Uma J - Uma Street
A few months ago, sis and I had the wonderful opportunity of connecting with Uma J- a freelance designer, illustrator and environmentalist from Sydney. We saw her beautiful artwork on Instagram and knew we had to feature her on CONVERSATIONS, as one of our artists of the month. Even the caption to her images are quirky. Check out Uma’s uber cool responses below!
How did your journey in the world of art begin?
When I was younger, I used to help my mum paint on baby pillow cases. Every kid loves to paint, but as I look back, that could have been the start of my journey. A few years later, my family and I migrated to New Zealand. I was a shy 12 year old, and found it really hard to fit in and communicate at school. I truly had to rely on hieroglyphics (Haha I kid). But, to express myself, I turned to art. With every assignment I completed I ensured there was an artistic element to them. It was a way to express my ideas. I used to spend more time on making my assignments look more attractive than I did with the actual content! (Literally)
What does ART mean to you?
Colour! Enjoyment! Life! Culture! Living! Emotion! Inspire! I could go on and on. Art truly excites me. But more importantly, art is an expression. In a way we all use different mediums every day to express ourselves. Some are great public speakers, others are good writers, but to me – art is my way. I try to capture particular moments or feelings that captivate me, and in turn, express these in my paintings or my sculptures.
Your paintings are so refreshing, simple and playful. What inspired you to paint in this style?
My style didn’t actually happen straight away. My art was quite full on in the beginning. My painting style evolved as time went on, and became simpler. Sometimes, less is more. I draw upon Sri-Lankan/ Indian tradition which is both admired and questioned. I’ve always been inspired by simple silhouettes. Doodling on scrap paper, post it notes, in bed, on the train… and before I knew it I had created my own style that you see today.
We’ve noticed that the faces in your paintings don’t have features, what’s the reason for this?
Initially it started off because I used to feel the eyes ruined my drawings. The eyes either looked too real or too cartoonish. I felt they weren’t perfect and they didn’t fit. It really bothered me. So I stopped drawing them altogether! My friends and family started questioning me regarding this, and that is when I truly realised I was not so particular about how the faces looked; I was more trying to express interaction between people, their culture and nature.
What has been your greatest achievement?
One of my proudest achievements is having worked on a Children’s book ‘Maya’s New Home’ based on the plight of Refugees for a Charity Art Exhibition. It was a good feeling to be a part of a project that raised funds and tried to create awareness regarding the issues refugees and asylum seekers face.
What has been your greatest obstacle?
Whilst completing my Industrial Design degree, though it was the most exciting 4 years, the issue I face currently is that it is hard finding a job in this field. It has been difficult. I use my art to let go of some emotions, to calm me and to daydream. I think I am my own biggest obstacle, at times I find it really hard to step outside my comfort zone to face reality. I may be a daydreamer, but I am my most creative when I’m zoned. I know deep down, the career will sort itself out, but for now, I’m riding the wave and enjoy my time being able to work on my art.
Do you ever get a creative block and if you do, how do you overcome it?
Believe it or not, but I overcome creative blocks by simply taking a nap. Sometimes you just need to walk away and take time out. I try not to stress and be disappointed in myself that the creative juices aren’t flowing. I believe they will come. I take comfort that it happens to everyone! Also, although I don’t give her enough credit, my Mum is always there to encourage me along and is also a great source to discuss traditions, art and culture. We have quite similar styles, and she has good eye for shapes.
What makes you feel good?
Looking back and seeing a painting or sculpture all finished is such a nice feeling. It really gives me a sense of achievement. I want to use my paintings to create a small world where we are all connected to nature.
‘Better start praying twice as hard now that I’m stuck with you forever’
What’s your personal motto?
“Keep it simple.” The reason why I say this is because I’m inspired by simple things that send out a strong message.
What do you do when you’re not painting?
I try and learn new skills – driving my family crazy in the process (they are my audience!) My current obsession is DIY projects. I recently built a small shelf, much to the amazement of my dad! You will definitely not find me in the kitchen! A perfect day would be visiting an art gallery, getting lost in the art, grabbing a nice lunch and coffee, and taking it all in. I also love reading and analysing ancient mythologies. I also have a keen interest in researching about very traditional and sustainable ways of living.
For more fun and original illustrations, check out Uma’s work over on Facebook and
Peace & Light,
Sukhman & Hernoor