Studio Visit with Sandeep Johal

Please meet Sandeep Johal! I've known Sandeep since we were Langara Fine Arts students way back when. A time when we would spend endless hours in the basement of the school, etching metal plates in intaglio class, chipping away at a piece of soapstone or letting the charcoal fly across the page in a drawing class. It's been wonderful to see Sandeep's art grow and transform. Her careful penmanship, mesmerizing mandalas and her dedication to her art practice all inspire and excite me. Here is some of her beautiful work and a little peek behind the scenes.

Studio Vist: November 19th, 2015

Introduce yourself. How would you describe yourself as a maker/creative? How do you spend your days?
I am a visual artist, educator, workshop facilitator, and new mama. I live in Vancouver, BC with my husband and our sweet lil son. I'm mostly known for making mandalas, but I also draw other things, paint, and print make. My days are spent hanging with my son and my nights are mostly spent making art or doing art-related things.

Briefly describe your journey. Were there some pivotal things that helped propel you to where you are now? (Perhaps there were some struggles that you see, in hindsight, helped you get to where you are now?)
As a child, I drew all day every day. As a daughter to South Asian immigrant parents, being an artist was not an option, so I moved away from art. But I always came back to it. There were definitely pivotal moments along the way that I ignored because I was too scared to move forward into the life I wanted. And now I’ve been presented with the opportunity to work on my art full-time, so I’m taking it! Getting to this point has been a struggle, but surrounding myself with good people who believe in me and support me has been everything.

Mandalas and the intricate designs within them seem to influence your work a lot. Where did this fascination with mandalas begin?
Mandala means circle in Sanskrit. My fascination with mandalas began in my early 20's, by accident, and through what I’m pretty sure was a cult. I’ve been making mandalas off and on for 17 years now and although I don’t actively meditate, drawing mandalas provides a quiet space for contemplation and reflection.

Do you have any rituals or a routine that helps ground you & primes your creative mind?
It's kind of weird, but purging and reorganizing is my grounding ritual. I’m constantly purging and then reorganizing my newly purged space to keep the energy moving. If things stay static for too long, then my mind becomes static as well.

Fear and uncertainty seem to be an innate part of the creative process. How do you confront your fears, instead of letting them stop you?
Fear is unfortunately an innate part of the creative process, and definitely an innate part of my own creative process. But one way to confront the fear is simply by asking myself : “What am I afraid of?”. Just by asking the question, I’ve now taken this huge, vague, scary thing and turned it into something more manageable. And usually when I go through my mental list of all the things I’m “scared” of, they aren’t really anything more than excuses. Fear also tells me what I have to do. Anytime I feel fear around a particular idea or project, I know I need to explore it.

What kinds of activities/interests do you have outside of your actual art practice, that you feel informs or inspires your work? (or maybe just contributes to a richer life)
Having a baby has inspired (and forced) me to really look at myself, my life, and my influence as a parent. I keep coming back to the question : “How can I encourage my son to go after his dreams if I’m not fully stepping into my own dream of being a full-time artist?" I’m also very fortunate to have a husband who’s always got my back and a super diverse network of close friends from around the globe who are all doing interesting things in their respective fields as well as in their personal lives. Conversations/ visits with them always leave me feeling energized and inspired and help me see things from different perspectives. I also like to take classes out of general interest and to expand my art practice. The most recent have been Letterpress and Paper Marbling.

I’m a sucker for good quotes. Do you have a favourite you’d like to share?
I like this quote because it’s where I’m at right now.

“Follow your bliss … If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” 

— Joseph Campbell

Any exciting projects that you are working on?
I recently published my first adult colouring book which was an intense labour of love/hate, sweat, and tears! And now, I’m finally taking a break from mandalas to work on a painting series inspired by Indian woodblock printing and textiles, as well as some more narrative work around gender justice - a topic very close to my heart.  

Thank You Sandeep!

You can find more of her beautiful work here: