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Immerse yourself in a world where the ordinary becomes extraordinary, where colours and shapes dance together on handmade paper, creating a symphony of art. This is the world of Sonal Nathwani, a master of floral and abstract painting whose passion for her craft is as vibrant as her creations.
On a sunny day, I had the privilege of visiting her luminous studio nestled amidst the picturesque rooftops of Vienna. The moment I stepped into her creative sanctuary, I was welcomed with an embrace of warmth and sincerity that seemed to mirror the beauty of her artwork.
A Passion Translated on Canvas
As we delved into the intricate details of art, materials, and the delicate balance between motherhood and being an artist, I found myself captivated by Sonal's eloquence and profound understanding of her craft. It was evident that for her, painting was not just a profession - it was a calling.
The highlight of my visit was witnessing Sonal bring a piece of handmade paper to life. Each stroke, whether it was dipped in watercolour, wax pastels, pencil, crafted a visual story that was both mesmerizing and inspiring.
The Journey of Self-Expression
This encounter left me not only with a newfound appreciation for art but also a burning desire to explore my own creativity. Inspired by Sonal's Domestika course, I am eager to once again pick up my paintbrush and express myself on the blank canvas of handmade paper.
As we transition into the heart of this blog post, I have the pleasure of sharing with you a deeper look into Sonal's world. In the following section, I ask her ten questions revolving around her passion and her intimate relationship with handmade paper.
The Interview: Unveiling the Artist
1. Tell us a bit out yourself
After years of painting everything and anything, I realized that flowers did actually make me feel happy. So, I made a conscious decision to paint flowers, and this had been my creative fuel for the past few years. The more I paint them, the more I feel that there is to explore in terms of both technique and why I find them so fascinating.
Born in Malawi, Africa, to Indian parents, I grew up in England and I now live with my family in Vienna, Austria. I have drawn and painted for as long as I can remember, with pause while I studied finance at university. My love of art was rekindled by an opportunity to study at the renowned Charles H. Cecil studios in Florence, Italy. This pivotal experience ultimately led me to leave a career in finance to pursue my passion for painting. I now spend my studio time painting and creating art for various markets and companies.
I also enjoy teaching small groups in my studio, and this year I worked with Domestika to create my first online painting course. In the past, collaborating with florists, I led floral painting workshops in Italy and the USA. I hope to offer more of these in-person workshops, as it is always a pleasure to paint alongside other flower enthusiasts.
2. How does painting on softer paper feel?
It's very interesting that using this softer paper makes me feel like using gentler strokes and paint in a slower, more mindful approach because it feels so nice to touch.
3. Why did you choose pencil to paint on handmade paper? How did mixing pencil and watercolour come about?
I enjoy using a mix of materials in my work. It adds texture and visual interest, and also fulfils my desire to play with all my colours. I talk about this in my Domestika course.
4. What do you appreciate the most about working with handmade paper? Why do you enjoy working with it so much?
As with anything handmade, there is the tactile quality and as it is made with care and attention, this energy is inherent in the product. Handmade paper has a certain warmth when you touch it, and I love the imperfect deckle edges. I also love that each piece of paper is slightly different and therefore unique.
5. Are there any challenges when working with handmade paper?
It is very sensitive, so you cannot erase pencil marks. Other than that, I'm pleasantly surprised that I can do all my mixed media work on the heavier handmade paper.
6. What is your favourite colour from our handmade paper collection?
I love them all, but if I have to choose a favourite, it would be blush
7. Tell us a bit more about your preferred formats. What do you prefer to draw on, smaller formats (like DIN B6, DIN A6), DIN A4 or DIN A3?
For pencil drawings and watercolour work, I like the small, intimate feel of the A5 and A4
I would like to try A3 for looser more expressive work in, perhaps, charcoal and acrylic.
8. How do you go about choosing the paper when starting a new project?
I like to experiment with paper. Very often I am just drawn to the colour of the paper first, and then I like to see how it feels when I touch it. It should also be able to handle all my different media. When I am creating for a client or for pieces to sell, I make sure I only use the highest quality paper. It makes such a difference, both for me, as it's a pleasure to work on nice paper, and for the client because it makes the artwork even more special.
9. In what ways does your work differ between handmade and machine-made paper?
Handmade paper is a luxury, so I don't use it for quick sketching. I always like to leave some of the background showing the handmade paper, whereas with machine made I often paint a coloured background over the whole paper.
My process and techniques are the same, but it always feels more special to work on handmade paper, and that adds another dimension to my work.
10. What advantages does handmade paper offer for your artworks compared to other materials?
When I use handmade paper, the way the paper looks is an important part of the finished piece. Each piece is unique, aesthetically pleasing and lovely to hold in your hands.
A Journey into the World of a Handmade Paper Artist
In the realm of art, every stroke tells a story, every colour evokes an emotion, and every piece of artwork is a window into the artist's soul. After spending time with Sonal Nathwani, it is clear that her paintings are a reflection of her love for her craft and her devotion to detail. They serve as a testament to the power of art and its ability to stir the human spirit.
As we conclude this blog post, I hope that Sonal's journey and her passion for painting inspire you as much as they have inspired me. Whether you are an artist, an enthusiast, or simply a lover of beauty, let us all continue to celebrate the magic that is art.