"Sometimes art fills a void, where words do no justice"
With 800 million active users each month, Instagram has become a heavyweight in the world of social networking. No one knows this better than Randeep Singh Sohal.
The London artist, known online as Artful Skecha, made his first appearance online in 2011/2012. He credits social media for spreading his work around the world.
His artwork mainly explores the richness of Punjabi culture and he has even produced pieces on famous Indian celebrities like Deepika Padukone.
Gaining a foothold with his unique talent in both the online and offline world, Sohal has also had the opportunity to present his artwork to the likes of Punjabi legend Gurdas Maan and cricketer Virat Kohli.
DESIblitz chats to Randeep, the man and personality behind Artful Skecha, to find out more about his artistic passions.
Behind the name “Artful Skecha”
The Artful Skecha uses his work as a medium to express himself without limits and to connect with people worldwide. He sees vision as one of the purest forms of uniting different communities. This crucially motivates his work.
However, this freedom of expression also applies to his style of art. He sees his “unique, playful techniques” typifying his personality and online moniker as an Instagram artist:
“The adjective ‘artful’ possesses several connotations – skilful, creative, crafty – all of which epitomise me as a person, and consequently feed into my artwork,” he tells DESIblitz.
“Here it’s easy to understand why Artful Skecha is also a subtle nod to the Dickens character, Artful Dodger. Then ‘Skecha’, from the word sketcher, is an ‘instinctive completion to the name’.”
The Beginnings of Artful Skecha
Like his Victorian counterpart, Artful Skecha discovered his occupation at a young age. Sohal had plenty of encouragement to pursue any opportunities that arose. But he tells us:
“I don’t believe that one merely starts art – art is within you and somewhere along the lines you uncover that art, whatever that may be. Despite the cliché, I happened to uncover a passion for art at an early age and it’s something that has served me well as a form of expression ever since.”
This passion appears to inform the Artful Skecha’s incredible variety of themes, mediums and styles.
Sohal depicts everything from celebrity portraits, the intricate detail of architecture and the natural world of animals.
Whether it’s commercial or cultural, paint or pen, the Artful Skecha’s subjects and mediums vary in response to his emotions.
Artful Skecha’s Instinctive Approach
As he says, emotions are fluid and so is his art. However, Sohal does admit:
“It’s probably a hindrance to my overall portfolio of work, that I do not have a particular set-in-stone style or manner in which I create pieces. But I quite like to see this as a good thing, as I love to experiment with different styles, subjects, mediums etc.
“A lot of my art is based on feeling – sometimes I may have dreamt about a piece, or I have a certain feeling about something. This then feeds into brainstorming ideas, which ultimately leads to the creation of a piece.
“I am a big believer of going with instinct – it’s better to do and find out what comes of, rather than look back and wonder what could have been,” he adds.
When he began the Artful Skecha, it was initially to showcase his work via social media. He explains:
“I didn’t really give much thought to the “pressures” of coming from a Punjabi background, as my heritage has a long, rich history in the arts, be it visual arts, music or poetry – thus one could argue that it is within our nature.”
Influence of Punjabi Culture
Prior to the creation of Artful Skecha, Sohal’s roots trace back to Phagwara, Punjab. His Indian roots organically influence his work as he sees it as a reflection of himself as a person:
“My upbringing consisted of a lot of teaching about my roots. I believe that knowing your history and where you came from is important to know what you are doing and where you are going in life.
“It becomes the backbone to one’s identity. Thus, my roots naturally influence my artwork, whether it’s the subjects I work on, or the titles I give to pieces.”
Nevertheless, the first Punjabi lifestyle related piece by Artful Skecha was quite spontaneous. Yet the positive reaction to his piece, ‘Madhani’ (above), instigated a more conscious effort in continuing this series:
“Sikh related art has been tapped into by many fellow artists over the years, and while this is as important to me and hopefully something I engage in in time to come, I felt that exploring the Punjabi lifestyle in a more visual context would be something unique to be immersed in.”
When reflecting on Punjabi culture, Sohal tells us that “rich” is the first word that comes to mind, but laments:
“It’s quite sad to think of what Punjab used to be once upon a time under the times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, to what it is now. I guess having a visual platform at my disposal as an artist, allows me to express this richness, sadness and celebration.”
Portrayal of Punjabi Women
Nevertheless, Sohal remains true to his uplifting artwork with its positive depiction of Punjabi women. Sohal explains his effort to recognise and value this vital demographic, saying:
“This body of work (“All things Punjab”) aimed to examine the theme of Intangible Heritage and depict a nostalgic way of life in Punjab, particularly focusing on the varying roles of women in a Punjabi cultural context.
“The roles of women both economically and socially across textiles, agriculture, cuisine has been integral to the prosperity of Punjabi culture and this artwork is a testament to these pillars of society.
“The series brings together an artful style of drawing with a particular palette of colours that intends to transcend the viewer to a time of pure divine and sovereign.”
Sohal says: “Along with a lot of my work, this series aspires to inspire – to bridge a gap with a contemporary context, educate the viewer on such elements of the culture and encourage discussion on societal issues relating to Punjab.”
Exploring Modern Issues
Indeed, the Artful Skecha exemplifies how popular online artists have the ability to respond sensitively to current events. Sohal has previously brought people together using Instagram and Facebook.
But his moving tribute to the victims of the Manchester attack has equally thought-provoking intentions behind the work:
“My artwork in response to the Manchester attack acts as a tribute to pay respect to those affected by the incident, and to show appreciation for the humanity that rises in defiance during such events.
“I believe it is a duty to try and unite people in difficult times like this. Sometimes art fills a void, where words do no justice, so if my art can bring some comfort and peace amongst the chaos, it gives me a sense of contentment.”
In fact, it’s fascinating to hear Sohal’s perspective of sharing art on social media:
“I am massively indebted to social media for elevating my art and allowing for it to be seen worldwide within minutes.
“If used in the right way, social media is a powerful platform to promote yourself and has been an integral part of my journey thus far.”
“Because of social media, I am able to network with somebody from South Korea, who wants my artwork as a tattoo on their arm. I am able to conduct a commission for somebody from Saudi Arabia. I am able to inspire somebody to pick up a pencil and draw in India.
“Having said all this, in the ever-evolving digitalised world we live in, the thing I really appreciate about art is its rawness. You cannot beat a pencil and a piece of paper. To be able to hone your craft without any computer, tablet, or digital gadget, is very rewarding and somewhat harmonising.”
Inspiring Future Generations
For British Asians looking to pursue their creative passions in an industry with little British Asian representation, Sohal advises:
“Just keep going! It’s unfortunate that there isn’t as much mainstream exposure on British Asian creatives, however don’t let this be a deterrent to your passion.
“One of my motto’s with art is – if you don’t put your work out there to connect with the world, how can you expect the world to connect back with you?
“Fear of failing is the biggest killer of dreams, so take a leap of faith – stay driven and persevere – soon enough you’ll see doors opening for you that you never even knew existed.”
However, it’s clear that many young British Asian creatives will be inspired by seeing the success of Artful Skecha.
In fact, when looking to the future, Artful Skecha tells us that he aims to, “continue being Artful!”
DESIblitz can’t wait to see the results of this. We are certain that his incredible talent will take the Artful Skecha’s artwork even further around the world to the diverse people that it celebrates.