My friend – Shibu Arakkal

Shibu Arakkal. Photographic Artist. Tells it like it is. Without mincing ANY words!
I met Shibu at a Group Exhibition in October 2013. My work was a late entrant into the mix. But that’s another story.

Shibu’s first words to me were ‘so you are the one who has painted this work… hmm‘ And then we made polite conversation and exchanged pleasantries. After about an hour of mingling around at the art opening Shibu called me over and asked -“How do you feel about bartering?” And I was like “Sure. What do you want to barter?” His answer- “Your painted chair for one of my prints.” Of course I said “YES” 🙂

‘Lorenzo il Magnifico Gold Prize for Digital Art’ – Florence Biennale 2013

The ‘Bartered’ Chair

But it was more than getting a print from the award winning Florence Biennale artist. It showed me the person he is. This was the honest best compliment I could have got for my work. An award winning artist wanted to barter with me. There was no monetary value attached to his barter. It was a one on one – honest appreciation. And I thank Shibu for it. That was the start of an effortless friendship.

The next in the series of effortless friendships is with the one and only Shibu Arakkal. We meet rarely. As he says “You are always too busy!!” Though I did make the time to meet him to discuss a project. More on that in the weeks to come but till then I leave you with a glimpse into what I think makes Shibu an artist who feels …

What did you study in college?

Economics, Political Science & Sociology. So glad someone finally asked me this question.

What was your childhood like?

My happiest memories of my childhood were the years I grew up with my grandparents, being mostly outdoors when not in school, playing different sports, climbing trees, inadvertently learning to use tools by making things I could play with, fiddling around with my bicycle and doing lots of things parents today would consider to be dangerous.

My move to live with my parents later on involved a lot of escape from and into serious phases of loneliness and very seriously battling that through my teenage years.

Who influences you the most?

My earliest and most profound influence and I realized this much later in life, was my maternal grandfather who was a metallurgist in HAL. Though he passed away when I was in my early teenage years, I think I learnt my early lessons in creative out-of-the-box thinking from him, apart from many other things that made him the extraordinary man he was. After his death, he became my conscience keeper and a silent guide. I begin every month by visiting his grave and talking to him.

What are your plans for your daughter?

I don’t believe that I have the right to make plans for my daughter as she must follow her own purpose and destiny. To answer this question from a conventional stand point, I wish for her to be most of all, her own self because her real self is extraordinary by any standards. I only and diligently so, strive to give her a solid foundation made up of values such as honesty, responsibility, hard work and conscientiousness, amongst a few other things.

Do you see any influence from your father – Yusuf Arakkal ?

I certainly do. For a man who was all consumed by his work, his art, the time that he took to be a father to me, he taught me many things. I am known to be a perfectionist to a fault, though it’s strange but things like that and the sanctity towards one’s work are things I learnt from both my dad and my grandad.

How tough is it to make a name in photography?

Speaking of photography as an art form, even with its rich albeit brief history in the context of art, it is never the less, today’s artistic medium. Even though photographically, we live in a world of digital, analogue and every kind of cross pollinated possibilities, the recognition for and the reality of creating work that is truly unique is very hard to come by. To do that and to compete with photographic artists from the western world who are supported technically, in terms of infrastructure, not to mention monetarily and are recognized, is a challenge that one has to have a stomach for.

What is artistic or fine art photography?

That’s like asking what is artistic or fine art painting. We can’t assume that just because the medium is painting it has to necessarily be artistic or fall into the fine art genre.

I choose to define any art, regardless of medium, as two equal halves of an unique artistic expression and a high caliber of technical skill. This definition, I believe, is more critical with photographic art as the acquired-over-time technical skill graph is always on a more steeper climb due to technological innovations. And so the ability to articulate one’s artistic expression equally is ever demanding and ever evolving.

What advice would you give to upcoming artists?

I think that practicing art is like having children. If you don’t do it for the right reasons, the amount of struggle and rejection will in all probability either break you or worse, make you compromise. Even with instances to the contrary, the practice of art isn’t sustainable at the highest levels, if it isn’t supported by a unique viewpoint, skill and integrity. It is true at least for artists who create for time and not for markets or people.

What advice would you give to upcoming photographers?

  1. Although photography is as technical a medium as any, one would be wise to not forget that it is ultimately a creative medium.
  2. Just as everyone with a fountain pen can’t become a Shakespeare, everyone with an expensive camera won’t become a photographer.
  3. If you cannot or are too lazy to achieve what can be achieved through photography and rely on post-production for it, you will in all probability lose ground in terms of the price you command or be eventually surpassed by someone younger and better.
First place | 'Ventipertrenta 2011' - International Jury, International festival of digital art | Italy

First place | ‘Ventipertrenta 2011’ – International Jury, International festival of digital art | Italy

What is your quiet ‘go to’ place?

