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What made you start Art By Thiviyaa?
If you speak to many artists, we have been artists much longer than the outside world comes to learn of us. For me, my love affair with art began over 15 years ago but Art By Thiviyaa only became a reality in 2015. Five years ago, a close friend of mine pushed me to apply for a juried exhibition with my artwork in Toronto. I had only ever shared my work with my family and friends and applying to a public exhibition was nerve-wracking but it set in motion the confidence to share my art with the world.
I was accepted to the exhibition and since then, exhibited my work at 16 exhibitions including Toronto’s largest art event Nuit Blanche twice, and was published in two books. I develop custom paintings for corporate and private clients in Canada and internationally and sell my artwork on my shop online. All it took was that first step to live my dream.
I think a lot of creators have trouble monetizing their content. I believe this is the “Golden Age of the Creator Economy” where it’s become much easier to do so (given you put in the work). What steps did you take to monetize your creative work?
Digital marketing and e-commerce play a huge role in how I have established my brand and developed my clientele and collectors of my art. Growing my business through diverse marketing tactics and e-commerce platforms helped me reach clients globally. Brand development was integral to my growth. For me, my art is an extension of who I am, and my brand stands by that. This was integrated into my strategy across all my marketing online.
How has social media impacted your business?
Social media has had a huge role in reaching people globally and sharing not just my artwork but more about my brand and the artist behind the craft. Thanks to platforms like Instagram, people can shop my artwork, see the process, and get to me all on one platform. I have been able to expand my clientele across the world through my social media presence.
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Is this something that you currently do full-time? If not - do you have plans to make this a full-time endeavour in the future?
I joke with my clients and friends that running my art business and having a day job is like having 2 full-time jobs. My evenings and weekends are all about my art, as soon as I wrap up my day job. I do have hopes to focus primarily on my art business, full-time. I work at a digital marketing agency during the day and I love what I do. My day job and my business have helped my career growth in both roles, and at this moment I am happy doing them both.
How have your family and friends supported you through your journey? Did you have any doubters?
There was skepticism during the early days for my parents. Diving into visual art and painting within the South Asian community as a viable career or business comes with its fair share of skeptics. I knew it wasn’t going to stop me from making my mark. My family celebrated my art once they saw that my determination, hard work, and love for my craft helped grow a successful business.
I had quite a few doubters and they pushed me even further. It gave me the grit I needed, to take my art even more seriously and I never looked back.
I noticed that you love travelling. What has been your favourite place that you’ve travelled to and why? What places are you looking forward to seeing next and why?
Travel has been one of the pillars of inspiration in all my artwork! I started a series on IG #ThivsTravellingCanvas where I paint live while I travel. I love it and I have filled 4 sketchbooks! I feel like I come alive when I travel and I am outdoors. My favourite place I traveled to has to be Azores, Portugal and Bali, Indonesia. I backpacked through South East Asia for a month in 2017 and ended my trip in Bali, and to this day it was like taking all the types of artwork and colours I loved painted and seeing in real life. Tropical, fresh, and free-spirited energy was Bali! It’s no secret I love painting tropical landscapes haha.
On my last trip before the pandemic in 2019, I backpacked through Portugal and Morocco and spent a few days on an island in Azores, Portugal. I left a part of myself in the Azores, it felt like home. It was the most enchanting getaway island, and my work this year has been GREATLY influenced by this trip.
I would love to travel to the Amazon rainforest, Ecuador, Switzerland, Ireland, and New Zealand. Let’s just say I love adventure and the outdoors and these places are everything an artist like me loves.
Where do you see Art By Thiviyaa in the next 3-5 years? Where do you see yourself in that same time period?
I see Art By Thiviyaa bringing more colour and whimsy into homes across the world. I hope to hit new heights, globally working with brands and collectors. My style of art has grown so much over the last few years and I see it getting more refined as the years pass. I know travel and the outdoors will continue to inspire my work and I hope to launch collections of work and continue creating custom artwork across the world.
How has COVID-19 impacted your businesses? How have you adapted?
When the pandemic hit, I had many of my clients adjust their commissions for custom paintings to later dates for their weddings, events amid personal impacts due to the pandemic. Also with closures, it was tough to get supplies to complete paintings or have clients come to my studio. I was able to take the time to focus on my shop and expand my prints and artwork available. I was able to add a new array of artworks, do live sessions for art therapy online, and expand my shop for orders.
