Creative Quarantine: Artist Soumya Netrabile

Soumya Netrabile, Self-Portrait | ©Soumya Netrabile

Soumya Netrabile recently spoke with Esthetic Lens about maintaining a steady demeanor despite the unrest and discord in the world currently. She touches on adapting and adjusting in the studio as well as securing professional opportunities to show work online.

1. How are you holding up?

Overall, I feel like I am handling things as best as I can. I’ve always been good at adapting to change, so that has probably helped me adjust to everything that has been taking place. I do feel agitation on a daily basis reading about political divisions and unrest in the world. I do feel I’m constantly working to stay as steady as possible while a hurricane is moving around me. I’m grateful for my family, friends and my work, all of which help keep the weariness at bay. We are all going through a collective trauma, and everyone is coping the best they can. Many are struggling with not being able to cope at all. I try to keep myself aware to the struggles others may be dealing with. It feels crucial right now to just slow down and listen to all the conversations going on around me.

A Spare Leg, 2020, oil on paper, 18”x24” | ©Soumya Netrabile

I am much more tuned into a sense of immediacy in my life and in my relationships, and it has also seeped into my work.

Collapsing Figure, 2020, oil on canvas, 16”x20” | ©Soumya Netrabile

Elegant Reflex, 2020, oil on canvas, 16”x20” | ©Soumya Netrabile

2. Has Covid-19 had an effect on your work? If so, in what way?

I share a small studio with two other painters, so when the governor first ordered shelter-in-place, my mates and I set up a schedule to allow each of us solo time in the space. This meant that I went from working 8 hrs a day to one third of my usual amount of time. I’ve had to learn to adjust to that—to work a bit differently and more efficiently. I have discovered that I don’t dilly-dally or spend much time ruminating now when I’m in the studio. I get straight to work. These days my mind seems to be constantly engaged in whatever I’m working on even while I’m physically not painting. I’ve even been having many lucid dreams about painting. I think in this state of mind, I am able to just start painting when I arrive at my studio. Professionally, I’ve secured some opportunities to show my work online, as this crisis has opened up creative venues for showing art. That being said, I really miss casually visiting galleries and museums.

Elegy, 2020, oil on canvas, 11”x14” | ©Soumya Netrabile

Feeling Gravity’s Pull, oil on canvas, 22”x28” | ©Soumya Netrabile

Sideways Nose, 2019, oil on canvas, 11”x14” | ©Soumya Netrabile

3. Is there anything you’ve added to your practice that you’d like to keep after this is over?

I have been feeling the pressure of time the last few months. Although exhausting to sustain (I find myself needing more sleep these days), on the upside it has made me more aware and more awake. I am much more tuned into a sense of immediacy in my life and in my relationships, and it has also seeped into my work. I feel as though I’m working with a constant awareness of not having certainty in my future. I would not mind maintaining this feeling of urgency, because I like how it has influenced my work. My paintings have become looser and more fluid. I’m feeling more confident with navigating color relationships. I don’t fret as much about what I put down and am feeling more comfortable with emotions that used to drag me down. Feelings of uncertainty and self-doubt now feel like part of the process rather than hindrances.

The Black Seeds, 2020, oil on canvas, 16”x20” | ©Soumya Netrabile

The Mechanic, 2020, oil on paper, 16”x20” | ©Soumya Netrabile

Tools of the Querent, 2020, oil on canvas, 11”x14” | ©Soumya Netrabile

4. Of the artists you follow, who is handling this particularly well?

I’ve been enjoying seeing JJ Cromer’s dazzling work on my feed. The energy in it is inspiring. Sean Sullivan’s steady investigations and meditations on serendipity and order make me happy. It’s nice to have some reliable ports in the storm to help me stay on course.

White Finger, 2019, oil on canvas, 18’x18” | ©Soumya Netrabile

Soumya Netrabile was born in Bangalore, India, and emigrated to the U.S. with her parents when she was 7 years old. She studied at Rutgers University, College of Engineering, and at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is currently a full-time painter and ceramic artist residing near Chicago. Through experimentation with different painting methodologies, she explores relationships between the human body and terrain. Recently her work has been leading into meditations on plant life and a refocus towards the figure. She’s exhibited her work nationally, most recently at La Loma Projects and Part 2 Gallery in California.

Soumya is currently part of a group exhibition (Nothing But) Flowers at Karma Gallery in New York City. The show is up until September 13th, 2020.

Soumya Netrabile can be found online:


Two Coats of Paint:

Daily Art Magazine:

Voyage Chicago: