There are rules in design but art comes with no boundariesBikash Man Shakya’s art is a collection of abstract patterns formed by lines and swirls, highlighted by popping colours that pull you closer, letting you explore their intricately-carved details.
Bikash Man Shakya’s art is a collection of abstract patterns formed by lines and swirls, highlighted by popping colours that pull you closer, letting you explore their intricately-carved details. Shakya, who goes by Doodlemyan on Instagram, is a Nepali artist and designer whose art has been jointly exhibited twice in Japan with a number of other artists. He occasionally makes merchandises to sell at the Art Market and is currently a visiting faculty member at Pokhara Engineering College. He is also committed to popularising Ranjana Lipi—an indigenous Newari script. Recently, Shakya created murals in Patan as a part of Micro Galleries, an international art festival. In conversation with The Post’s Abani Malla, Shakya recalls his journey as an artist, shares his notions on art and design, and his future plans. Excerpts:
How did you start doing art-both as a hobby and professionally?
I was interested in drawing as a kid. But there was a gap—I studied other subjects but wasn’t quite satisfied. I took science in my Plus Two and dropped out of Chartered Accountancy (CA) after studying it for a year so ultimately I came back to the arts. I had an interest and curiosity towards designing so I enrolled at the Kathmandu University School of Arts (KUSoA) and experienced my first direct touch with art. Before that, I was childishly drawing.
Your doodles are comprised of lines, colours and abstract objects that come to life. Why did you choose these elements?
Kathmandu University’s curriculum let us explore various art practices. There was so much to see. But I liked the style of doodles and had always wanted to explore it during my time at the University. Whenever I saw the work of Kerby Rosanes, Mr Doodle, and even my seniors, Macha (Shraddha Shrestha), and Sadhu-X (Aditya Aryal), I used to wish I could do something similar. After 2015’s earthquake, I had free time to invest in growing more as a doodler.
How was it transitioning from a CA student to an artist, especially in a society where not everyone is accustomed to art as a career?
I had indirect pressure at home. My family was concerned about what I would do by studying arts, as it felt like there wasn’t much profit in this field. Even I wasn’t sure if I could take this as a career-even while I was graduating. And only later, I thought of slowly upgrading my hobby into a professional medium, which is still in the process of complete implementation. I had only joined KUSoA for design but as they provided a background in art practices, I was more impressed by arts and their elements. So, now I’m more inclined towards the arts and have been taking less design projects.
I have been working as an artist but in the meantime, I have backups that help me be more than just an artist. Like currently, I teach sketching and designing as a visiting faculty member for architecture students at the Pokhara Engineering College and also take on clients as a designer. So it has been 50-50 so far, not just an artist and not just a designer.
You keep mentioning art and design as two different practices. Can you share how they are different to you?
Some say art and design are the same thing, like how I’m teaching architects who call my lesson ‘art’ while it’s actually design. Design and art are quite similar but in design, one needs to fulfill the requirements of their client while art is done for one’s own satisfaction. There are certain rules in design but art comes with no boundaries—it can be vague. When working with clients, some initially say that they don’t have any requirements and tell us to be creative, but later they start complaining. Such experiences don’t happen while creating art.
So you’re also teaching. How’s that experience?
It’s interesting to be a teacher. Initially, I doubted myself as I had graduated as a designer and had art as a base only. I was quite nervous wondering if
I could make them understand, but the students were sincere and I enjoyed the process of imparting what I had learned. I felt nostalgic.
Talking about the past, you’ve also been to Japan and stayed there for more than a year. What was your experience like and what were your takeaways as an artist?
My family lives in Japan. So, I visited them after graduating. I put up two group exhibitions in Japan and assisted clay artist Yuki Goto for nine months. I also learned a bit about the art environment of Japan which, like any department there, is advanced in a way that people are informed about commercial artists and practices. However, the busy life in Japan makes it difficult for the Japanese to stop and ponder art. In Nepal, the art community is thriving and people are curious to know about it.
What other art activities have you engaged yourself in?
I have not participated in many art events. Recently, I was a part of Micro Galleries. It was my first international artist residency where we got to explore each other’s art perspectives, how our cultures differentiate us, and the state of contemporary art in Nepal, but we were primarily focused on climate change.
Your Instagram feed is composed mostly of abstract doodles. Are they a part of your own projects?
I take commissions designing projects, but I enjoy doing doodle series on my own. I have done Ranjana, abstract faces, mandalas, birds, even some fan art on my Instagram page, and currently I’m working on alphabets. I really want to do a portrait series revealing the facial features of a character through doodles. I don’t know if I should share it or not because it has already been six months since I planned it, yet I haven’t been able to start and I don’t know when I will ever get to it. I also plan to doodle murals of Ranjana Lipi based on the name of the place and continue it as a series. I’ve been involved in Ranjana Lipi since last year. We have a group called Callijatra—an art movement that helps us promote the indigenous script Ranjana Lipi and calligraphy. I do doodles in Ranjana script and I’m also planning to develop fonts.
You have created badges and stickers based on your art and, even made doodles on helmets and phone cases. Is it always a good experience here to commercialise your art? And how challenging is it to gather equipment?
People appreciate art but they don’t always buy it. As an indie artist, investing in art is difficult. There are limitations on printing facilities and materials for the merchandise that we want to create, but now it has become better. Yet, this doesn’t mean that it is as satisfactory as it could have been. It is possible for someone to create products out of their art but expenses can be high and sales risky.
What else are you planning for the future?
When I returned from Japan, I was thinking of publishing a colouring book, which was only possible after two years. Laibary Publication recently published Color Nepal, a colouring book which features artworks of Nepali artists, including me, targeting both adults and children. Now, I’m planning to create another colourVing book with my doodle alphabets for children sometime soon, again in collaboration with Laibary Publication.