Name: Amandeep Singh aka Inkquisitive
Birthday: 31st July
Hometown: East London, Chigwell
Life Motto/Favorite Quote: When in doubt, do it for the story.
How did you get into art? I have always been into art from a very young age. My dad is a calligrapher, not by profession, but by hobby. As a child, I used to watch him do calligraphy writing for Princess Dianna or for high-end politicians. He always did calligraphy for well-known people and it was amazing. I used to copy what he does. I fell in love with the idea of holding something like a pen and creating something on paper with it. I never ever let go of that idea and I just kept going on and on. I realized I really enjoyed creativity and it was a different thing for me because usually in the Punjabi community we see art or expression, in the sense of visual arts, as a back step. It was amazing to know my own father was allowing himself to be creative and I felt that was a great inspiration. I owe my love for the arts to my father and I think it’s a great thing.
I got into the field and just never ever stopped. I didn’t know it was illustration that I wanted to do. I just knew I loved creating and I loved holding the pen and pencil and using paint.
What is your technique or niche? For the first two years, my technique was mainly using Indian inks on sugar paper or brown paper. I have been doing this for almost seven years now. The first two years I had a specific style which is the recognized Inkquisitive style; the very colorful on slightly orangish brown paper, but now I have expanded my style and experimented so much. It’s important to keep up and keep evolving. Now I am using all sorts of different things. From acrylics to water colors to digital elements and I feel like I don’t have a technique. I love that because I feel if I had a technique, then I am going to be constrained to stay in that box. I don’t want to feel that way so I always believe in not caging myself into a style, but to have a signature look about it. I love that people can see one of my art works and say. “Hey, that’s Ink’s work!”. I think the greatest thing I have accomplished in the seven years was for people to recognize my work and it kind of has a stamp to it; or at least I hope!
What are your key pieces of work that got you most recognition? There’s quite a few actually. The first one would probably be my Bhagat Singh illustration because that was the first one I released under the name Inkquisitive. Everyone was saying “Who is this guy?”; “I have never seen something like this!” That piece was a collage of the newspaper print from when Bhagat Singh was hung, a gun, and Bhagat Singh himself. I put all sorts of crazy spills and splashes; was going crazy. People would try to figure out who did it; I used to read the comments. It was iconic and a foundation for me when I started doing artwork based on the Sikh gurus.
Seven years ago, when I never saw anyone doing it, people were too fragile with the artwork being Sikh pieces and not to disrespect. Though I don’t feel like I was disrespecting, it was a bit of a challenge on how I can further create something that will allow people to see the Guru JIs in a different light. I went with the same technique with that whole ink splashing. That became a moment for people because they saw something completely different without being disrespectful. Sobha Singh’s wonderful timeless art pieces, which you probably see in every Gurudwara, is a wonderful vision to have and I first styled my art work in his style before I started working on my own. It was like a stepping stone for myself and people started realizing what I was doing. They were like, “Wow, this is crazy!” It got me recognition within the industry. Working with YouTube and a lot of friends in the music industry also helped me get recognition in terms of going further than the Bhangra industry. My work was seen by Drake, The Weekend, Missy Ellopt, Jay Cole, and all these other people; it’s crazy just saying their names!
The number one for me is still when LL Cool J shared my work. He changed all his profile pictures to those of my work and allowed me to get in touch with him to send him the piece. Recently, Drake started the same. All this recognition and new fans is just crazy for a Punjabi kid like me. It’s all blessings. The list goes on and I don’t want to leave anyone out, but everyone who has shared a piece from me, has made an impact on my career.
I also did an illustration based on Guru Gobind Singh Ji called King Without A Crown. If you look at it it’s crazy, but when you really dig up and see all the elements in that piece, people realized, this is completely different. It’s based on Guru Ji’s life, family members, moments and things; it’s almost a story within the story and something that got me great recognition. It’s probably the most liked and shared out of all my work.
What is/are your most memorable piece(s) of work? There’s like over eight hundred illustrations! I usually answer that question based on what is current for me, but I always mention King Without A Crown because it took a lot of courage for me to release. Again, it was based on Sikh artwork and I always have nerve at the back of my heart saying , “OMG! I am about to do this!” I still do it because it’s an honest piece of work based on my individuality, but I still get a bit anxious and it’s interesting to see how people react to it. Whether people like it or not, it is still going to get released. No longer is it up to me to decide, but I should feel proud of my work. King Without A Crown would definitely be my most memorable pieces.
Now, I have expanded into doing wall art and murals. I recently came back from Oslo and where I did a massive mural on three panels across a building. It took three weeks. It’s my biggest piece of artwork and it’s become somewhat of a monument where people stop by. I did that for Turban Day, also known as the Turbandagen in Oslo. It’s a great initiative and celebrates the turban which is part of the Sikh identity. It felt great.
How do you come up with ideas for art work; what inspires you? Everything inspires me. People always ask what books I read to get inspired and I do read, but I feel the best source of inspiration comes from everything. I think people forget that the best way to get inspired is to see everything as inspiration. You don’t need to sit in a library to get inspired. You can look inside your mug, see coffee stains, and create a story out of that or create a map out of that. Or you can see a bird flying and sitting next to another bird in silence, but they are actually having a conversation. You can make a story out of everything and that’s what I do.
Only yesterday, I saw a crack in the pavement and made a story out of that. That’s the kind of thing that inspires me and I love knowing that I am an artist. I think we are all artists, but I love telling myself I am storyteller. The more you tell stories the more you are not limiting yourself to what is reality. I don’t feel like reality is just waking up in morning and going to bed in the evening. There are so many wonderful things happening and you just got to pick the magic out and use it in a sense of creativity, art, or expression. That’s how I come up with my artwork; being different and being daring. Daring is very important and you can’t do the obvious. Never do the obvious; it’s already been done so why not do something else?!
