As children, we are often encouraged to explore our creativity and imagination, yet as we grow older, many of us tend to lose touch with our inner artists. But what if you could rekindle that enthusiasm and believe that making art is essential to your existence and start creating art only for your own inner fulfillment? Natacha Chohra, a gifted artist whose lovely paintings have won the hearts of many, experienced this. Let’s discover together the enchanted world of Natacha Chohra’s art!
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Natacha’s Journey as an Artist
Although her journey as an artist started when she was just a little girl, Natacha had a period when she didn’t “touch a pencil or paintbrush for nearly 10 years”, only to rediscover later on in her life the passion for drawing.
“I have loved to draw and paint since I was a little girl. Throughout school, I was known as ‘the girl who can draw’! Art was always as natural and necessary for me as breathing and eating and when I wasn’t making art, I used to spend hours pouring over my fairytale, Beatrix Potter and Brambly Hedge books (to name but a few), marveling at the beautiful illustrations so full of lovely details. I think I always knew that this is what I wanted to do when I grew up,” recalls Natacha.
Natacha applied to attend art school after graduating from high school. Although she was admitted, she eventually realized that “the competitive atmosphere” and having to create art “on command” weren’t things she felt at ease with. A family member who claimed that having a successful art career was virtually impossible further demoralized her. She, therefore, gave up on her dream of being an artist and instead attended college to earn a degree in languages and business.
“A well-meaning family member told me that it was almost impossible to have a successful art career and was I talented enough anyway? This affected me, so I gave up on being an art student, went to university, and got a degree in languages and business instead (I had a great time and have no regrets!). I then didn’t touch a pencil or paintbrush for nearly 10 years,” Natacha shares.
It wasn’t until her niece was born that Natacha was inspired to illustrate a fairy story for her. From that moment on, her passion for art came back, and she hasn’t stopped since. Natacha’s story shows us that sometimes life takes us in unexpected directions, but it’s never too late to rediscover our passions.
“(I didn’t draw or paint – editor’s note) until one day, when my niece Sydney was born and I was inspired out of the blue to illustrate a fairy story for her. Little by little my passion for art came back and I haven’t stopped since!” she says.
Influences in Natacha’s Art
Natacha lives in the UK countryside, and both the environment and her personal life, as a parent of two children, greatly influence her art. Natacha feels a sense of wonder and closeness to the natural world, and the beauty, colors, and effortless growth inspire her. She takes country walks most days, and the fields, woods, and hedgerows around her are teeming with life that often appears in her paintings.
“I have always felt a closeness and sense of wonder for the natural world, I mean the way everything just grows and changes effortlessly, the cycle of the seasons, the beauty, the colours, there has to be some sort of magic involved somehow, isn’t it? Living in the countryside I am very lucky to be able to go on lovely country walks most days and always come back from those feeling refreshed and inspired. I love the fact that no two walks are ever the same, as the seasons change there is always something different, something new to observe. The fields, woods, and hedgerows around here are always teeming with life, and more often than not a squirrel, a wren, a fox or a rabbit I encountered on a walk will end up appearing in my painting later that day!”, Natacha shares.
Her children are for Natacha the “number one source of inspiration”, as observing them and seeing life through their eyes makes her remember the imaginative, magical world she used to have as a little girl. This childlike sense of wonder influences the way Natacha imagines scenarios and stories that she then brings to life through her paintings, storytelling being an essential element of her artwork.
“When my children play together I often hear them say ‘imagine that’, or ‘pretend that’, then describe an imaginary situation to add to their game. I kind of do the same, very often a thought will come into my head about a situation, for example ‘imagine if a frog wearing a woolly jumper was relaxing sat on the edge of a vintage teacup, relaxing and dipping his feet in the warm tea!’ These kinds of thoughts come into my mind a lot and if an idea seems interesting to me I will make note of it somewhere (usually on my phone!) or quickly scribble it in my sketchbook to come back to later when I am looking for ideas of things to paint next,” she says.
Storytelling through Art
Natacha’s art tells stories of playful animals, enchanted forests, and curious creatures, inviting viewers to use their imaginations and create their narratives. Since she feels that striking the right balance between the fantastical and the real is essential to creating convincing and inspirational art, her work is defined by a careful balance between the two.
