Tikuli Dogra in an interview with Smeetha Bhoumik, Editor-YQR, May’22

Tikuli Dogra is an extraordinary artist, poet, photographer, culinary genius and a green heart friend, who constantly engages with new ways of seeing. She keeps her environs and our timelines beautified with her art and energy, her creations a roaring success !

Tikuli, you excel at many art forms – painting, poetry, writing, photography, cuisine, gardening…how do you do it all?

What inspires you?

In short, Smeetha, everyday living. Just as they inspire me to write poems. Told and untold. A snippet of overheard conversation, a sentence or phrase in a book, a piece of music, the changing landscape while I travel in and outside the city, my inner chaos or for that matter the outer ones. Anything can be an inspiration. Our traditional art traditions like the folk & tribal art, or for that matter art from around the world, has greatly influenced my work and I think it has also helped me reinvent myself. 

What keeps you experimenting and creating in new ways?

Life is like a river flowing. What stagnates rots, that’s what I believe in. Constant learning, a sense of wonder is the way of life. This is what pushes me to experiment and create in various new ways. 

You are a constant learner. Tell us more about this facet of yours.

As I mentioned above, constant leaning is the only way to live. Someone said I have a student heart and I do. While growing up, my father encouraged me to stay curious, to question, to explore, discover, learn. It stayed with me. Whatever i do I try not to limit myself to what I already know. We’re born with that innate desire to learn but as we grow up it limits to certain aspects only or gets shoved into dark deep. I try to keep that childlike wonder alive in all the aspects of my life especially when I’m creating something. It’s good for personal growth too. 

I’ve personally been very inspired and uplifted by your work in difficult times – photographs of trees, flowers, birds, gardens, your small format but intensely alive water colors of birds, beings, squirrels, flowers, foxes, landscapes; and of course been mesmerized by your recycled tea-bag artworks of Japanese women. 

Tell us more about the process of creating these. The way you take up an idea and bring it to fruition. 

Thank you for your appreciation, Smeetha. I always say, “bloom where you are“. From early childhood i was encouraged to stay in tune with nature. To observe, witness what’s around us and how we are just a part of bigger scheme of things. Not a superior voice. The day struggle, responsibilities and personal limitations shrunk the time and energy i wanted to invest in being in the midst of a more nature based setting. Stuck in the concrete jungle, you try to take every opportunity to stay close to the green spaces, watch the flora and fauna, bring them alive in my colours. My travels too have influenced my paintings. 

As for the teabag art, i first saw Ruby Silvious make stunning artworks with repurposed teabags & then discovered other artists too. The most exciting part of my artistic journey has been this unconditional teaching and support from various artists across the globe. Their free tutorials, their live chats, message communication. It has been such a wealth of learning. I’m extremely grateful for this. I’m still learning the teabag painting and its various uses in mixed media but whatever I’ve made so far has been received with love. Each one time use teabag is dried, cleaned, prepped for making whatever i need it for. I use gouache, watercolor, fabric acrylic colours on them. Depends on what I’m creating. Still so much to learn in this area. The Origami Kimono Dolls are fun to make though very labour intensive. Easy to make with origami paper not with fragile teabags. It takes a lot of effort to bring it all together. 

For other artworks i study and practice for hours before actually making a final piece. Being a self taught independent artist i have to give double the time to learning. Once i decide on the subject i usually do a first draft sketch/paint to visualise it and then go to the main work. A little extra effort always prevents mishaps. It’s a constant process of either letting the colours /pencils guide you or guide them to your desire.

Each art form requires an elaborate dedication of time and mental space. How do you structure it ?

As I’m now selling my work i work in two phases. One where i draw, sketch, paint to learn. Get the feel of the medium. Art for me is therapeutic too and there are many pieces i do that are purely for aligning and centering myself.  I don’t start on an artwork in haste. Sometimes i don’t even begin it until something nudges me from within to go forth. 

Commissioned work is like any other profession. I work on those artworks with the same professional approach. In both cases i treat it as a spiritual zen like experience. The word is surrender.  Everything else dissolves when I’m working. 

Does art help you in overcoming the odds? 

Yes. It may not resolve problems but it’s a good start. Art has helped me tremendously in overcoming my anxiety, depression, loneliness. It may not work for everyone but for me it is a linchpin. If I get into a complex or dark phase i create something intricate, that’s my way of bringing myself together. It helps me sort myself and calm down. It has given me a lot of strength, a purpose and it’s my only source of earning too. Frankly speaking writing, publishing wasn’t paying my bills and at this point financial security is my priority. A lot of pressure eased with my work getting noticed and sold. It’s the beginning but I’m on my path. 

Tell us the secret of your creativity, your muse.

Excessive life pressures. When you are getting closed in from all sides you are forced to devise ways to conserve yourself. This is what happened with me. Creative pursuits hold me together. I draw strength from the universe, from nature from my own inner tenacity to live.

Tikuli, thank you very much for giving us a glimpse into your extraordinary art, the process of creation and the way it impacts your life. Honored to have you in Yugen Quest Review.

Tikuli Dogra is a poet, artist, award winning blogger and internationally published author from Delhi. Her fiction, nonfiction, poetry have appeared in print and in renowned online literary magazines. She’s the author of three poetry collections.

 You may view her artworks and contact her on her Instagram /twitter account.

Some of her original, copyrighted artworks for your viewing pleasure :

Origami kimono doll from repurposed tea-bags. Copyright – Tikuli

Golden Oriole, on watercolor paper . Copyright – Tikuli

Indian roller bird (Neelkanth), on leaf, mixed media. Copyright – Tikuli