Walls, pillars and facades beckon Jagruti Gulechha, asking her to create art on these surfaces. What started off purely as a passion and hobby has become a profession, giving life to over 146 walls. She talks to Provoke Magazine on her journey so far.

Tell us how you started your journey of becoming a wall artist…
This was around a decade ago when painting was always a hobby for me. I happened to see a TV serial where something was painted directly on the wall, it really impressed me and I thought I must do something similar. I started trying out things on chart paper and I drew a few drafts. I did not know what medium to use- acrylic or wall paints and I kept experimenting. With the little bit of knowledge I had, I kept clarifying and asking questions to people in stationery and paint shops. Couple of walls in my house started coming out well. I live in a joint family and my family members kept encouraging me. They felt it looked professional. That is when I thought I could take it up professionally. With just seven walls, I could not go and ask for work. I decided to make a portfolio. I took up the work of doing up walls of the Montessori my children went to, for free. I ended up doing the walls of all three branches of the school. I saw it as an investment and an extension of my learning process. It was only after doing 27 walls I began advertising my work on social media. From here, I began getting many clients.

You have done projects at corporate offices. Tell us more.
I have done a few office walls. They give me a topic, tell me about the kind of work they do and what they want to be depicted on the wall. I try to translate their business concepts into abstract ideas.

Post pandemic, how are you taking your work forward?
Till the previous day of the lockdown announcement, I was doing art on the walls of a house in the city. I stayed till night and completed it. After that, apart from a few works on canvas, my business did suffer. I was already doing art workshops, so with the help of my children I began teaching drawing and painting online. It was a gradual process. I put up posts on social media announcing classes and the responses have been good.

Tell us about a few of your favourite works…
I had done a wall of the corporate office of Morgan Group in Chennai. They contacted me after seeing my work on Facebook. They have several businesses and it took me two weeks developing a concept for the wall. They made 23 banners and circles depicting their businesses and for the rest of the space was used to explain what the office environment is about, such as reaching goals, working hard and collaborating. This was incorporated in abstract sketches. It took close to 32 days for me to complete it. There was another one at a house which had a children’s room and a playroom for two sisters. They wanted the Elsa theme from the movie Frozen. I incorporated my own designs into it and it came out well. There are many other projects that people have loved.

What is your dream project?
I want to do something bigger, probably an exterior wall. An international school has asked me to do a 50-feet-wall. So far I have done human figuring, outlining, flowers, trees, animals, birds, abstract and so on. Day and night, I only have walls on my mind. If I have to say, I would say I want to do the façade of an apartment or a mall which is a landmark in Chennai. Because now when people ask me about my work I send them my social media handles. After doing a prominent project at a landmark place in Chennai or something like that, I can just say have you seen that building, yes, that is my work.

Why do you like walls over canvas or paper?
Walls attract me for its firmness, strength and the way it challenges you. You can adjust a paper to your height or turn it around. But to paint a wall, you will have to climb a ladder to reach the top, bend lower to paint the edges or sometimes squatting does not help. For me that is fascinating. For that matter, a wall that is good condition and dry is enough to use as a canvas.

What is your advice to those who want to turn their passion into a profession?
Be very good at it and put in a lot of effort, hone your skills. Use social media to your benefit. There were days when I would go to a client’s house to discuss the project and it would be something I had not tried before. I would come back home, practise it many times to perfect it. I believe it is more about hard work than talent. Persevere and not give up. There are days you do not have enough work or get what you deserve I think if you are at it and not be disheartened. I had the autumn forest theme for a wall in a house. Though the client loved the work, she was not happy with one tree I painted and requested it be removed. It was my favourite tree. With a heavy heart I painted it white. The wall eventually belongs to the client and you cannot impose. Their opinion matters more.

Why should walls be painted artistically?
A wall done well gives ambience and livens up a place. It is not that expensive compared to wood panelling or 3D murals and the outcome is better. It is also easier to remove it, all you need is a coat of primer.