“I think it’s probably a question of personal preference, I have always preferred to draw animals, princesses, magical creatures, that sort of thing. (…) I have always liked to mix the fantastical with reality in my work I think because this matches the way I view the world around me, imagining hidden magic in our mundane life makes me happy! Getting the balance right between the two is crucial to make this believable in my work,” Natacha says.
She confesses that at some point she tried to experiment with other styles, painting things that were more ‘serious’ or ’edgy’, but she soon realized that this was making her feel miserable and went back to painting the things she liked the most. “We are all different! I have an artist friend, for example, who can’t draw people or animals but is amazing at painting buildings (my worst nightmare)!” she shares.
The Creative Process
Natacha defines her creative process as being a “very spontaneous and organic” one, as she usually has to start sketching an idea right away as it comes to her. She feels that this spontaneity allows for enchantment to manifest itself in her drawings.
“I wish I could say that I plan all my paintings in advance and make lots of preliminary studies like some of my peers but that would be a lie! When an idea strikes me I often have to start sketching it there and then. (…) Keeping things this spontaneous isn’t for everyone (and doesn’t always work!) but it is the approach that works for me as an individual and an artist. Sometimes it does feel a little bit like magical creatures do emerge and come to life as I am starting to create them!” Natacha admits.
She only undertakes “a tiny bit of planning” when working on a larger painting, by sketching down a small thumbnail of what the artwork and general composition as a whole will look like. She typically begins with a very general idea of the piece and the story she wants to convey through it, the protagonists, the scene, and the objects it includes.
“One thing I always do, however, is to gather references, photos, or things I have picked up on walks, for example, things I can observe as I sketch. Doing so helps me get all the realistic elements of my painting right. I usually begin by sketching lightly with the pencil and let things take shape as I go along, trying this and that (I use my rubber a lot and very good quality watercolour paper!) until I am satisfied with the piece as a whole. It is crucial that I am 100% happy with the sketch before I start to paint. Then when I am ready I get my watercolours out and let the magic happen!” Natacha says.
Working predominantly in watercolor isn’t always easy, because of the unpredictable nature of this medium. But Natacha has mastered this technique and started to enjoy it, as watercolors match her playfulness in drawing.
“I used to think that watercolour was the hardest medium of all, not only because of its unpredictability but also because with this medium mistakes are harder if not impossible to correct or cover up (with other mediums like oils or acrylics, for example, it is possible to paint over a mistake, with watercolour you can’t). But as I have learned to master it over the last few years I have learned to love its unpredictable nature and the happy mistakes it can create. It appeals to my playful side and I also love that it is (for me at least) a quick medium, I have never been the most patient of people, so painting the same oil painting for months and months just doesn’t appeal to me!” she confesses.
Art as a ‘Safe Place’ and a Form of Escapism
Her paintings are meant to inspire in the viewer “a fuzzy, warm feeling inside” and to remind us that magic is all around us. “I hope viewers of my art feel the same feelings as I do from my paintings: a fuzzy warm feeling inside, the notion that magic is all around us even in the most mundane situations of life and that anything is possible! A sense of wonder at the little things. A safe place,” Natacha says.
To cultivate and nurture her own imagination, Natacha reads books, watches movies, and admires the work of other artists and crafters. She also daydreams and creates little stories and scenarios in her head. “People’s imaginations are wonderful,” she says.
“I have always been a daydreamer, as a child, I used to love creating little stories and scenarios in my head, my mum often used to say that I had ‘my head in the clouds’! I was told off for doing this in class a lot haha! With a busy life and a family, I have less time to do this now, but I still enjoy doing it from time to time. I also like to nurture my imagination by reading books, watching movies, looking at the work of other artists and crafters, and admiring all this art often helps spark my own imaginings!” Natacha confesses.
Natacha shares that when life “gets a little too much,” art offers her a form of escapism and a safe refuge. She believes that art has a healing quality to it and that its effects are for her almost similar to those of meditation.
