On finding your own unique canvas in life

On finding your own unique canvas in life

Reena Ranger, Chair of Women Empowered, is In Conversation with Gitanjali Sood for her regular series for ‘iGlobal’ to explore some inspirational facets from the life and achievements of prominent Global Indians.

London-based Gitanjali quit her full-time job as an art teacher in summer 2020 to set up Gitartsy to work as a full-time artist from her home studio, specialising in custom painting sneakers, fashion clothing and accessories, as well as art canvases, murals and a wide range of items. She uses Angelus paint, a high-quality medium specially designed for leather, fabrics and plastics. Each item is created with a lot of thought and detailed hand painted work, taking several hours.

Q

Has art always been your passion?

A

I started painting from the age of 10 and never looked back. Art was always my favourite subject in school; I remember being so excited on the days Art would be in my timetable (which was probably only twice a week). Receiving homework from my art teacher felt like a huge treat, and the hour long lesson in the art room would feel like sitting in heaven.

As much as I loved learning new skills and methods in art, I found drawing and painting to be the best form of expressing myself, especially when I was not great with words and a rather shy student in general. My passion for art continued throughout high school, A-levels, University (where I studied Fine Art), all the way to my PGCE (Art teacher degree). Even whilst working as a full time art teacher for 4 years, I would always try and find time to create my own art!

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Q

How did you think of using sneakers/trainers as your canvas?

A

Initially creating art on paper, canvas and 2D surfaces, I then started exploring leather goods, shoes, bags, walls, cars and various clothing items. This "custom artwork" was a hobby to begin with where i used to paint designs on my own shoes and clothing but then things started to become more serious when lockdown happened while i was in Qatar. Lockdown meant lots of free time at home as teaching hours were cut short. This is where i really started using my time to create unique art on various different items.

It was a real surprise though when I returned to the UK last year in July and realised the demand for hand painted custom shoes and accessories. It started off with a friend’s request to paint his business logo onto his Nike Air Forces, which then went viral on a local instagram page, and from then onwards, shoes were what people were most interested in getting customized. I never thought I would start getting so many orders so quickly and in no time, I was doing what I truly love as a full time job. Since then, orders have been non-stop and always keep me busy.

I was aware that the custom sneaker business is recently growing with lots of different artists showing interest, as well as some who have been in the field for years. One such artist who I found was a huge inspiration and whose YouTube tutorials helped me a lot when I was starting off is Dillon DeJesus. Based in the US, this artist has been customising sneakers for over 10 years and it’s been very interesting learning about how he started and where he is today, doing what he loves every single day.

I am truly grateful that people trust me to paint their expensive and precious items, showing such confidence in me as an artist which is always so encouraging. Recently I have also been gaining recognition amongst celebrities such as wrestlers Jey Uso and Kurt Angle and a few actors, singers and sportsmen from around the world who have requested orders and have shared my work on their social media.

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Q

What has been your most unusual project or commission?

A

I receive so many different design requests: from painting peoples’ favourite celebrities, sports teams, personal logos, pets to painting a pair for a bride to wear on her wedding day. I love the diverse themes I get to work on as they really bring out the creativity within me and excite me to create a new outcome with every project.

I wouldn’t say ‘unusual’ but the most unique item I painted was my mum’s car, which she trusted me with, being my first time working on a car. It was an incredible experience as I was working with car paint for the first time, which is so different to any other types of paints I’ve used before. Being able to sit in the sun last summer and create a portrait of wonder-woman on the side of her car was just an experience I will never forget. I would honestly love to paint more cars!

Another item which I thought was a very unique item to paint on was a champagne bottle, requested by a client. He wanted me to paint his friend’s portrait onto an expensive champagne bottle which was going to be a gift for that friend. It was just the uniqueness of the idea that excited me to work on the project. I really get to learn that the possibilities with custom art are endless and way out of even what I can imagine!

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Q

If you could go back and give your teenage self one bit of advice, what would it be?

A

So many of us get ‘talked out of things’. I had talked myself out of becoming an artist when I was younger because I was told that being able to paint was never financially viable. Further, I told myself I was not good enough or that I had the confidence that is needed to make a place for myself in the competitive art industry. The one bit of advice I would give my younger self would be to just excel in that one thing you love, believe in yourself and don’t start doubting yourself or be put down by others’ words or “advice”. Become a master in that one field, give it your all and you will never fail.

I feel really fortune that I have been able to turn my hobby into a full time career. I wake up every morning with excitement for the day ahead as i truly don't even feel like I am "working" when i paint. Furthermore, my followers and clients always tell me that they feel inspired looking at my work and i have been fortunate to receive such kind feedback and reviews for orders i have done.

Find something you love to do, and you'll never work a day in your life!

Reena Ranger is the Chair and Co-Founder of Women Empowered. In this exclusive “In Conversation” series for iGlobal, the dynamic entrepreneur-philanthropist catches up with high-achieving Global Indians across different fields to spotlight some insightful life lessons.

*The views expressed in the answers are of the interviewees.

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