Ingrained in most children is a strong and innate desire to create. Our artist in this interview, Pooja Pittie, always felt drawn to making art, but it wasn’t until she was well into adulthood that she centered her career around it. Raised in Mumbai, India, Pooja was encouraged to see art as a great hobby, but not something you could pursue seriously. As she pursued her accounting degree and even earned her MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, she always kept up a painting and drawing practice, and in 2016 shifted her focus to pursue painting full-time. As our discussion deepens, we address topics like the shame spiral of making/not making money from your art, how her disability informs her practice, and the details of how she transitioned from the business sector to the art world.
In 2015 Pooja found out that her muscular disease was progressing quickly. She reveals that she had to take a hard look at her life and how she wanted to spend it. Since art had always been a passion for her, she decided to take some small steps to making her art the main focus of her days. A simple practice of drawing 20 minutes at the end of every day (just a few minutes before bed, she says) grew into experimenting with watercolors, then setting up an easel in her home office. She was still working full-time at this point, but was making consistent and steady strides towards making the leap into an art career.
An important part of making the jump into a full-time art career was finding community. Living in Chicago, there are a plethora of opportunities to connect with other artists. With some trepidation, she slowly applied to different arts organizations and residencies, and began to make connections that would bring her a little further down the road. She grew more bold in her mark-making (citing Joan Mitchell as a major influence), and as her career developed, also took the time to listen to her body and continue to create intuitively and gesturally, based on what energy her body was giving her on that day.
As we wrap up our discussion, we reflect on why the money side of an art career can be so frustrating. Pooja reveals that when she was starting out, she decided not to monetize right away… to allow herself to build up to a place where she could depend on her art for income. She realizes that she is lucky in this regard – being able to rely on another source of income while figuring out the business side of art – but the balance of creating your identity around how much money you are bringing in is delicate. We agree that no matter where you are in your art career, you should be proud of the money that you are making or not making. The journey, in the end, is creating a fulfilling life through art – no matter what direction or process takes you there.
Biggest Art Crush: Joan Mitchell
Dream Trip: London
Film or book: Quiet by Susan Cain and Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham
Favorite meal: Pizza (deep dish)
Shout-out: Hyde Park Art Center