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Smashing Stigma Through Art: An Interview With Sarah Modak

Sarah Modak  has been drawing and painting for as long as she can remember. An undergraduate student pursuing a degree in Visual Arts, she runs an Instagram handle (@sarah.drawws) featuring her art. Along with studying at SNDT Women’s University, she co-owns a fashion clothing line


She says her forte is watercolour paintings, but Sarah is also adept at a variety of art techniques. Her work includes figure sketches in ink, acrylic painting, and Kangra miniatures. Fond of branching out into different formats, she is building her skills in digital art. She’s also been featured on Berlin Artparasites.


“Friends can break your heart too.” As featured on Berlin Artparasites. (c) Sarah Modak


“I get inspired by women, cultures, my travels, all kinds of artists, and music. I only draw or paint things I feel a connection with, or feel strongly towards,” she says.


Kangra Miniature: Replication of the traditional Kangra miniature style with a modern subject. (c) Sarah Modak


TLC caught up with Sarah to learn a little bit more about the inner workings of this Instartist’s mind.



When did you begin making art and what major themes do you like to focus on with your work? 


I seriously started making artwork when I was around 15. I don’t really restrict myself with themes as such, but I enjoy drawing people, mostly women, because it feels more personal.

I’ve realised that I either create something just because I enjoy the process (for example, my painting of Deepika Padukone from Bajirao Mastani) or because I feel strongly about the person or concept, such as the series of women in STEM fields, that I’m currently working on. A lot of the stuff I make revolves around feminism.


Ashish Women: a painting from Sarah’s modern brown miniature series, based on designer Ashish Gupta’s Spring/Summer 2017 collection . (c) Sarah Modak


What prompted you to begin sharing your work on Instagram? 


I didn’t really join Instagram with the intention of sharing artwork. It just happened because I was making a lot of stuff and I didn’t really know what to do with it, so I ended up posting it on Instagram. Then, people started responding to it, which was great because it actually motivated me — a serial procrastinator — to get more work done.


Degas: Degas: A watercolour painting inspired by the paintings of ballet class by Edgar Degas (c) Sarah Modak


How do you decide which posts do go up on your Instagram?


All my practice work, most of my assignments for college, I never post. If I make a piece of artwork and I’m not happy with the end result, then that doesn’t go up either.


Watercolour portrait : a portrait of Dangal actress Fatima Sana Shaikh. (c) Sarah Modak


Who are your artistic influencers and to what degree do they inform your work?


I grew up reading about artists like Van Gogh, Degas, Monet, Dali, Da Vinci, Michelangelo and others. Their lives have definitely inspired me, but I wouldn’t say that their work has influenced mine. Apart from that, I don’t think I keep up enough with contemporary artists for any of them to really influence my work.


Which Instagram artist handles do you follow? 


I do follow a lot of artists on Instagram, and they’re a constant source of inspiration. Many of them are friends. Some artists I follow are Jayesh Joshi (@jaymanshere), Manjit Thapp (@manjitthapp), Petra Eriksson (@petraerikssonstudio), Elly Smallwood (@ellysmallwood), and Sally Nixon (@sallustration), among many more.



Rosie: the iconic Rosie the Riveter, a cultural symbol of womens’ roles in WW2, re-imagined to represent South Asian women. (c) Sarah Modak


Tell us about your Inktober 2017 erotic series. 


It wasn’t really supposed to be erotic; it was supposed to be more intimate without being overtly sexual, but I’m not sure how it came across to people. I listen to music literally all the time, and I wanted to incorporate some of my favourite lyrics into the artwork without dedicating entire paintings to a particular song because there are so many.

I personally feel that I always end up over-doing all my work, because I can never stop myself from adding extra details even when I’m done with a drawing. So, for Inktober, I wanted to challenge myself by having an incomplete/minimalist theme and just leave the drawing as it is.


Did you find it challenging to make a new sketch everyday of the month? 


Yes, it is challenging to make a sketch every single day but I think that is the whole point of Inktober. It comes down to just making a sketch out of habit and making yourself do it regardless of whether or not you’re motivated or in the mood. For part of October I was on vacation, so I remember drawing on flights and at airports.


Ink Live Model: ink drawing of a live model. (c) Sarah Modak


You also have a series of art on mental health. What attracted you to this subject?


I’ve had several arguments with people about mental illness. The stigma and misinformation surrounding mental illness really appalls and upsets me.

I started making the drawings way back in the beginning of 2016, but only mustered the courage to complete and share them recently, because it felt personal and frightening.



Mental Illness: first from a series about mental illness and the stigma surrounding it.  (c) Sarah Modak


The mental health series focuses on women subjects only. Is there a particular reason for that? 


I didn’t intentionally just focus on women, I’m just more comfortable and confident drawing women which is why that happened, I suppose.


What kind of response do you get on your work? 


So far, I’ve only got positive response for my work. After Berlin Artparasites shared one of my Inktober drawings, a woman from Mexico messaged me saying that my art was all over the world and reached a lot of people. That really meant a lot.


Fade: A single frame from a GIF based on the music video of Kanye West’s Fade. (c) Sarah Modak


Images and descriptions shared with TLC by Sarah Modak.
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