Shalini Agarwal sketches a self-portrait in words in explaining the influences and inspiration for her art:
Having grownup in boarding schools in Darjeeling and Mussoorie since I was six, I remember coming home for the long winter vacations and bothering my mother with the standard phrase "I'm bored". My parents at the time lived in Khongea, a tea estate in the Assam Valley.
This being a fairly secluded and remote place, my mother would often paint and sketch to occupy herself. To keep my sister and me from whining, she would come up with simple art projects for us to do as well. I remember spending many afternoons in the sunny back veranda painstakingly working alongside my mother on my "masterpiece". To encourage our artistic endeavours, our paintings would be framed and hung - along side hers. This early exposure greatly influenced my interest in art, though I didn't realize it at the time.
While in High School in Woodstock, I had the opportunity to learn Japanese brush painting with Frank Wellesley, a renowned artist. This style of painting requires total control of the medium - amount of water in brush, intensity of ink, and how the brush stroke is put on the absorbant rice paper. There is no room for mistakes or corrections. Only when one attempts to paint in this manner does one realize the simplicity and perfection of the Japanese paintings is attained after years of practice.
After completing my Bachelors in Economics from Delhi University, I got married and migrated to Southern California, where I have resided ever since. I spent several years working in the insurance and staffing business. Once my kids, Sheena and Dhruv, were born, I stayed home to be with them. At this time I was able to pursue my interest in art by taking courses in the local community colleges. I learned life drawing, watercolor, oil painting and plein-air painting from some excellent artists.
Most of my work is done directly from life. One has to learn to 'see' first - the more one observes the richer our vision becomes - contrast, color, hue- all meld together to give life its beauty. The constantly changing vibrancy of life is a challenge to try and capture on paper.
Besides art, my other main interest is trekking in the mountains. Having lived most of my childhood years in the hills, I have a special affinity for the mountains. I love the crisp cool air, the pines and deodars, smell of wood burning fires, the simplicity of the mountain folk and life and never tire of being in the mountains.
Graphite portrait in "The Elephant Ear", Published by the School of Humanities and Languages, Irvine Valley College, 1995.
Nature pen and ink sketches in "Reflections in Poetry" by Vimla Prakash, self published book of poetry. 1997
Pen and Ink sketches of Mussoorie for "Rerun at Rialto" by Tom Alter published by Penguin India.
Series of watercolor botanicals: for renovation of old British tea plantation bungalow in Darjeeling.