A designer and illustrator based in Baroda, India, Soumyaraj Vishwakarma creates digital artworks that are dynamic, otherwordly and intricate, celebrating those slower-paced days when we're able to forget our troubles and enjoy the simple things in life that make us happy.
With vivid landscapes acting as colourful and detailed backdrops, Soumyaraj transports us to beautiful worlds full of bright flora and fauna – the kind of gorgeous settings that might appear in our dreams. Inspired by watercolour paintings, she aims to replicate soft brushstrokes in her digital work to offer a "semi-realistic" raw and natural feeling. "My colour palette consists mostly of greens, tropical hues and muted tones," she tells Creative Boom. "Painting greens brings me calm and freshness. I love creating a gentle and peaceful atmosphere. I grew up in a very green town, surrounded by fields, trees and beaches, so I adore the peaceful feeling that nature gives. It all reflects across my work. I wish to spark hope and cheer with a sense of calmness through my vivid artworks." It's undoubtedly the tranquillity many of us need right now.
Pitching Laivi Poder, Jane Newland, Richa Kashelkar and Svabhu Kohli as her inspirations, she tells us the process behind her creative practice is intuitive. "Whenever an idea comes to my mind, I start sketching thumbnails and composing my scene and then filter them down to the best one," she says. "Some paintings start from fragments of thoughts, while some from the images I have clicked. I always carry a sketchbook, too, as it helps me get references for poses. Sometimes the pose comes first and the environment later and vice-versa. By that, I have the freedom to compose my own scenes and characters. I keep adding and making changes to the drawing until it starts to feel right. Then I start going into detail."
Art has always been a strong part of Soumyaraj's identity. Her mother bought her a watercolour kit when she was a young child, and they would sit and paint together and craft for hours. She also thanks her art teacher, who helped her lean more towards a creative subject in her further education. "My parents and teachers constantly encouraged me to participate in art competitions. Through those, I realised that I could pursue art as a profession. That's when I decided to go to an art college."
And that's exactly what she did in 2016, studying Visual Arts at the Faculty of Fine Arts at The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda and graduating in 2020, during the height of the pandemic. "Art college helped me figure out what my skills were and how to adapt and apply them to professional work. I learned, explored and experimented a lot during this time," she says. "After playing with many different mediums like watercolour, oil pastels, and inks, I started using Photoshop, and it has been my favourite so far. It was important for my development, as these digital tools are more forgiving and gave me a lot of room to experiment."
After graduation, Soumyaraj began working as a freelance illustrator in a country where the creative industries are thriving. Creative Boom's fourth-largest audience, India, has flourished over the last decade and has benefited from being part of the global community and now an increased appetite for remote working. "The creative scene here is constantly evolving, and I can see new artists sprouting from every corner in India," she says. "Social media has helped us increase our reach and gain a lot of exposure. Digital art and illustrations are being picked up rapidly in the market. With this huge demand, many artists are working beautifully in their unique styles. Be it packaging design, editorials or wedding invites, digital illustration is making its way everywhere."
Soumyaraj is one of many Indian creative professionals to benefit from these developments and has spent the last two years working for clients locally and globally. She was also recently invited to participate in The Plated Project, an art initiative that aims to provide 100,000 meals to migrant workers in India by selling limited-edition art plates via its platform. "It has become one of my favourite art pages, she says.
"They handpick talented artists to create one-of-kind plates printed with unique, beautiful art. But the main reason I was happy to collaborate is the cause it supports. They not only feed the hungry but also promote emerging artists like me too. It's a win-win for all. I love to see people sharing pictures of my plates in their homes or at hotels on social media. It is a good feeling to see my art reaching so many people while helping to feed those in need."