Burke Residency 26: Natasha Patel•
Posted on May 04 2023
NATASHA: I don’t think there are many challenges with being self taught nowadays, especially with how technology has progressed. I’ve learned purely from Youtube, blogs, and online resources over the past 4 years. I’m grateful there are online artists who are gracious enough to share their knowledge over the internet!
My mother is a traditional oil painter who specializes in highly detailed still lifes of nature and animals. My mediums of choice are fluid abstracts of acrylics, inks, resin and texture, so there isn’t much overlap between our worlds unfortunately. She doesn’t quite see the allure of abstract art, and I can say the same thing about her traditional representational art. Her work is very beautiful, but we both have very different tastes.
However, anytime I need help in creating a custom color, she is my color theory master and always knows which colors to mix to get the perfect shade or tint I am going for. I am very lucky to be able to pick her brain in that regard!
E: You state that “art is an exchange of energy” and I love that. If you could put the energy of your work into words, how would you describe it? Do you have energetic intentions that you set when you work on a piece?
N: My work borders between meditative and energetic, so it's about finding that fine balance of using my Art as my meditation practice, and transforming that therapeutic energy into something that is bold, vibrant, and fun to experience.
The intention behind my practice is to release any inhibitions and completely surrender to the process. Someone recently called my work natural and wild and I think that sums it up perfectly.
E: Congratulations on quitting corporate! What gave you the last push you needed to make that change? Do you have advice for other artists looking to make this leap and quit their job to make art full time?
N: I was dealing with a toxic, male dominated corporate startup that drained me emotionally and mentally. Towards the end of my corporate career I developed gastrointestinal issues due to stress, and was losing a significant amount of hair as well.
As a leader in a startup environment, you deal with a lot of morality and ethics issues within the executive circles the higher you climb. I’m sure a lot of others can relate to this, but once a company starts prioritizing their profits over their people, and starts treating their employees as numbers, that's where a disconnect happens for a lot of people.
It was clear I was no longer aligned with the idea of the corporate “hustle,”, so I decided to part ways. Art was the only thing keeping me sane during this time, so I took the leap of faith and went all in on the Artrepreneur life.
I’m lucky because I am living with my parents as a 33 year old, and probably will continue to do so for a while. Financially it’s been a smart decision, and with working in corporate for almost a decade, I was able to build up savings that would cover my operating costs for 2 years while I built out my Art business. I’ve been full time for almost a year and a half and I’m finally starting to gain the momentum I’ve been dreaming of.
It all starts with a plan and actionable tiny goals you can achieve. Having a daily planner and checking in at the end of every day, week and month, and realigning yourself with your vision is key to checking off your goals and attaining the life of your dreams. It sounds so simple and it really is, because consistency and discipline is what keeps you aligned with your vision and path. It’s amazing what a few minutes in the morning and evening can do to transform your life.
The most important thing I have experienced as an Artist is the magic in creating your own opportunities. As artists, we are introverts by nature, so most artists fail because they have poor business mindsets. Instead of approaching an opportunity with fear or insecurity, reframe the thinking and approach it with curiosity. Explore those feelings and jump head first into the opportunity. The more it scares you, the more you should pursue it. Because that's where true growth happens! Do what scares you the most.
E: I love that you are committed to supportive community and female empowerment - what does that look like for you? How might artists looking for community find it?
N: I have a mentor and coach who also leads masterminds with other like minded empowered women, and we meet up every Monday to encourage, support, and help each other troubleshoot business issues and personal matters in real time. It's a safe vulnerable space and they have been key in helping me get this far. Without them I would still be suffering in corporate.
I also recently signed a gallery space in Costa Mesa, with 20 other artists where we hold community art events and workshops. I’m able to learn new art techniques from them, and we bounce feedback off of each other in real time which is essential for continuing to hone our craft.
My advice for new artists would be to look online for groups and meetups in your community and attend a couple of events here and there until you find one that sticks. I am going to praise technology here again because everything quite literally starts with a google search!
E: I can see the Jackson Pollack and Georgia O’Keefe influence in your work. Who are other artists that inspire you and your work? Do you find inspiration from artists outside of painting - musicians, dancers, artists using other mediums?
N: I’ve been leaning into more culturally inspiring trailblazers lately. Michelle Yeoh is an inspiration because she is the epitome of “you can achieve anything at any age,” her Oscar win is a huge sign of this. Something she said that was inspiring to me, was to treat every opportunity like it's the last one, because you never know when the next one is going to come along. I have taken this to heart, especially as an Artist.
Also, success in the Art world is dominated by white males (surprise!) - my new perspective is to redefine “success” on my terms, and to build my own table and make my own chair, instead of fighting for a seat at one that is systematically built to oppress women of color. It’s like trying to mix oil with water, it’s never going to happen, so make your own dressing.
E: Can you share more about the colors you often use?
N: The colors I use are typically in the purple, green, and blue range with gold details.
These colors have always been prevalent in my life. Growing up in an Indian household meant I was exposed to lots of colors through Indian fashion. One of my favorite saris my mother used to wear was royal purple, blue, and green, with gold threading. The overall look was of regality and wealth.
That color combination stuck with me since that day, and has made recurring appearances in different aspects of my life. Purple is also the color of amethyst, which is my birthstone. Green is indicative of nature and is meditative for me, which is where I get inspiration for my newer works. Blue is calming and represents the oceans of Southern California where I grew up.
Gold represents my Indian heritage, where women reign in having massive collections of gold jewelry, my mother and Masis’ included. Historically, gold jewelry was the only property Indian women could own, and to me symbolizes feminism in embracing wealth and power in times when women had little to no rights.
Purple, blue, and green are also the favorite colors of some of my best female friends, who have been pillars of strength during my life journey. Together, the combination of purple, green, blue and gold represent heritage, community, feminism, and wealth, and are colors that show up the most in my work.
E: You’ve mentioned that you are influenced by patterns and structures in nature and the universe. It feels like since the James Webb telescope images were published there’s been a heightened awareness of the universe and our place in it. Did any of those images inspire you when you saw them? Do you have favorite aspects of nature that you turn to for inspiration?
N: Yes! I am still in awe of the initial images from James Webb. The blues and browns of the Carina Nebula images are forever seared into my mind. I am hoping to work on an entire painting series based on these images fairly soon :)
I love organic patterns found in nature. Anything from cracked texture in clay, to lines, branches, and repeating coral reefs are inspirational. Taking it one step further, organic cell shapes almost always make an appearance in my art. My fine art pattern print series, which is a fairly new concept, incorporates blobs of cells and wiggly coral branches into repeatable and hypnotic funky patterns.
The Residency Collection from Natasha Patel will be on view and available for purchase in store at Burke from May - July 2023.
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