Bula Barua is a fine artist, a published author of short stories and poetry, and a User Experience Designer. However, even more than being all of the above, she is a Humanitarian.
Bula creates art with a very specific purpose… to uplift society and mankind by putting beauty into the world and reminding us all of something we often forget that we are perfect just as we are. “Every failure is merely an opportunity to grow and become stronger, and we will survive as long as we keep moving forward, one step at a time.” Bula said.
Bula Barua was raised in the Great American Midwest by parents who immigrated from Assam (northeastern), India. She grew up with the best of Eastern and Western cultures. She speaks 5 languages fluently. Her influences growing up ranged from Prince, Tori Amos, Sarah McLaughlan, and Michael Jackson… to the Indian traditions of Lata Mangeshkar, Parveen Sultana, and Ravi Shankar… to the paintings of Van Gogh, Renoir, and Picasso… to 19th Century English literature and popular teenage fiction… to Immigrant Culture, Greek Mythology and Astronomy.
Bula has traveled the world and finds great joy in experiencing other cultures and people. Bula thinks all of this is reflected in her art. In her opinion, she believes the artist is one of the most important roles in society today. “We have the power to create the future!” Bula said. It was a great pleasure for us to take an interview with Bula Barua and we wish you a pleasant reading and viewing of Bula Barua paintings.
AP: Bula, thank you for finding the time to give us an interview. It’s a great honor for us! I hope you will enjoy answering our questions we’ve prepared for you. Could you please tell me what got you started?
Bula: At age 7, I visited Assam with my parents. During that summer, I witnessed a neighbor slap a 7-year-old servant girl for wetting herself. She cried hysterically. I remember being so upset and feeling so fragile. There really was no difference between that servant girl and myself, except that she wore rags, and I wore American clothes.
That morning, I organized a “Servants Revolt.” I took sheets of paper and wrote “FREEDOM” on them with bright, rainbow-colored crayons and drew tulips and roses on the edges. I taped my art onto bamboo branches and created makeshift signs. I then marched along the streets with 10 servants beside me, including the young girl, and together we chanted “Freedom! Freedom!” for 3 solid hours, under the hot sun.
When our revolt was over, I wasn’t sure if I’d made any sort of impact for the others. However, I knew I had made a huge impact on myself. I no longer felt fragile. I felt empowered. I also knew I had a greater purpose than just creating beautiful art. On that day, I decided to change the world by uplifting others, one person at a time, through my art.
AP: Bula, this is so impressive! I take off my hat to you – you’ve done very well indeed. You truly change the world for good. Could please tell me do you any formal education in visual art or were you self-taught?
Bula: I am a self-taught artist. I started creating visual art when I was 5 years old. I read everything I could get my hands on and practiced incessantly. My mother, who is an artist herself, fostered my creativity.
As an adult, I did my undergraduate degree at Purdue University, after which I decided to pursue my art more seriously as a career. My greatest teacher has been life itself. The experiences, triumphs, failures, and the everyday people I’ve met… they have all been my inspiration.
AP: That’s a good quality to discover the inspiration in everything. What genre are your paintings?
Bula: I love to experiment with genres. I work primarily with oils and acrylics on canvas, board and aluminum. However, for my next exhibition, I’ve been crushing glass and going over it with a rolling pin. I’m using it as a texturizer on my works. It’s been incredible!
AP: Great, it should look fantastic! I wish I could visit your next exhibition. How would you describe your works?
Bula: If I were to describe my own works, I’d use words like “bold” and “vibrant” and “colorful.” They live on a fine line between abstract and surrealism and often look dream-like. I love strong lines and colors. When I create art, I always have a wish in mind. Sometimes it is something as simple as, “I hope the person who sees this piece feels so happy and loved.”
AP: Such incredible approach! What kind of equipment and techniques do you use to paint your pictures?
Bula: Inspiration hits me at the oddest times. Often, I will be sleeping and I will wake up at 3AM from a dream with a vision that I absolutely MUST paint. It’s almost painful until I can get it out of my head and onto the canvas!
I prefer natural bristles and bamboo handles for my brushes. I love using Japanese Sumi inks, which I prepare myself. I also create my own solvents for oils and thinners.
Unlike most artists, I don’t paint on an easel. I paint on the floor. It allows my body to be most flexible, and so I have greater control over my brushstrokes.
I love to paint by candle-light with music. I find that the genre of music I listen to greatly influences my painting. When I listen to rap or hip-hop, I tend to paint more urban scenes. If listening to opera, I create dreamscapes and flowers.
I use all sorts of other equipment in my creative process, as well. I sometimes use blended Indian spices, such as turmeric and saffron for bold color. I use sand, rock, brick, sponge, glass, fabric, and of course, canvas.
