Tell us about yourself?
Hello! My name is Pavneet Sembhi and I live in London. I actually studied Law at Kings and although I did enjoy it, it was never really my calling. If you had asked me as a child what I wanted to be, I would have said an Artist – and I guess I feel so extremely lucky to now be able to pursue my passion.
I really was one of those kids who was obsessed with Art Attack and Smart. Every Christmas and birthday present I received was an art set and all my time was spent drawing, painting and making things. Even at a young age I would make creative gifts for my parents; my mum still has a photo frame I made out of cardboard and covered with foil!
Describe your style of art?
I would say my artwork is very abstract, a lot of patterns and geometric concepts. I am continually pushing the boundaries of detail and I really enjoy creating symmetrical pieces. Interestingly, so much in nature is actually very mathematically specific and studying geometry in nature you will be astounded by how much concepts such as Fibonacci crop up. I try to use this knowledge to make my art precise but then I always make sure to give it a soul. I always want to blur the boundaries as well – so I will try to bring elements from all disciplines and concepts into my art. This could be religion, music, architecture, culture, spirituality, emotions or values.
Usually I will take a distinguishable shape, such as a heart or the outline of an insect, and then fill this will patterns that I find compliment the shape itself. For me it is all about creating a piece that I can get lost in and hopefully others can too. What I find incredible is how different shapes, lines, dots, levels of dark and light etc. can completely give a piece a whole different feeling – it is this process of experimentation that I incorporate into my drawings.
How did you first get into your art?
As I mentioned before I have always loved Art. I studied Art GCSE but did not take it further. I still painted a lot and often gave my canvases as gifts to my friends and family. I found it tricky to make time to paint and I really wanted something I could do on the go. So I got a little sketchbook and started drawing on my journeys. I had always doodled in school and sort of forgot about the freedom you have with a simple pen. And then I just kept trying to take my illustrations to a new level.
At what point did you realise you may excel in this?
I am lucky to have incredibly supportive friends who encouraged me to post my work on social media. There is nothing quite as scary as sharing your artwork, it is like your baby! I could not have imagined getting such a great response and I guess the more people enjoyed what I did, the more confidence I had to pursue it. Without all those kind words I may not be where I am now. I know that it is important to believe in yourself but I have to be honest, it did take me a while to get there. My advice would always be keep going if you love doing something and the doubt will slowly dwindle away as you get more experience.
Considering the stereotype of some Asian parents, what do your family think about what you do?
Well to a certain extent the reason I chose to study Law was because of my family. I think being Asian there is sometimes an expectation to go down a conventional and secure route, but usually this stems from our parents not wanting to see us struggle. I can still remember so clearly the day that I feel really sparked this all off. I said to my mum one day, I really just have this desire to paint on a wall and her response was “well there is a wall in the garage go and paint!” – So she walked on the treadmill while I spent hours painting a very strange tree on the wall! My parents are always fascinated with my artwork and have always encouraged it as a hobby from a young age. My brothers are the best people to get honest opinions from, even if sometimes I do not want to hear it!
How does inspiration find you for your art?
I really do find inspiration everywhere! As my work comprises of patterns and detail, I can be inspired by the patterns found in structures, wildlife, wallpaper, even maths and science. Once I went to the Natural History Museum to get inspiration from the exhibitions there and ended up being more inspired by the coves and arches instead! There is no place I go without a sketchbook or notebook. Not just because you can be inspired anywhere but because if I find myself waiting for someone, then that is a perfect drawing moment.
Have you gone through a period when inspiration has been hard to come by, and if so, how did you get over it?
I keep a notebook full of ideas so if I am ever feeling uninspired I will usually find something in there. I find the best way to get over those moments is to just create something anyway, even if it is not that great. Somewhere in the process something will come to you and you will find yourself somewhere exciting. Very often my pieces include a pattern or concept I stumbled upon in my last piece, for me it is all about experimenting and trying different things.
Take us through your creative process.
First I do some research. The internet is a great place to find all kinds of images and inspiration. For example, I created a Venetian Mask piece and I researched a lot of variations of masks and types of lace so I could observe the types of patterns that would create the desired look and feel of this piece. Books are of course always great, I have an ever increasing collection of books on geometry, patterns, symmetry and stencilling that all give me ideas.
I do not really create in one place necessarily. If I am working on an A4 or smaller piece I will carry it in my bag and work on it in coffee shops, train stations and wherever I can. With my larger A3 pieces the dining room table is the best place for me to have enough room for all my millions of pens and books as well as the A3 piece itself!
Smaller pieces may take 10-15 hours but the A3 ones take much longer. I couldn’t really say how long but as the whole piece is usually symmetrical it takes a lot of time and patience to get it the same on both sides.
Who are your artistic inspirations?