“I was always a very sensitive child and sometimes the world can be a bit of an ugly place! So to cope with that I used to daydream about a softer, kinder imaginary, and magical world with lots of fun creatures, characters, and adventures. This part of me is still the same now even as I am older. When life gets a little too much for me I seek refuge in my imagination and my work. I also find painting very therapeutic, it’s a bit like a form of meditation for me, when I paint I get ‘in the zone’, completely engrossed with what I am doing, and just like with a good book or a good movie I get transported elsewhere for a while. It’s very relaxing!” Natacha says.
Facing and Overcoming the Artistic Block
Nonetheless, obstacles did arise during Natacha’s artistic journey. One of the challenges she often faced as an artist was the “artistic block”, a time when it felt as though her creativity had vanished. She would have then sat in front of a blank sheet of paper, unable to paint anything and feeling dispirited.
“Art block is something which have I suffered from many times, sometimes there would be days, weeks, or even months when all of a sudden I would sit in front of a blank sheet of paper, and nothing would happen. It is so soul-dispiriting when this happens! I would just sit there terrified that I would never be able to paint anything decent again!” she shares.
She was able to get through the artistic block by discussing it with her artist friends, focusing on other creative endeavors, and understanding that “those ‘dry spells’ never last forever.”
“Luckily I have a lot of artist friends and talking with them and also with my own experience I found that it is quite common so I felt less alone. Now I know that those ‘dry spells’ never last forever, and I have found ways to navigate them, taking a short break and getting creative in a different way is my favorite one: cooking, sculpting, and making crafts with my children, for example, are some of the things which I enjoy doing when the inspiration to make art has gone elsewhere for a while,” Natacha says.
Finding Your Own Artistic Voice
Along her artistic path, Natacha stressed a lot about defining her own aesthetic – her “voice” in art – and as a result, she put pressure on herself to create work that would please others but wasn’t truly authentic to who she was.
“We hear a lot about the importance of finding one’s style or voice in art and, as a result of this, I think we end up putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to do so. I certainly did! For a long time, I also felt that my art wasn’t ‘edgy’ or ‘cool’ enough, and I tried to paint things that I thought people would like but that weren’t ‘me’. Then one day I made the conscious decision to stop trying so hard to please everyone else and instead just paint and draw what I wanted. I now believe that in art, if you do listen to yourself and create what truly makes your heart happy, people will feel that joy in your work and respond to it positively,” she admits.
Natacha explains that while at first her voice as an artist was faint, it gradually emerged and grew with each painting she created. She adds that she never wants to stop learning and progressing, therefore her style is also constantly evolving.
“Slowly but surely, through trial and error and many, many artworks (good ones and not-so-great ones) my style began to emerge. It was so subtle at first that I didn’t notice it happening until other people started telling me about my ‘style’. It took a few years for me to come to realize that actually yes, I do have a voice, but it was all worth it!” Natacha says.
Natacha’s Advice for Young Aspiring Artists
Due to her experiences, Natacha advises young artists in search of their unique styles to “focus on the journey and not the end result”, try out varied mediums, pay attention to the received feedback, and learn from their mistakes.
“Don’t put so much pressure on yourself and enjoy this process of finding what makes you tick, try all the mediums and techniques, and make all the mistakes as they will help you grow and get better as an artist. Pay attention to feedback from others but only take on board constructive criticism. Don’t take negative feedback too much to heart, after all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and your art will never please everyone! More importantly, don’t take yourself too seriously, and have lots of fun!” Natacha adds.
Natacha counsels aspiring artists to keep showing up and be constant in making art that “makes your heart happy”, without comparing themselves with other artists, because everyone has “something unique and beautiful to offer the world”.
“Make art as often as you can! Every day if possible even if just a scribble when you don’t have a lot of time! Because it is true what they say: practice does make perfect, so keep showing up, being consistent, practice regularly and you will not believe the progress you are going to make simply by doing this. Be kind and patient with yourself, trust the process, and enjoy your artistic journey. Don’t compare yourself to others, be true to yourself and to your voice, don’t create art because it will please others either, instead create art that makes your heart happy. And please don’t give up, you have something unique and beautiful to offer the world and the world needs it right now more than ever!” Natacha advises.
Take Natacha’s advice to heart: “Create the things you like!”. Don’t worry about what others think and don’t let them discourage you from pursuing your passion, even if it seems impossible. Explore your imagination, approach art with a childlike mindset, and have fun making something that is uniquely you!
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