What do you like most about what you do? I love knowing I don’t have to go to work 9 to 5. That’s a great thing, because I love being my own boss and hard on my self. That’s a big factor. I tried a long time ago to have a job while I was studying my Masters and I felt that it wasn’t right for me. I was too much of a busy body to be sitting in front of a computer just doing admin work. That is the greatest thing; knowing that I don’t have to do that. No disrespect to people that do have a job like that; some people do enjoy that. Sadly for me, I am not fit for it.
Another reason is I get to travel the world. I never thought an artist would have such a big impact in the world and that too a Punjabi artist. How many artists do you see getting the luxury I am getting? I am very fortunate and blessed to have that. I am so thankful to my fans and love I get from all over the world. Having 22 exhibitions around the world in just seven years has been crazy. I never thought that would happen to me. I always thought I would be that person doing artwork in my bedroom and not having a studio; just putting it up online. I never thought I would be going to Kenya, New Zealand, Norway, etc. to hold exhibitions and have 500 people turn up. I love meeting people and getting their take on my artwork because I always get different answers. That is such a wonderful thing; it just makes my profession as an artist and storyteller worth it.
If you had a chance to put a piece of your art anywhere, where would it be? I know my mom is waiting for the day to drive and see my artwork on a billboard. It’s one of her dreams. Though I have a massive piece in Oslo, that’s not enough. She needs to see it in a billboard.
In terms of me, I don’t have anything specific, but it would be nice to maybe one day do a movie poster and see it lit up at Times Square or something like that. It would be crazy to work with a big organization or company like Universal who commissioned me to do a piece for them and you see it in theaters and all over the world. Different billboards, posters. Like I said, something like Time Square would be a big moment. It’s something that would be special. However, knowing where the art has gone and how it’s been moving;, I am grateful and I don’t take that for granted. It’s good to be ambitious and to have those dreams. Maybe, now that I have said it out of my mouth it will come true. I am sure it will!
Where would you like to see your career in the next five years? It’s funny, I used to get this questions five years ago from now. I always got that question and I love it. I remember when I got asked it five years ago, I never thought I would be doing this and it’s crazy. I never really set myself specific goals, but I do have some things that I take up. For example, I am a children’s illustrator so working on some books and I am into fashion so working on some clothes, but nothing like – “by this time next fall I will have that done”. I don’t like to do it as such.
As an artist you have to be emotive as well. I never force myself to create art, I have to feel it . So I never force myself to say I want to or have to release my books by next year, because then I feel it would be rushed and not true to me. That doesn’t mean I am lazy. It means I want to make it feel right.
The eight hundred illustrations didn’t come from me rushing. They come from me feeling that type of way. I would love to continue traveling and having exhibitions. India is definitely one I have not touched and working on; hopefully sooner than five years.
I can’t say where I want to be in five years. I know I will still be here; that’s for sure.
Working with big brands and organizations, commissioned industry personalities; wherever the word art is involved my chances of being there are great. If I keep getting the support and meeting open minded individuals, there’s no reason I can’t be working or being able to tick the list I mentioned. There is so much scope with art. It’s just like ink. I have to let it flow and see where it takes me.
Besides art, is there anything else you like to do or another profession you are into? Cricket. Cricket was my second passion with art, but sadly I injured my hand from bowling. I split my webbing on my thumb and finger; that was my drawing hand. I had a massive realization that I wanted to pursue art more than cricket. I still play it. I used to play for Essex. It was a big passion and I did take it very far, but I also took a step down from it and pursued art; which was a blessing in disguise.
I am a very open person, I don’t limit myself or stay away from things. I love learning. I am a student of life and the word Sikh alone means student. I love to adopt the idea of being open to everything. If you tell me now I am a footballer; Yes, I love football as well. I am sure I can learn and I will do it. If you told me I am a chef; Yes, I will go cook something and I can do it. I am very open-minded, that’s the number one thing. Any profession you say, I am sure I can be it, even if it’s only for an hour!
FUN FACTS –
Favorite Punjabi Singer? I have a few….Jaz Dhami is awesome. I have so much love for him and he’s amazing. If we include rappers, I think Raxtar is incredible. He does great. I actually don’t listen to Punjabi music that much, but this year I have been kind of indulging into it. I went to a Gurdas Maan concert and he was incredible. My cousin brothers RDB; I have always got love for all of them. Shout out to all of them doing their thing. That’s the list for now, but it can go on forever!
Favorite Punjabi Movie? OMG! You have got me know because I don’t really watch Punjabi movies! Am I allowed to say Border or Chaar Sahibzaade? Border because it was a great film and I loved it. It’s so old school, but I don’t really watch anything now and haven’t in the last ten years. In more recent times, I saw Chaar Sahibzaade which was great. I loved how that concept came together and I did a lot research on it.
Favorite Punjabi Song? I am going to stick to something contemporary and now; Jaz Dhami’s Oye Hoye is a wicked track. Also, the Guru Randhawa and Arjun collaboration is good.
Favorite Punjabi Food? Butter Chicken or Saag with Maki Roti and proper Punjabi style Lamb. (My mouth is watering just talking about it and I am about to ask my mom to make me some tonight!)
Favorite Punjabi Actor? Sunny Deol. For someone who doesn’t watch many films these questions are hard! I am sure some of the newer folks like Diljit who are amazing, but I haven’t seen anything to justify picking them as a favorite. I am sure they are wonderful.
Favorite Punjabi Actress? Hehe. This the last question so I am going to end this on a positive and funny note. My favorite Punjabi actress is my mother because when we are on the dance floor she turns into a little actress herself!
Interviewed and Published By Uber Punjabi