Sakshi Khullar, the accidental artpreneur from Jammu, now hosts painting workshops and runs an art studio-cum-gallery in Jammu. With over a decade of self-directed learning, Sakshi Khullar Gupta has painted scenes from Banaras Ghats, ancient Indian architecture, a random scooter parked in the streets of Delhi to eclectic, colourful, and thought-provoking elements. She has done over a dozen wall murals and artwork projects for Radisson, KC International School, and other corporates. Apart from this, Sakshi has held 14 exhibitions in various parts of the country. She is also the winner at the 8th All India Women Artists’ Contemporary Art Exhibition, 2020, held in Chandigarh, India.
Stepping into the Art World
Growing up in Jammu, Sakshi had a wonderful childhood with a great interest in painting. She often doodled on books and canvases while she was a student. After commerce, she completed her MBA from Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University, Katra, J&K. She then went on to work in the corporate sector with SBI, Jammu. Though she loved her work in HR, she often found herself doodling her thoughts venting out stress on paper.
Almost three years later, while still working at SBI, Sakshi got her big art break in 2014. She received a call from Radisson Hotel, New Delhi, for creating a mural for one of their walls and was offered INR 1.5 lakh for the job. Still unsure if she could do it, a little persuasion from family and more feedback from colleagues and friends finally pushed her to take the plunge into the world of art. She quit her corporate job at SBI to take up the art assignment to give wings to her dreams. According to Sakshi, “I was clueless about the universe conspiring to make me an entrepreneur.”
Since then, there was no looking back. This word-of-mouth lead gave Sakshi, an MBA, immense confidence to pursue the artpreneur opportunity full time.
Following her work at Radisson, Sakshi Khullar began to get noticed and started getting local assignments. Though she had no formal education or training in art, her work caught the attention of art critics and art collectors alike.
Within a short span, she was commissioned to do more murals for schools and private hospitals in Jammu and Chandigarh. She tied up with architects for home-based murals and applied for government artwork tenders to build up a pool of capital to start a studio.
She worked round the clock to meet private orders generated out of referrals. Though Sakshi began to earn around Rs 2-2.5 lakh, the capital was still insufficient to start her dream studio.
Finally, on May 18, 2020, she rented a space to launch Studio Into Art.
“Jammu is a small town and doesn’t have many entrepreneurs, let alone women entrepreneurs. I had zero confidence in turning my art into business and that is why it took me years to open my studio,” says Sakshi Khullar.
Studio Into Art
Sakshi Khullar has experimented with different art mediums and forms from texture to molding and acrylics to oil. But what she enjoys most is watercolors and resin artwork. Her inspirations are Kim Rose, an LA-based resin artist, and Raghunath Rao, a watercolor artist.
The studio launch meant she now had a place to display her art. But that was not the real intention. Sakshi wanted to build a comfortable space for amateurs and professionals to express their creativity through a potpourri of art forms and display their artwork for sale.
But sadly, Covid-19 intervened, and all plans came to a standstill.
Sakshi decided to teach art to be able to keep the studio. What started as a side gig and an alternative source of income to pay rent became a permanent feature. With her popularity across the region, people of all ages signed up to have a cup of coffee, work on their paintings, socialize, and take home a self-made art piece.
She started with five people and took four sessions per week, charging between Rs 4,000-6,500 per person. Within a span of two months, she had a waiting list of 80 people.
Simultaneously, Sakshi began to post regular pictures of her work and the studio on her Instagram page.
“Thanks to Instagram, I get two to three big orders per month with each painting taking an average 20 days for completion. This is apart from the smaller paintings that I sell offline and online,” says Sakshi Khullar.
Art never dies
Despite the Covid-19 restrictions, Sakshi managed to sell over ten big paintings (2×3 feet minimum) pan-India, priced Rs 20,000 to 2 lakh, over a hundred small artworks in the range of Rs 4,000 to Rs 6,000 per piece.
“I recently sold 11 ‘mini Kashmir’ paintings to an NRI client from California. I cannot emphasise enough about the role social media has played in making me an artpreneur,” says Sakshi, who sold pages of her journal for Rs 3,000 per page while casually flipping through it in one of her Instagram reels.
With social media, the popularity of her art class has reached every corner of India. Even Netflix approached Sakshi to conduct an online workshop for their employees and families in India.
Currently, Sakshi is in talks with private galleries in Mumbai and Delhi to display her paintings and paintings done by the students trained at her studio. They will go under the tag – Sakshi Khullar ArtWork. She also has long-term plans to open her own studio in Chandigarh and Delhi.
Sakshi, the mother of a beautiful 3-year-old girl, Sara Gupta, continues to balance home life while engaging as an artist. The busy Mom finds time to teach art and commission art. She is a true inspiration to every artist out there who looks at the world as a canvas.