It is primarily my balcony but my quiet place is my own head when I’m traveling or riding motorcycles.

What beverage makes you feel comfortable?

GTL (Gin, Tonic & lime)

What movie touches you?

Lawrence of Arabia

With hindsight what do you think you would do differently?

I would firstly go full throttle in my twenties and early thirties but most importantly, I would follow every gut instinct I have and not be so analytical as I have been.

Your one favorite piece?

I truly don’t have one.

What do you think of ‘completion’?

I tend to think the Italian way about this. It will take as long as it takes and it is done when it is done.

What do you think of artist residencies?

I absolutely love the idea of artist residencies and I have done a few over the past four or five years years in different countries.

The idea of a certain sense of seclusion to have the luxury of being able to think about life and everything that is important to an artist and carry that train of thought through to your work, without being interrupted by responsibilities and such, is as close to an artistic utopia as on can find in this world.

What is art?

I am philosophical about art. Art to me is interpreting and articulating the secrets and the language of the universe into physical and in this day, virtual art-forms. Hence, our understanding of reality, specially in art, is greatly subjective. It is possibly why life imitates art.

What is design?

To me, design is creating an efficient aesthetic that is born out of function. And not the other way around.

What are the basics of photography?

What I have learnt of photography is the ability to get into a meditative state of mind and respond to your chosen subject, which also happens instinctually. But that happens when you hone and perfect your technical craft for years, where it enables you to use light, space and form to piece together a photographic puzzle created out of YOUR subjective and artistic soul.

What are the first steps to take?

Study, study, study!

Would you lend your name to limited edition or mass produced?

If done right, surely.

What do you think of the art scene in India and abroad?

In India, the artists who have made a name for themselves in the last ten or fifteen years seem to dissociate and ignore the foundation that was laid by a whole lot of landmark artists, for what is today called Indian art. I find that disrespectful to what is inherently your own artistic roots. A tree without roots isn’t alive.

This I believe happened because our “new age artists” thought that to be truly international they need to adopt international roots and hence, the rampant dominance of installations, video art and everything that falls into the genre of new media. Although, most artists I know practicing new media have studied painting, sculpture, printmaking etc. and not their current medium of choice. I don’t wish to be misunderstood. I don’t have an issue with any medium but with the lack of a unique and artistic proficiency in it.

It is an arguable fact that internationally, the last great movement in art was Abstract Expressionism or at best, Postmodernism. Which means that the world hasn’t seen a truly landmark art movement or artists of truly great caliber for the past thirty odd years.

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Flat 20% off on Label ArtByAarohi

Yes. You read that right.
Announcing our first ever sale! – its a flat 20% off on all ArtByAarohi Label products on

Why? and Why Now?

Let me give you the simple answer first.
Just because.

And now a little more detail – Just because it seemed a good way to start the new year and as they say what goes around come around. Last year was all about ‘production’. And while I love sewing, making bags and skirts and dupattas, just thinking of new ways to extend myself; I lost myself. I found myself focusing on something that was never supposed to be my core. I love painting and I want to go back to it.

I want this ‘merchandise’ kind of creativity to remain something that I do in my spare time to recharge and try new things. Not as something that becomes central to my creativity. And in an effort to do that I find I need to de-clutter my mind and my work space. I need to de-clutter my studio.

And what better way to do that than to have a sale. Instead of passing on a commission to someone in the middle I thought I would share it with you first – my customers. You get the first right of refusal and benefit. And then later I may decide to put it up on some other online store or just keep it on my own e-store. But I would do that knowing I was true and loyal to you my readers and customers first 🙂
And I am hoping this sale allows a whole lot of new people to own their very first ArtByAarohi product!

For now it is back to the drawing board (literally!!) for me. Wish me a productive painting year my friends…

Will share the production bit from time to time as well 🙂

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Give Away Alert! – With ‘Barley and Grapes’ and Chateau Auzias

I am thrilled to start this new year with a give away.  And it’s not just one but SIX !! Yes, there are six slings to be won from the signature ArtByAarohi Collection.

The rules are very simple. If you are in Phoenix Market City in namma bengaluru (Bangalore), head on over to ‘Barley and Grapes Cafe’ and order a bottle of Chateau Auzias wine. That purchase gives you the chance to fill in a lucky draw coupon and at the end of every week – there is one sling to be won. That is it. You get to have your wine and keep it too!

And the give away happens in my favourite watering hole – “Barley and Grapes Cafe” which just turned three with my best friend Meghana Vakada.  My voice of reason in all things that require err.. reason!



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Polka Cafe – Jan 2017

The Fusion Projects was launched last year and the very first one was with Glasshopper. At the exhibition for the launch of the new jewellery line, I had the pleasure of meeting Meghna who unbeknown to me is a writer for Polka Cafe. She came and bought some pieces and then a few weeks later I get a mail for a short interview. The rest is in the article 🙂

Thank you Meghna Kohli Vachher.
Please click the image to read. You can read the entire article here.


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Indian Express Indulge – Dec 2016

Learning new things. Pushing the envelope as it were is something I want to do a lot more of this new year. Without conscious thought last year got all muddled up in production and the ArtByAarohi label line. It took more out of me than I quite realized. So this new year I hope to paint a lot more and do a few more of The Fusion Projects.

Happy New Year people – Wishing you an abundance of everything your heart desires.

Last November I got to go to Goa for the The Royal Enfield Rider Mania 2016  and while displaying the tank I painted for Royal Enfield as part of a collaborative Fusion Project I found myself chatting with Jaideep Sen.
Thank you Jaideep Sen for the lovely write up in the 30 December 2016 issue of the Indulge magazine – Indian express.

Note- Please click on the images to read text.

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The Fusion Projects – With Royal Enfield

The next in the series of The Fusion Projects is with motorcycle company – Royal Enfield. Although the project came to me many months ago I started work on it only in August end. But as they say everything happens for a reason. By the time the tank was finished it was time for The Royal Enfield Rider Mania 2016 – an annual community driven event in Goa each November. And I had the joy of taking the tank to Goa. To see first hand reactions of bikers across India to my vision of a hand painted tank has been gratifying to say the least. I got to be a fly on the wall and just watch people react to the tank artwork.

The endeavour has been not just to paint a motorcycle tank but to view the entire exercise in a new way. The tank needed to look different from anything out there and still have my stamp on it. I was not looking to make just  decorative artwork that would sit in someone’s office or a showroom. I want to see how this painted tank fares on an actual motorcycle. How the paint will react to sun, moisture, dew. Will the paintwork stand up to general wear and tear and fuel spills.

Therein lies the purpose of this joint exercise. I learn. Learn about material and it’s usage. I get to try and think out of the box from established norms of what constitutes successful artwork for bikes. The next step is to go to the Enfield factory and see how the paint is applied. To try an incorporate my artistic style while using industry standards. As a start I decided to paint with a brush and not an airbrush. Used Acrylics. And used a theme- Theyyam – which is not seen on bikes but has been central to my work for a few years now.

As a theme, Theyyam lends itself well to artistic interpretations. By it’s very nature, it brings forth goodwill to those in its presence and promises to ward off evil. What better way to kick start a new series. My friend Sachin Chavan – the Head, Rides and Communities, Royal Enfield – who was instrumental in getting me on board for this project has been a friend for almost 20 years. He rides (obviously!!) and my parting shot to him has always been to ‘Ride Safe‘. It has been similar to my father and brother who are both retired fighter pilots from the Indian Air Force. For them it was and is – ‘Fly safe, Blue skies and Happy Landings‘!

I hope the good will always carries through…

Theyyam is an artistic dance form where metaphysical thoughts and expressions of immortal souls are impersonated by a believer through a mortal body. Theyyam originated from “Kaliyattam” once practiced by the tribal community of north Kerala. Theyyam has grown to the present form through many transformations since it’s origin. Landlords and chieftains of those days are the main forces behind many of such transformations. The community and its body began to use this art to propagate the major theme of social enforcement. The artists are also encouraged by the authorities to introduce new themes into its traditional layers and classified different acts and expressions to match specific needs for their desire. The character representations were very broad. They range from mild to wild in representations.
Theyyam is a sect in which old heroes are sanctified and worshiped as the guardians of villages and homes. Yet, it includes a complex universe centered on the belief that a man can—after suitable mental, physical and spiritual preliminaries—don the costume of a particular deity and then become that deity. In this elevated state he assumes superhuman and divine powers—speaking, moving, blessing and even healing as a god or goddess. What is crucial is that the person is not possessed by the spirit of the deity. It’s important to understand that Theyyam has a larger purpose that goes beyond the territories of performance – to all those in attendance, it assures assistance and security during times of crisis, promising to resolve all their conflicts.