Do you have any mentors that have helped you in the progression of your career? If not, who would be somebody that you would want as a mentor now?
I credit my high school art teacher, Ms. Priscilla Li for being the greatest mentor a young artist could have asked for. She was more than just my art teacher. Years later, I invited her to my first exhibition and told her she had inspired and encouraged a young artist years before she knew she was going to become one. Today, she has still encouraged me to challenge myself as an artist and I am so grateful for her guidance.
Tell us about a major win that you’ve had so far that you’re proud of.
My global clientele. A few years ago, I started doing custom paintings for clients across the world, and to know my art is in countries I have yet to travel to has been an incredible feeling. All I ask from my art is to inspire and help others feel something when they look at my work. Knowing my art is enjoyed around the world is surreal and humbling.
What is a failure you’ve experienced in the last 5-10 years that you’ve learned the most from?
A few years ago, I made a mental shift to never look at any of the lows or mistakes in my career path and life with regret or as a failure. Each exhibition I did not get accepted to, jobs that may not have been the right fit, painting sales that fell through, or losses were some of my greatest teachable moments. They have taught me resilience and patience. New doors opened and others closed and there’s beauty in each moment. I like to call it the successes from those failures.
What is a great business idea that you would be working on if you weren’t focused on your current business?
I would create technology to improve access to water in countries lacking basic needs.
What do you think you would tell 16-year Thiviyaa looking back?
Be kind to yourself! The obstacles you face will make you stronger and it is all a part of the process. I promise you your dreams will come through if you keep working hard. It will all be worth it!
How would you describe your dream life?
Never forgetting the reason I do what I do. A life filled with enjoying my craft with freedom, love and joy as I do now as if time just pauses around me.
What is your favourite book(s) you've read recently or a podcast(s) that you've listened to recently that's had an impact on you?
A recent book I read was “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” by Adam Grant. It has an array of stories from innovators of big ideas and brands and how leaders face challenges, learn from mistakes, and go against the status-quo. It’s a great read for creatives and entrepreneurs.
What is a new belief, behaviour or habit that has most improved your life?
Daily gratitude has improved my life greatly. I spend my mornings and evenings feeling gratitude for the family, love, and support around me that helps me be a better me. The outlook on your own life can be greatly changed if you start the day with a grateful heart.
If you were given $1 billion, how would you allocate the money to change the world?
Clean water would be my main priority. Access to clean water can have a huge impact on reducing poverty. I would allocate the money to improving water access and sanitation. Many health concerns around the world are linked to poor access to water. Women and young girls bear a huge burden when there is no clean water and sanitation. They often can’t go to school due to hygienic concerns during menstruation and the list goes on. I strongly believe access to clean water can be the root of reducing poverty.
How would you describe the impact that the Tamil community in Toronto has had on you personally and your business?
It’s a beautiful feeling when your community champions your work and I can truly say the Tamil community in Toronto celebrates young entrepreneurs. My first few clients were Tamil Canadians who to this day are my greatest supporters and helped me challenge myself as an artist. As an entrepreneur and creative, it’s the people who support you and champion your work from the early days that can build your confidence. I hope to inspire Tamil artists to continue dreaming big and diving into the arts.
What is your favourite Tamil food (meal or dessert)?
My favourite Tamil food is my mom’s Kathirikkai Curry (eggplant curry) and kothu roti.
What is your favourite Tamil movie?
Khadalan and Jeans, I can’t choose. I am a huge AR fan and some of my favourite songs are from these movies.
What does Tamil culture mean to you?
I grew up learning Carnatic music, Violin, Bharathanatyam, and at the tail-end of all those lessons and years of practice, I fell into visual arts and painting. I learned from Tamil teachers and masters in Toronto and was educated on our Tamil roots within the arts. If it weren't for my parents taking me to classes and teaching me the skills in an array of classical arts such as music and dance, I may never have had the passion and vibrancy of my paintings that I share with you all today. It had a strong influence on the emotions, feelings and discipline I've poured into my paintings.
My love for colour is strongly connected to my Tamil heritage. We aren't shy about vibrant colours and it's evident in every aspect of our culture. It's clear in my abstracts and landscape work. Many of which have been inspired by the beautiful landscapes back home. One, in particular, is very special to me. I created a painting that was commissioned for a school back in Jaffna. Creating this painting was a true highlight in my art journey and I hope it inspires many of the students!
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