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Debanjana Bhattacharjee: Brushing Through Creativity

Curated By Russ Bratcher

Images provided by Debanjana Bhattacharjee

Welcome to our artist spotlight series! In this edition, we have the privilege of sitting with Debanjana Bhattacharjee, a brilliant artist whose canvas comes to life with vibrant colors and captivating strokes. Join us as we delve into the world of artistry and inspiration.

Rice Museum: Can you share a little about your artistic journey? How did you discover your passion for painting, and what path led you to where you are today?

Debanjana Bhattacharjee: I am originally from Mumbai, India and moved to South Carolina from Texas in 2015. I graduated with a bachelor’s in mathematics from the University of Mumbai and a post-graduate diploma in computer applications. After marriage my husband was transferred from his job and we moved to the US in 2001. This started a new chapter in my life. For 10 years we lived in many cities in US and Budapest, Hungary until eventually my husband quit his job and went for his Ph.D. in Texas. In those 10 years, I became a mother to a wonderful boy. In Texas I had an opportunity to learn painting from an artist from Mexico, Romy Guevera at Edinburg Public Library, Edinburg, Texas. The famous sculptor, Dr. Lorenzo Pace from New York, bought my first painting. That was a huge encouragement and there was no looking back. I realized the need to study art history. Soon I found myself back in Mumbai and got a post-graduate diploma in Modern & Contemporary Indian and European Art History from Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai, India. I returned to Edinburg where I had a chance to learn sculpting using the lost wax technique under the guidance of Prof. Douglas Clark. All this while, I juggled being a mom and desperately wanted to follow my passion for painting. The beginning of my art career was full of challenges but I think those challenges pushed me forward. I wanted to and still am a work in progress on creating my identity as an artist. Over time, my art has changed, leading my works to span a variety of styles and subjects, though currently I am primarily painting the Carolina landscapes en plein air and more.

Painting of landscape
"Simply Spring" 36 x 36 inches

RM: Your artwork often showcases a unique blend of styles. How do you approach mixing different techniques, and what inspires you to experiment with various artistic influences?

DB: I paint in three different mediums: acrylic, oil, and gouache. Acrylic paints dry quickly which helps me with the intuitive expressionist style of work. My tree series is an ongoing series and depicts this style. Oil is a slow drying medium and although I paint ala prima it also helps when a painting goes on for a longer time. Gouache is opaque watercolor and is pretty versatile. I enjoy painting my challenges in gouache. The beauty of gouache is you can paint it like acrylic or oil and it dries immediately which makes transporting easy. At the end I will say it’s the subject and its immediacy which calls for different styles and corresponding medium.

RM: Colors play a significant role in your paintings. Could you elaborate on your color selection process? How do you believe colors contribute to the emotions your artwork evokes?

DB: Oh, I love color! “Color Possesses me” this quote by Paul Klee really fits me. Typically, I am not trying to make a direct replication of nature but convincing enough to depict that moment. Emotion and how I feel about something plays a major role in my works and color naturally helps me to emote my response. My color palette varies based on the subject. Some colors get more preference in a painting as I want to exaggerate a certain feeling. For example, in ‘Simply Spring’ painting I was noticing on my drive inland the different green colors popping out around spring time and hence green was the color I wanted to highlight to show new life, new beginnings and the simple freshness. Color does evoke emotions in a painting but along with color, the application of the paint, and the strokes all work hand in hand to invoke any emotion.

RM: Many artists develop rituals or routines to get into a creative mindset. What do you think is your approach to preparing yourself mentally before starting a new painting?

DB: I am a daily painter which means every morning I go work in my home studio and there is always something to paint. I think one painting leads to another painting and there is only so much time in a day. As regards to routines or rituals, since 2019 I have been painting sunrises every summer. Soon I made a ritual of painting sunrise all 30 days of June. It’s a self-challenge and it feeds my creative ability be it in mixing colors, creating composition, studying the sun, and trying to capture the roaring waves. The following morning, I am back, hoping to capture the same scene more accurately or with a new addition.

