Stumbling on the surreal technicolour world within Shweta Sharma’s illustrations – with dancing Teletubbies emitting steam from their ears and colourful mudras turning into goggly-eyed creatures – it comes as no surprise that much of her work is inspired by her dreams. Shweta has a particularly active imagination which runs wild every night in her sleep. Sometimes she wakes up in the middle of the night and has to immediately whip out her sketchbook to record an idea before it fades.
When the morning comes and she’s digested her dreams from the night before, she can then start interpreting these recordings into fully-formed pieces. While the characters are wild, wonderful and dream-like, Shweta is fond of a clear geometric structure to arrange her illustrations. The grids and structures which appear in her work are all adapted from the symmetry of the art back in her hometown of Jaipur. Born and raised in Rajasthan, the “land of colours” as the illustrator calls it, she now makes her home in Mumbai. But her colourful upbringing has clearly influenced her path into illustration. With a mother who was always painting, a grandmother who was not averse to “hurdling” queues outsides temples to show Shweta the “sculptures with the most vibrant details”, plus a crafty grandfather who would make machines come to life before Shweta’s young eyes, her childhood was brimming with creativity.
So, Shweta began creating things in her free time from a very young age. She’s always been someone who is comfortable with being alone, “which kinda made the room for art bigger in my head”, she tells us. Working hard at after school craft classes (“Thank god for all the glitter”), Shweta had her first painting featured in the school newspaper – “It was a big deal for a seven-year-old.” While her cousins did their homework, Shweta could usually be found happily sketching cellular biology diagrams. Since then, Shweta’s continued to experiment, trying to find the perfect recipe for combining the “two primal ingredients – emotion and art”.
Despite being an avid fan of biological drawings as a kid, Shweta has never felt she was very good at drawing realistic anatomy. Instead she prefers to bring to life the surreal, fluid and humorous characters which appear in her dreams. She always starts these illustrations by drawing before digitising them. “I’d hate the idea of losing touch with the authenticity of hand skills,” she explains, “and it’s personally a more satisfying process for me.”