Saffron Wiehl is an illustrator from Goa, India. She paints predominantly in watercolour and her work is inspired by her love for nature and the unique culture and colours of India.
Saffron! I’m so excited to have you featured here this month. Could you please introduce yourself to the Mary Young community?
I'm an artist born and brought up here in Goa. I'm very influenced by India and the colourful culture that I've grown up around. I've always had the passion of painting, but I never really wanted to be a painter because I grew up with my mom painting. Her studio was the main room of the house and I learned to paint with her when I was very young. Then after trying a different path and realizing that fashion school wasn't for me, I decided to take a course in illustration, which is what I studied in Australia. Then I came back to India to put that to use. So I've been doing this since 2012 and then I opened a gallery with my mom in 2018 — that was our new little venture together.
That's very interesting because in this day and age, I feel like most artists have gone digital. How have you managed to stay true to your illustrator roots?
I've tried it. I don't know if it's because I use the other side of my brain more, but basically I'm really good at drawing and I'm really good at actually using my hand to do something, but when it comes to all the shortcuts and remembering what to do, I literally cannot. I mean, it's very soothing to do it as well. Like as soon as I get onto my computer, I'm not relaxed anymore. I'm stressed, whether it's on my phone or my computer — that light in your face. And when I'm in my studio and I'm working on a piece of paper and the watercolour is just flowing across the page... that to me gives me something, whereas being on the computer does not.
Our intention this month is prioritizing your health. Whether that be physical or mental. How does that speak to you?
I’ve learned the type of jobs to say no to if I sense that the client won’t align or I feel like I just can’t do what they want. I’ve really learned how to listen to what my body or my mind needs. I’m not like some artists when they're really depressed or angry or sad, it motivates work — and it'll come out as this amazing thing…for me, it doesn’t. If I'm in a bad space, whatever I create, it actually shifts. I draw things that are happy. So, when I'm happy, it looks happy when I'm sad, it looks terrible. And lately I’ve been having a hard time so I really have to be choosy about the days I create.
Would you be able to tell us a little bit about that?
Sure. It's been an intense two years because I lost my mom two years ago and every day is a struggle because she was really a big part of my world. She was my world, we did everything together. We lived together, we opened the business together. We were each other's only family. And that was just the way it was. And it was so normal and yes, we fought like mad and, but we also loved each other a lot. From one day to the next, it's not like you have any time to say goodbye because life can be really awful and just take that person away from you in a split second. Everything until that moment was so normal and everything from that moment on your life has just changed and you have no control over it.
I suffer with that every day. I've been to therapy. I've tried to deal with it in so many different ways. I've tried pushing it aside. I have grieved, but it's so hard to talk about because unless you've gone through the exact same thing as I've gone through, which is almost impossible that that happens. No one will ever understand the exact same pain that you feel and the way you look at life. But I have a few tricks which do help me. One is listening to music. Spending time with my dog. That keeps me in the present, and drawing. But also things like Netflix. Really thank god for Netflix because it’s just mindless. And sleep of course, I probably sleep too much but that’s what I need now and then. And people help as well. I have an amazing group of friends and a lovely boyfriend.
That’s incredible Saffron, thank you for sharing that. It sounds like despite all you’re going through you’ve managed to figure out how to prioritize your mind and body.
I think it's very important as I've learned in the last two years to do that because you can't please people all the time, you have to do things that feed you. You can't even please the people who are closest to you. I've just really been taking care of myself. I'm not doing anything that I don't want to do in every sense, like when it comes to work, when it comes to even fun plans. I turn down so many friends all the time that some of my friends get upset. Most of them understand but I do tell them, don't get upset if I turn something down because I just would rather stay home and be with myself and my dog and eat some food. I've seen so many people also make themselves sick just by being busy and trying to work too hard and it's just not worth it.
Thank you. Very inspiring account. And more power to Saffron. May she always be blessed with her mother’s infinite love…