AP: Which artists do you use for references?
Bula: I’m a huge fan of Gregory Colbert, Amrapali Ambegaokar (Dancer), Dilip Kumar Kale, Devendra Nibargikar, Bharat Das, Christy Lee Rogers, and Michelangelo (Sculptor). I also love the street art created by Albus Cavus. They are incredible!
AP: Do you have any dream project? What is it?
Bula: Absolutely! My dream project is to create a traveling exhibit, which would integrate visual art with literature, music, and dance. I imagine paintings on huge sheets of aluminum, which fully depict the movement of Indian Classical Dance and Ballet, combined with rhythmic symphonies of tablas, pan flutes, and sitars… and I would pair this with my next book. I would also love to see video depicting underwater scenes of a beautiful future renaissance in Kashmir, when Pakistan and India have finally put aside their differences and embraced peace towards each other.
In fact, it would be amazing to make this a global project. It would be sort of like creating my own universe, if the sky were the limit and I could totally eliminate unhappiness for everyone and replace it with a universal serenity.
AP: Bula, that is a great dream and we wish it to definitely come true! What is the formula for success in your activity?
Bula: The most successful thing I have done for my career is to keep creating art, no matter what. I just keep painting… every single day. It doesn’t matter how exhausted I am. Even if it is just 1 brushstroke, I paint. It keeps me connected with my purpose and allows me to always feel productive.
I also think hiring a Manager was a very successful move! She allows me to focus on my creativity, while she concentrates on exhibitions, bookings, events, and services my beautiful fans and art collectors.
AP: Who is one person you would like to see interviewed on AstrumPeople?
Bula: I would say Gandhi. But, since that isn’t possible, I’ll give you Bono. I would love to know what drives him and fuels his creativity as an artist and a humanitarian.
As far as visual artists are concerned, I’d love to see you interview Harding Meyer. He’s an amazing artist and I love his work! I’d love to know more about how he creates and what inspires him.
AP: Thank you, Bula! We will do our best to contact with those artists and take an interview with them. Is there someone who supports you in your creativity?
Bula: I’m fortunate in that everyone around me supports my creativity. My friends and family are all huge fans. They inspire me and also push me to do more!
AP: Tell us three lessons you believe are really important for every artist?
What a great question! OK, here goes:
1. A few years ago, I made this decision: I decided that I would only surround myself with people who celebrate me, not just tolerate me, as I celebrate them. This was the best decision ever, because as an artist, you can often find yourself getting discouraged or disheartened by the negative energy of others. So, I make a point to keep a very close, loyal and loving group of people around me, whom I can trust no matter what, and who I can also fully give to… without any reservation.
2. I believe artists have immeasurable power to influence society. Recently, I won a Billboard Art Competition. The Billboard Committee gave me Atlanta as the city in which my art would display on digital LED billboards. I wasn’t so familiar with Atlanta, so I started to research it. When I found that more than 30,000 kids dropped out of school last year without a diploma, and the crime rate is one of the highest in the country, I decided to do something about it. So, instead of just submitting the paintings from my existing collections, I decided to create 26 NEW paintings in one month, which depicted the precepts from the book, “The Way to Happiness.” The precepts are based on common sense morals. The book is non-religious and open to people of all races, cultures, creeds, and religions. It was so challenging because of the time constraint, but I did it. Today, instead of showing advertisements for Injury Attorneys and Pantyhose, the billboards in Atlanta depict African American people in beautiful scenes, with principles such as “Do Not Murder,” “Respect the Religious Beliefs of Others” and “Take Care of Yourself.” The feedback I’ve gotten has been incredible, from the Atlanta Police Department and Educators in the community. I’ve also gotten so many artistic opportunities from this! The thing is – when I help others, something happens to my art. It grows. I expand career-wise and as a human being. So, if there was one thing I could say to any artist, it would be to find ways to HELP others through your art in your community. You can donate a painting to a local charity organization or give an art lesson to underprivileged kids. Not only do you feel incredible, but opportunities will open up for you!
3. Finally, don’t ever let criticism stop you. Just keep going. Be conscious. If you fall down, learn what you did wrong and don’t do it again. Then, get back up and create your art again. One person’s opinion is just that. There are people who love you, and you are so very important to us all. Don’t ever forget that. You can create anything you want, and every second is a chance to make a difference for yourself and those around you. Think BIG and never give up!
Bula, you are an amazing person! Thank you so much for such sincere interview, thoughts and sharing your inspiring ideas with others. I am sure that your readers will find them very useful. We wish you continued inspiration, great success and make all of your dreams come true.
If you have any comments to share with Bula, feel free to leave them in the comments box. To learn more about Bula Barua paintings please visit her personal website or Facebook page.
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