. It is not intended to convey any specific message or tell a story. Rather, my aim is to create an atmosphere that conveys the emotions I felt while making the artwork.

Art by Sarah

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