You can read about Theyyam here-

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More Jhola Bags – Dec 2016

Your response to the Jhola bags has been so heart warming. To have every piece sold out in a matter of hours or at best a couple of days makes all the hard work I put in so worth while! You can see the styled images for the last two collections here and here.

A few of you requested that I make some for Diwali.  Diwali deadline was a little tough to catch but I have been working away at my sewing machine, burning the midnight oil as it were. I shifted the goalpost and we are ready in time for Christmas 🙂

Please note – There are 18 new Jhola bags up for grabs on the shop. And as always each is one-of-a-kind! There are no two alike.
After this lot I really do need a break from sewing so I can get back to painting full time for a bit. The next lot of jhola bags after this will only be out next year – in 2017.

Happy shopping!

Happy shopping!

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Hawa Mein Uddhta Jaaye – Dec 2016

I remember a conversation or was it a few lines in a book?
A serene idyllic view of a mountain side and a naughty boy pulling at a yellow dupatta. A young woman shyly  admonishing him as she watched it float away..

The dupatta/stole/scarfpreserves modesty for some and adds colour for others. It can make or break an outfit. For me it is my shield. It shows you my mood if you only look carefully. It is bold or fluid. It is breezy when chiffon and base when khadi. It is so many things to so many. My maasi’s drape it a certain way and I wrap it around my neck. It is like substituting my lovers arms around me. And if I have memory attached to that yard or two of fabric… sigh!!!

In my never ending quest to further an idea and concept across mediums, here are 21 one-of-a-kind dupattas up for grabs. 

Happy shopping!

Happy shopping!


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7 skirts for 7 sisters – Nov 2016

Everything takes time. There are issues and then more issues to deal with. Life as we know it is a constant tsunami of change. Ideas that came to me a few years ago may only just find fruition. So without skirting any more issues at hand – here are a few of the skirts that I have been working on for a long while now 🙂

Each of the seven skirts is hand dyed and one-of-a-kind. Each has been lovingly made with new, up-cycled and recycled material. There are custom appliqués from the signature ArtByAarohi label along with some that have up-cycled fabric. These skirts have elements of hand painting, hand embroidery, machine embroidery, appliqués and patchwork. And they have all been done individually by me. I hope you enjoy them. Click here to buy.

Happy shopping!

Happy shopping!


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Fempowerment Women Achievers Award 2016

I won! And the best part – I had no clue that I was even in the running!

Some one from YourStory wrote to tell me that they had nominated my name for an award and that someone from the awards organization would get in touch with me. I thanked the said person and promptly forgot all about it.  Imagine my surprise – I learned that I had won the award in the category of Fine Arts – Painting and sculpture 🙂
Thank you YourStory!!

Sadly due to unforeseen scheduling problems and prior commitments I was unable to make it to Mumbai for the Award show on the 17th of July 2016. Swanky affair it was from what I understand. I looked up the past recipients for 2014-15 and 2013-14 of the awards and this year’s winners in the 16 categories – I am in exalted company and I love it.

It would not have been right to post about it without actually having the physical award in my hands. I just got my hands on the trophy a few days ago. So now I am sharing it with all of you.


It’s been a joy to receive the Fempowerment Women Achievers award 2016 for Fine Arts. Recognition of any kind for work one loves is always wonderful. The jury was daunting to say the least and the illustrious lot of achievers before me is both empowering and humbling. Thank you so much for giving me yet another push in following my dreams.

You can read about the award here

And this is an excerpt from their letter to me –

“…proud to inform you that you have been selected as the Fempowerment Winner in the category of Painting and Sculpting Artist, your selection has been done unanimously at our Jury Meet on 7th July’16 at St. Regis, MumbaiFempowerment Women Achievers Awards is an initiative of Molecule Communications where women achievers are honoured in their respective fields, the one and only Women Awards where the nomination process is open and anyone can nominate any woman along with one unique category.  Zee TV has associated with the awards for the cause of social betterment and soon the awards will be telecasted on Zee TV. The nominations have been received from the every corner of the country in all the 16 categories and a strict and unbiased on-site review has been done by the Screening & Main Jury. The event is happening on 17th of July, 2016 at Mumbai.

Mr. Subhash Ghai, noted Director, Mr. Annurag Batra, Chairman & Editor in Chief – Business World, Mr. Adil Malia, Global Head For Leadership, Learning & People Management, Essar Group, Ms. Mrunalini Deshmukh, Senior Lawyer, Ms. Bhawana Somaaya, noted Journalist & Author & Mr. Ridham Desai, MD Morgan Stanley were the respectable Main Jury for the Fempowerment Women Achievers Awards 2016.”

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