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Q&A With Piccolina Artist Shreya Gupta: Introducing Our New Kamala Harris Trailblazer Tee

Today marks a very historic day for our country. We're not just swearing in a new President and Vice President. Today, for the first time in American history, we are swearing in a woman to be our Vice President - a woman who is also our first Black and first Asian American Vice President. To celebrate this momentous victory, we are launching a special Trailblazer Tee honoring our new VP. Introducing the Kamala Harris Trailblazer Tee!

We're over the moon for this new Trailblazer portrait illustrated by artist Shreya Gupta, who was kind enough to chat with us about her process and what "trailblazing" means to her.

Shreya is an illustrator and designer living in New York, and has worked with major names like The New York Times and Google - and we're honored to join the list! Her work is often whimsical and charming and she enjoys telling stories through her illustrations. But whatever the narrative may be, Shreya's work is always rendered with patterns and textures with many intricate details to be explored.

Tell us how you got into art and illustration.

Shreya Gupta - portrait

As a kid I was encouraged to study, so I didn't draw much unlike most illustrators. I first started drawing when I was told that I was "too young" to carry around a camera. So because I couldn't take pictures, I started drawing the places and things I wanted to remember. This is how I was first introduced to art.

Eventually I became interested in drawing, but never imagined it could be considered a career choice. In India, art as a profession is not encouraged. So fast forward a few years and I found myself finishing an Undergraduate degree in Computer Science Engineering. Shortly after I got a job as a Networking Engineer at a big IT company in India. However, after working there for around two and a half years I became very frustrated, and realized that I needed to make a change. So I researched different creative fields and discovered Illustration. I spent a year creating a portfolio and then applied to three art schools, and got selected for an MFA Illustration program at the School of Visual Arts. Having some of the most illustrious illustrators and designers in the field mentor me – along with very talented and supportive peers – was a dream. During my second year, I was contacted by the Creative Director of Fast Company, who commissioned me to create a series of illustrations for an online article. You could say that that was when my creative journey truly began!

Shreya Gupta - sketch 1

Tell us about your process for illustrating Kamala Harris.

When I was contacted by Piccolina, I was thrilled. We discussed portrait concepts and decided to go ahead with the sketch with Kamala Harris standing next to the portraits of all of the previous vice presidents. The idea was to highlight that Kamala Harris is the first ever female vice president. After that, I went ahead with finishing the illustration. Towards the end we tested with different color options, along with testing those colors on the fabric.

What has been your biggest challenge as an illustrator and how have you overcome it?

I think my biggest challenge has been to have a consistent art style. Illustrators in general are encouraged to have a single art style. It's generally advised so that the art directors know what the finished piece would like when they commission an artist. However, I find it a little difficult mostly because I love to experiment and try new things. So sometimes, unintentionally, my work might look a little different from most of my portfolio. One such project that I did was an illustrated edition of the 150th Anniversary Illustrated Edition of Little Women. I was asked to use two colors only for the header illustrations. So the art work ended up looking like flat color. The work was still incorporated with many patterns, which I love doing for all of my illustration work. And I am quite happy with how it turned out.

How does your identity and heritage play a role in your art?

Shreya Gupta - sketch 2

India is known for its colorful art, full of intricate patterns. I think my work is, hence, influenced by that. I love doing lots of details in my work, so people can look at it longer and explore various details.

What does "trailblazing" mean to you?

It's a quality I admire because it requires a certain amount of courage and risk. And many trailblazers in history have proven to be very inspirational and important figures. Kamala Harris is absolutely one of them, and I look forward to seeing her continued achievements.

Looking for additional resources to teach your kids about our new VP? Check out our roundup of children's books on Kamala Harris here!

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