RM: Landscapes, portraits, abstracts - your portfolio is quite diverse. Do you have a favorite subject to paint? What draws you to that particular subject?

DB: Yes, my favorite subject is painting sunrise en plein air. It has a feel of adventure, is thrilling and quite challenging to paint a satisfying sunrise. The first difficult part is to be at location before it happens and it’s usually dark when I arrive at my spot. You lay out the colors almost blindly as one really doesn’t know what colors the sun will bring. The thrilling part is painting from sheer darkness to light. There is an unknown, uncertain, mysterious part here. Once the sun is up it’s all very quick decisions and there is no time to look at your palette, you just go with eye-brain-hand motion. And in no time, it’s bright daylight and you are done painting as the moment is over- like a 100 meter dash.

RM: The interplay of light and shadow is a remarkable aspect of your work. Could you show how you achieve such depth and dimension in your paintings?

DB: Light and shadow play a very integral part in a painting as they help to anchor the subject on a flat surface. Every object will have some sort of light on them either directly or indirectly. Same goes for shadows whether it’s cast shadow or reflected shadow. I paint still life occasionally to better understand light and shadow which plays a pivotal part in making any painting three dimensional. ‘Say it with doughnuts...’ a still life painting was one such study.

painting of donuts
"Say It with Doughnuts" 6 x 8 inches

RM: Artists often need creative blocks. How do you overcome these hurdles and find inspiration when you feel stuck in your artistic journey?

DB: In the past few years, I have not encountered any creative blocks. I think it’s like any sport where one trains every day by showing up in the studio to work without fail.

However, earlier in my career, there were moments when I lacked inspiration which I could easily overcome by taking a walk outdoors, a drive to the grocery store, or talking to people.

RM: Collaboration between artists and other creatives can lead to fascinating projects. Have you ever collaborated with other artists or professionals? If so, how did those experiences influence your artistic perspective?

DB: I remember collaborating the first time with a fellow artist Michael Shimoji where we sculpted life size heads and the title of our piece was Whirlwind. Like the title it was quite a whirlwind project completed in a short span of two weeks. Ideas flowed and we could easily solve the problems that came along while doing the project but the final installation of the work where we had to hang the heads from the gallery ceiling in a particular design was the main part. Our individual experiences and knowledge helped to make it a success. Following which we had a sequel to our first collaborated work. When like mindedness meets a lot can be achieved together even though time may not be on your side.

Artist in their studio
Debanjana Bhattacharjee in her studio

RM: Your artwork evokes strong emotions and connections in viewers. What do you hope people take away from your paintings, and how do you create such a powerful resonance through your art?

DB: My biggest hope is that my artwork will bring some sort of impact on my viewers. Each viewer brings their own experience and sensibility while viewing an artwork. It’s open to any sort of interpretation and finally it’s personal.

RM: What advice would you give a younger or beginner artist that would help them navigate the art process?

DB: I would advise a younger or beginner artist to show up in their studio or a dedicated painting area, every day. Painting daily is what I would say is the greatest contributor to my success. Even if it is only 20 minutes a day, it adds up over time. Alongside this, I would recommend immersing yourself in art, whether that be through books, visiting museums, or attending art festivals.


Visit the Rice Museum's Prevost Art Gallery to view our current exhibition, "Dual Horizons." Now on exhibit January 20 – March 16, 2024. The Rice Museum is open from 11 AM – 4 PM, Tuesday to Saturday.

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Mar 24

Your interview of Debanjanna Bettacharjee gave a lovely overview of a dedicated, enthusiastic artist whose paintings are charming. She is a full hearted, joyful presence who manages to express that in her delightful use of color and composition. Thank you for continuing to focus on fine art for the tourists and residents alike in Georgetown.


Mar 04
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.


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