The Beauty of Symmetry - Puriya Onkar

As Bob Ross once said, there are no mistakes, only happy accidents. Puriya Onkar’s happy accident was the moment she started doodling with her eyeliner and a friend pointed out that what she had drawn was actually one half of a mandala. This came as a surprise to her as she was not particularly inclined towards drawing. Since that moment three years ago, when “the urge to create came from within” she taught herself to draw mandalas using resources available on the internet.

Starting out with a humble eyeliner she has since then graduated to drawing mandalas in more common mediums. She also experiments a lot by mixing mediums and tells me that she never sticks to one medium for too long. “I like to think of style as a person’s personality; it keeps changing with the situation it’s in. So I never stick to one medium for too long, as soon as I get comfortable with one medium; I move to another.”

Puriya constantly pushes herself to get out of her comfort zone and create new art with mandalas “You put your heart and soul into something, so you want to make sure that it works out”, but she does confide that not all her experiments work out favorably “But you still end up learning from it” One of her successful ventures with the medium was when she drew an unicorn and a clowder of cats using mandalas, apart from that she has also combined landscapes with mandalas by working on a photograph of a mountain range using Procreate on her iPad. She finds the digital counterpart of her craft to be quite useful, as she uses it to sketch out ideas and create digital versions of her existing pieces. “It’s best for drawing on the go and you never know when inspiration might strike. So it helps me to stay productive” she adds.  

She says that she was drawn by the geometrical symmetry, precision and intricacy that was present in Mandalas. She finds inspiration in everything, “There’s so much to learn around you, especially from nature. What you go through as a person shapes you as an artist. So you should be like a sponge and soak everything up.”

In May of 2018, barely a year after she had started down the artist’s path, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, “I had barely started drawing, I was still figuring out what I liked and what I didn’t.” During her treatment she was unable to use a laptop or sing for she was extremely sensitive to light and sound. Despite this she powered through and after a month of treatment, she started drawing again. “Whatever I felt I brought them into my art. I drew very colorful stuff when things were not so colorful in my life. Looking back on it now, I feel like my art was improving, because I was constantly putting my heart and soul into it.” She came out of this battered but unbroken, but of late she has had to adjust to new problems. As she noticed that her right hand was swelling up from time to time. Unfazed, she is now learning to work with her left. In spite of the fact that it is tough to learn something like this from scratch, she still works on drawing with her left hand at least fifteen minutes each day.

Since Cancer is a taboo subject in society, she wanted to destigmatize the disease and to show that “the beauty of life after cancer is something worth fighting for”. To this end she drew a pink ribbon resting on a bloomed lotus, with the phrase ‘Never Give Up…’ written below it in an italicized pink. Along with that she also posted some pictures of herself, taken while after her treatment, to drive home the point that it was essential to think positively and find an outlet to express one’s feelings, “Bad things happen, but sometimes they happen to bring something good into your life. It’s up to you to bring yourself out of it by accepting yourself the way you are.”

Apart from being an artist, Puriya is also a classically trained singer and a freelance German translator. “When you’re freelancing, you’re your own boss and you don’t have to answer to anyone-but yourself” She says that it does get challenging at times to balance music, translation and art, as she is equally passionate about all three art forms and while working constantly tries to find similarities among them. Yet she makes sure that she works on her art for at least an hour or two each day.

Sometimes she combines her own music with the time-lapse videos of her works. Talking about her love for music, she tells me that she originally learnt Kathak as a child, before switching to singing in 5th grade. She sings in Marathi and Sanskrit and she recounts a performance of Kalidasa’s ‘Meghduta’, for which she was accompanied by her mother, whom she tells me is also a skilled at translating Sanskrit.

Puriya also teaches Mandala art and since the lockdown she has conducted many online workshops. She loves to teach and says “The participants aren’t the only ones who are learning, because once you simplify something it becomes a lot easier for you as well.” She adds that drawing after a workshop is quite an experience, describing it as enriching and beautiful. Most of her workshops are beginner-friendly “You don’t need to be a trained artist, with mandalas all you need are patience and passion” She focuses on constructing grids, which she describes as the ‘skeleton of a mandala’ and all of her workshops end with her students drawing along with her.

When it comes to art, she says that an art degree or experience are secondary, “The only things that you need are a passion and a drive to draw. You need to ask yourself, ‘Why do I need to draw?’ It’s alright even if you have very basic supplies because you can get better supplies as you progress. The important things are to keep practicing and experimenting by trying your hand in different mediums. They won’t always work out-but you won’t know unless you try.”

Puriya adds that it’s also important to enjoy the process and not think about the result, “If you don’t enjoy the journey, then you won’t like the destination. And you have to keep in mind that people won’t always like your art, but as long as you’re happy with it, it’s alright; besides you can’t please everyone.”  

You can connect with Ms.Puriya Onkar on her Instagram handle

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