Featured Artist: Shachi Kale

Featured Artist: Shachi Kale

Photo courtesy of Shachi Kale

We spoke with Shachi Kale about healing with art, wisdom from the Bhagavad Gita, and the female journey.

Your art captures the complexity of the human—and more specifically female—life cycle beautifully. How has your artistic practice supported you through your own life’s journey?

My art is largely a reflection of both my innermost thoughts and conversations with myself as well as my journey as a woman. I started expressing my journey through art only after I moved to the US over 20 years ago and found myself lonely, adrift, and losing myself. While everything looked great on the outside, on the inside I was struggling and found a great sense of release in trying to capture those feelings in art.

When I look back on those first paintings, I can see the haunted loneliness in them. My later series of works capturing my early years in America were more intentional and helped me process in detail all the emotions I had felt 20 years ago. In a surprising way, putting that experience down on paper helped me release the ghost. I’ve captured my early years as a mother, my inner conflicts and emotions, and quiet moments from my daily life. All these have helped me make sense of the world around me and my place in it.

When, how, and why did you start your artistic practice?

I came to the realization that I was an artist very early in life. I remember knowing at age 4 that art brought me alive and made me feel most myself. Having said that, I studied to be a graphic designer and worked in the world of advertising and design for over 25 years. It was only after the pull to make art got too great, and my children were a little older, that I started leaning into it.

I always made art for fun or as a way to release emotions, but I would say my art as a conscious “practice” started six years ago when I was given the opportunity to have my own solo art show in Phoenix. That was the impetus to sit down and really explore what it is that I wanted to say and how. It has been an organic growth that has been an amalgamation of my exploring various media, taking classes in printmaking, fiber arts, ceramics, and watercolors and integrating them into my art practice to express myself.

Both humans and animals (including some distinctly Southwestern animals like lizards and desert ravens) feature heavily in your work. Who or what are some of your greatest inspirations?

I am hugely inspired by the beauty of nature as we encounter it in our daily lives. Not just the grand views and exotic animals and birds…I’m amazed on the daily at the variety, patterns, and beauty that can be seen in my own backyard. I have always been drawn to unusual creatures like lizards, javelinas, snakes, bugs, and birds and they make their way into my art, as does my sweet dog Buzz.

As an artist, I’m drawn to folk art and miniature art that expresses the world around us, boiled down to its essence and infused with color, pattern, and wonder. I’m always on the quest to capture my world with the same degree of innocence and wonder, and an unapologetic love for color.

Your self-portraits from your series Before Ever After: My American Fairytale are so striking and contemplative. How much does your spiritual path play into your art?

I think of my art as my spiritual practice. It takes me both inside myself and outside myself and makes me see the world with different eyes where I can set my ego aside and just observe light, color, pattern, beauty, and the interplay of all these elements. Painting small strokes, dashes, and dots is meditative and calming and slows down the whirling thoughts that are constantly lurking.

Hindu philosophy is what I’ve grown up with, and this one Sanskrit phrase is my guiding light. It’s from the Gita, and says, “Karmanyevadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana.” It translates loosely to: “Do the work; it’s not your job to worry about the fruits of your labor.”

As artists, we constantly second-guess and torment ourselves about whether our work has meaning or purpose. This frees me to do the work and follow the inner urge that tells me to make art and not worry about the outcome or rewards.

What advice would you offer to S+H readers who feel inspired but intimidated to begin making art?

My advice is partly related to the previous answer. Follow the urge to create, do the work, and don’t worry so much about perfection or results. I don’t believe in perfection…it only holds one back from even trying. Because the truth is, you will fail, and many times at that. But your best learning will come from the failures.

Also, you don’t need fancy or expensive equipment! Initially use what you have around the house—markers, pencils, paper. See what you are drawn to and follow that thread. Remember that the joy is actually in the process, not the end product so much, so enjoy the process and play!

For me personally, my journey started with watercolor, because with young kids it was the easiest to clean up and put away! I’ve also always been drawn to textiles and I collect scraps and clippings of textiles with textures, colors, or patterns that excite me. I love playing with stitching them together or to paper to express a feeling. I only know a few stitches but that’s enough!

As you go along and follow a path, you’ll be surprised to find guidance and information that will lead you to more ways to explore and you will find yourself like Alice tumbling down a rabbit hole into the wonderland that is art!

Not yet part of the Spirituality+Health community? Celebrate 25 years of S+H by subscribing here.

Featured Artist Shachi Kale

Enjoying this content?

Get this article and many more delivered straight to your inbox weekly.