Amandeep Singh (Inkquisitive) has been a great inspiration. 2 years ago now I entered the Inkquistive competition after stumbling across his work and after that I remember feeling so happy that someone out there was pursuing their artistic passion and it really did give me a lot of confidence to do the same. Although his style is completely different, I just think it is incredible how each of his pieces is not only beautiful but also so well thought out with a clear message.
Generally I feel like I connect most to artists who have put a lot of thought into their pieces. Wrdsmth is a writer who produces such clever street art; every time I see a piece it makes me think and ponder on it for a few moments. Whether it is visual or words, for me art just needs to connect with you.
Johanna Basford is an illustrator who creates the most stunning and magical colouring books full of intricate floral patterns. I just love the level of detail in her work and the way she has lots of little hidden treasures in her pieces that are almost like a reward for observing the artwork carefully.
Lorraine Loots is another artist who creates incredibly detailed pieces of art. She has a miniature series called Paintings for Ants that leave you completely astounded that a human being can create such perfect tiny paintings!
I love that wow feeling I get when I see something interesting and intriguing; I hope I can create this same feeling for others. I think I could keep giving you names all day; there are just so many talented people out there that inspire me to keep experimenting.
How do you find showcasing your creation?
I am always nervous showcasing my creations because at the end of the day you put everything you’ve got into each piece of artwork and it makes you feel very vulnerable when it is on display. My family and friends usually get constant photos throughout the process and I can always rely on my 14 year old brother to give it to me straight!
Tell us about a particularly popular creation and why you feel it was so appreciated.
Recently I created Victor, an A3 eagle illustration that I think people really liked. I had this vision in mind to have each of the feathers along the bottom row of its wings to be completely unique. I had no idea how it would turn out but luckily it ended up looking exactly how I envisioned. I think what people appreciated was the time and maybe the amount of creativity that had to go into it.
What would you consider your biggest achievement as an artist thus far?
I think the fact that I am even an artist in the first place is an achievement for me! It was always my childhood dream to be an artist and I am just happy that I am going along a path now that will allow me to hopefully keep pursuing my passion. It is an honour to connect with so many people and to be considered an “inspiration” to others is something I could never have imagined!
How do you look to improve as an artist?
For me personally it involves fine tuning my skills, learning new techniques and continuing to push the boundaries. I do not really consider myself to have a style because I tend to try new concepts and styles in each piece, so I think for me improving is continuing to explore new concepts. Progress is so important, it keeps your mind stimulated and that is really what I aim for.
Do you have anyone you would particular love to work with?
As you can see above there are so many people I love and I would be overjoyed to work with any of them! There is an artist called Ben Kwok in LA who creates the most stunning animal illustrations – I feel like he has really mastered the art of shadow and light, would be incredible to learn from him.
Before drawing my paintings were always so colourful and extravagant, would love to work with artists like Inquisitive or Reza Luqman who have such an extraordinary understanding of colour so that maybe I would feel brave enough to incorporate colours into my illustrations.
What do you do to relax?
Well I guess art has always my way to unwind and relax, especially painting. I am completely fascinated with psychology and the mind so I am usually reading a book about that, at the moment it Is “The Chimp Paradox”, a book that gives you a greater understanding of how our brains have developed and why we feel/act the way we do. I love watching period dramas like Mr Selfridge, Dowton Abbey and my all-time favourite Larkrise to Candleford, you can always rely on them for a good dose of escapism.
Tell us about the relationship between your Sikh/Punjabi background and your art?
If I was honest I do not think my background has influenced my artwork anymore than anything else around me. As an artist you are a combination of all the experiences you have had in life, all the people you have met and all the places you have been. I am truly inspired by everything around me; it could be ancient Islamic patterns, stories of the Myans or stain glassed windows in a church. We have a wonderful culture of community and giving back so I really hope that my art brings people together in that way.
In an ideal world, where would you like your art to take you in life?
I would love my art to take me to interesting and quirky places! I love seeing beautiful street art; there is something magical about how street art can sometimes be placed in the most unlikely spaces. I would love to have my art in little spots all around cities and towns, where people stumble across it and for a few moments they connect with the piece in their own way. I love the idea of art making journeys that little bit more special so if I could bring that feeling to other people it would be so rewarding.
What is your favourite animal and why?
I have always wanted a snake! I like things that are misunderstood and I have always felt like snakes are beautiful and mysterious. They are so often associated with evil and are so symbolic in many ways that I find them fascinating – they are actually incorporated in a few pieces of my art.
If you could showcase your work anywhere in the world, where would you do it and why?
I have this dream to one day have my artwork on the walls of the London Underground somewhere. Tottenham Court Road has these wonderfully colourful tiles and they always make me feel a little happier. I would love my work to do the same on other peoples journeys.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
I would love to live on a remote island where there is beautiful fresh food and endless inspiration. For me I think it would all come down to food because I really am such a foodie! Is it just me who plans their whole life around food?!
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