By: Staff Writer, 8 Jan, 2019
Meet Sanskar Sawant – and Paint by the Sea with him!
Chances are, you’ll probably find Sanskar engrossed in the creation of a larger-than-life artwork – whether he’s making a workspace more fun and exciting or finding ways to represent a place on his canvas of choice! From January 14 to 16, Sanskar’s going to be collaborating with fellow travellers and creating an installation in the fishing town of Adgaon on the Mumbai-Goa highway (more on that here!)
We spoke to him about his travels, art and graphic design, and how he’s combining his love for both of them through his Pastels of India initiative! His inputs have been edited for clarity.
White Collar Hippie: Who is Sanskar Sawant, according to you?
Sanskar Sawant: I’m a Mumbai-based creator, designer and installation artist. I’ve got my own space design studio – Bacon and Eggs – where I work with designing and creating art in spaces like cafes, offices, etc. I love creating experiences through public art and installations, and for some time now I’ve been travelling and making installations inspired by the vibe of wherever it is I am, to give something back to the region.
WCH: Do you have any favourite travel memories, or something that made you want to create art as you travel?
SS: I can’t spill a lot of the story here (maybe I’ll share it around a bonfire in Adgaon!) – but one of my craziest trips was when I was biking across Bhutan with some friends. We’d had a great time for the first part of the trip, but we’d reached a point where the highway was in shambles (no one had told us that it was being repaired for 4 years), and both our bikes and our bodies were giving way! What resulted was quite the adventure – let’s just say that on those last few days in Bhutan, we were welcomed by Indian officers (imagine hearing “Aap Mumbai se ho, kya?” in Hindi as you emerge through the fog in a foreign country) who showed us great hospitality and warmth, we ended up being probably the first people to bike through a new tunnel, and we were also kicked out of Bhutan and back into somewhere in Assam! It was really something else, and made me realise how much I love the companionship and comfort you somehow always seem to find with fellow Indians.
Other than that, there was one to Satara in Maharashtra that sort of stands out. I was working with the underprivileged kids at Sumati Balvan School. I developed a great rapport and really connected with those children; almost like a visiting faculty or a mentor! We spoke a lot about their space – the school is surrounded by four mountains, which is amazing to me – and about what their version of Maharashtra is. It always came back to the space they call home.
I remember when I was in school, we had an event where the students painted all the walls. I can still see the small train that I had made on those walls. It was something that stuck with me, and gives me a sense of connection and belonging.
So I asked them to sketch what they see around them, and got a mix of elements, from jowari seeds to local fruits, handpumps, windmills, and even some Marathi text. I collected forms from their drawings, and put it together on the wall of their school – which they then helped me paint.
The whole experience made me feel like art can make a difference. I love that I got to interact with these people, who almost need or can be inspired by having art in their lives, and that perhaps I introduced them to something that will become a passion as they grow up.
WCH: How often do you end up on the road?
SS: I’m always on the road! Or at least as often as I can be with work commitments!
I used to ride motorcycles, and do at least one cross-country trip with my bike every year. Everything from Ladakh, to Mumbai to Bhutan and back, Mumbai to Spiti and back…
I hurt myself recently, and ended up backpacking instead. That’s introduced me to travelling with many people, and I realised that I love it! Bike trips are very solitary, even if you have company. But when we’re backpacking or travelling together, we can all think together, and contribute ideas of what inspires us, what sort of art we want to create, and how we want to do it!
Nowadays, I think I’m out about 15 days a month. I like to be out of the city because I strongly feel like design can’t be created in a small space. This is also one of the reasons I started Pastels of India!
WCH: What (else) made you start Pastels of India?
SS: I used to work with an ad studio and go on vacation whenever I could without spending too much money. I met a lot of foreign travellers – I was often the only Indian traveller there – and as we got talking, they all shared a common thought: that India hasn’t progressed in a design sense. Despite the vibrancy and colour in our culture, they felt like we were following the West rather than creating our own aesthetic. While I argued with them, I came to realise that it was true: there’s very little authenticity anymore in Indian graphic design! It made me want to do my bit to change that – to create art that draws inspiration from the space it occupies and give back to that space as well!
WCH: What made you want to take other travellers along on your journeys?
SS: So I was in Rajasthan, and fell short of money. Following an example set by a German guy I befriended there, I spoke to the manager of a café, and offered to paint a mural in exchange for free stay. While I planned to be there for seven days, I ended up staying for 14!
They loved the mural, and I loved that I curated an experience for them. After this, I did the same in Himachal Pradesh, partnered with a few NGOs in Maharashtra to work with underprivileged kids… The canvases changed, but the idea remained the same – to travel, gain something from that destination, but also find a way to give back to that place and its people. And it’s something I want to share with others.
In Adgaon, we’ll be painting the boats using the forms of the town, using the vibe of the place, the colours of the saris the women wear… and creating an installation with them and placing it right there!
WCH: What’s the most memorable artwork you’ve created – and why?
SS: I feel like the one in Adgaon is gonna be the best! It’s a totally new type of canvas we’ll be working with, and I’m excited!
Join Sanskar for a long weekend of art, creative expression (and, of course, some chilling on the beach!) in Adgaon, Maharashtra, from January 14 – 16, 2019! Find out more about the trip here!