Born and bred in Canada, Keerat is an astoundingly talented artistic all-rounder: her sketches range from life-like detail, to a playful innocence. She also sings soothing Punjabi melodies, as well as angelic Western vocals. In July 2015, Keerat performed live alongside Rupi Kaur for her London launch of Milk & Honey.
There aren’t many people who are the living embodiment of their name; but we can confidently say that our featured artist for this month is Keerat by name, and Keerat by nature. The name (in Punjabi) means ‘sings the praises of the Creator’, and from a young age Keerat has been doing just that, and a whole lot more.
Have you always been into illustration/painting/singing, and if not, what was the turning point for you?
My exposure to these things happen pretty early. I’d have to say my first love is drawing. It’s what I’ve been doing the longest, since I was about 2 years old. It was my favourite way of communicating. I used to hear stories and draw them. I used to come up with my own stories and draw them, too. It’s remained one of my favourite ways of communicating. I feel like you can say so much without having to say a lot when expressing yourself visually.
My mother taught me to sing keertan when I was five or so, and since then I’ve been trained classically (dhrupad keertan) and have been experimenting and exploring different sounds.
What obstacles do you face on a day-to-day basis in all your artistic ventures?
I try to balance a lot of things at once. I want to make time for everything in life. But sometimes sacrifices are necessary. Accepting that is hard. But, it has taught me that energy is precious and that it needs to be focused wisely.
How do you like to unwind after a long day of pouring your energy into your art?
I like being around nature. It’s really calming being around things that are quiet and alive. When we’re indoors we’re mostly surrounded by inanimate things. But being around things that are peacefully breathing has a really calming effect. It throws any anxiety or negative feelings right out the door. Being around people that are loudly alive is cool too ~ humans :)
I like talking to my mother about normal everyday things after having put in work.
What’s your motto?
ਹਸੰਦਿਆ ਖੇਲੰਦਿਆ ਪੈਨੰਦਿਆ ਖਾਵੰਦਿਆ ਵਿਚੇ ਹੋਵੈ ਮੁਕਤਿ written by Guru Arjan Dev Ji from Aad Granth. The rough translation is: “while laughing, playing, dressing and eating, one achieves liberation. It’s a celebration of being raw & human and still having the ability to be divine.’’
What makes you feel good?
I love my family. They are everything to me. My teachers, best friends, counsellors & caretakers. Any moment spent with them is sacred. This includes non-blood friends who have become my siblings.
How have your family and friends encouraged you to pursue what you are doing?
My parents and brother are my biggest supporters and they’ve always encouraged anything I’ve done with passion and integrity. My circle is pretty tight knit, and those close to me have always encouraged me to do what I love for the sake of feeding my heart.
Our time on earth is really short, it’s important to remember we’re going to leave fairly soon. That frame of mind is really important to me. And it’s key to make our time here as fulfilling and enjoyable as possible. My family and friends have always been amazing for reminding me of that.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Emotions. Hearing about others emotional experienced. Feeling what I am feeling to its fullest, recognizing the emotion, and analyzing its DNA. I think expressing emotion through art is another form of exploring and understanding the emotion itself.
Gurbani and Sikh scriptures have also been a heavy influence on me and it’s some of the most beautiful poetry that I have ever been exposed to. It is passionate but soft. I like to express that same intensity and gentleness within my work.
In your experience, what are the highs and lows of ‘putting yourself out there’ on social media?
Social Media allows your work to get a lot of exposure with the click of an "upload” button, which is pretty amazing. It’s made the marketing part of things easier. It’s also made connecting with people really convenient.
What kind of sucks is that people start forgetting that social media is not real life. People can manicure themselves to appear however they want. There are a lot of illusions, and it’s important to remember that not everything you see on the internet is real.
More from Keerat Kaur