• Meet the Artist Behind Jersey City’s Pride Artwork: Swati Rastogi

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    Finding inspiration for anything, let alone artwork, can be a tough process. It’s a matter of finding something that inspires you and then taking it to create your very own unique piece of art. For Swati Rastogi, a Jersey City muralist, she draws her inspiration from folk and tribal arts. As a local artist + the woman behind the Pride walkways on the Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza, JC locals have come across Swati’s art in one way or another. As this week’s Hoboken Girl of the Week, find out what her goals are, what inspires her, and more. Keep reading to learn all about Hoboken Girl of the Week, Swati Rastogi — a Jersey City muralist and artist.swati rostagi jersey city artist muralist

    Tell us about yourself.

    I am a fine artist and a henna artist. I am based out of Jersey City, but I travel for work whenever required. My works are highly influenced by the folk and tribal arts of India and motifs from these are reflected in my art.  You can find my henna bar/henna set up in some of the major events in Jersey City, and I also do henna parties and private appointments. It has been my pleasure to spread my art colors to several towns in New Jersey and New York. From restaurants to private homes. I have developed my own style which involves my study, culture, traditions, emotions, and intellect. My works are noted for elegance and attention to detail.

    On my Instagram posts, you see a lot of food too —I cook out of passion and I love to craft and create meals. One eats with his eyes first and my husband loves to be served, so I have all the reasons to be around my spices as much as my color palette.

    What is your biggest source of inspiration?

    I seek inspiration from nature —its abundance, its uniqueness, and its infinite colors. I seek inspiration from the folk and tribal art of India {and I have also lived with some during the course of my study}. Some of the eminent folk artists from India have a huge impact on me from the color scheme to bold brush strokes. Currently, you’ll see me doing more of mandala designs which are nothing but a design originating from a center point and radiating further.

    Where do you draw your inspiration from for your artwork?

    Since I can remember, I had an inclination for drawing. It could be drawing from still life, it could be drawing on the windows of my home in India, or it could be drawing the class charts and in school. I seek inspiration from nature — its abundance, its uniqueness, and its infinite colors. I seek inspiration from the folk and tribal art of India, too. 

    swati rastogi painting 2

    Tell us about the process of creating a piece of art?

    It is a journey. An adventurous one. The blank canvas which could be a paper, a canvas, a street, or a wall, gets in my mind and I start visualizing the designs and layout. When you attempt to do it on a much larger scale, the ratio and proportion is the most important thing. A preliminary sketch is an essential part and needs to be done very carefully. I am personally more spontaneous in creations and love it this way. 

    I don’t have too much prepared in mind unless I am asked for a proposal. There is a lot of planning that goes into an outdoor public art scene.

    I do several types of art from henna to murals to painting to canvas to street art to crafty objects for home décor and utility. Everything has a different process and comes with challenges.

    What is the most exciting part of the process?

    Filling in the color excites me a lot.

    What is the hardest part of the process? 

    When the scale of my work is too big, it is quite a challenge to work on proportions and symmetry.

    swati rastogi hoboken girl week

    What are your goals for this year?

    Honestly, I do not set strict goals. I like the year to unfold for me and surprise me with what it has for me. I am fortunate for all the opportunities that have come my way so far. At the moment if you ask me, I am looking forward to the downtown street fair in Jersey City where I have a stall for henna and some arts of utility like candles, bamboo kitchenware, wine bags, small canvas, and several other hand-painted items. Secondly, I hope that the pride Art on the Newark Avenue pedestrian plaza is recognized more than it was last year. I have a couple more murals to work on this year. JCAST is a widely celebrated art and culture festival and I look forward to participating in it and making my name through more art shows. My ultimate goal is to do a big outdoor mural in Jersey City/Hoboken where I can showcase tribal Indian art.

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    What’s a typical day look like for you?

    I don’t work corporate. My work hours are never 9:00AM-5:00PM. I have a flexible schedule but I have my timelines and deadlines, too. I am not a morning person, I wake up late. Sometimes followed by a morning walk. Morning tea and phone calls to my family in India. This isn’t necessarily every day, however, because I have to get going for art commitments which are at their peak in summers. In the evenings, I get to spend with my husband and friends — I have a very big and consuming social life so it never lets me get bored or be alone. I’m glad I have been able to have a strong network around me. 

    Sometimes, I like to go for Zumba class in the evening, sometimes a long leisurely walk in Liberty State Park, and sometimes we drive out of town for dinner or art shopping. I have late nights because that is the time when my creativity is at its best. I like my solo midnights to work with lovely music playing and a completely scattered dining table with my canvas and other art supplies. 

    My husband is a sucker for TV shows and movies, so often it’s background music that I am working to. Some of the events I participate in, as well, take up my day and keep me absorbed, but I have a good balance of my personal and professional lives. We get to go away for short weekend trips every now and then as well as longer breaks from time to time. I come back refreshed and recharged.

    swati jersey city

    What has been the highlight of your career so far?

    On August 15th,  2019, Indian Independence Day, I was rewarded by the City council for my contribution to the community. I kept doing what I wanted with complete artistic freedom and a strong support from my husband. From doing henna to painting the catch basins to walls to streets to everything. My friends from all ethnicities love + support me, and my participation in Jersey City was something observed and I was recognized for that on August 15th.

    jersey city pride walkway

    It is huge for me and I was very emotional after receiving the citation from Mayor Fulop.

    Other highlights include the mandala mural at the JCAST 2016 flagship gallery in Jersey City, an art show in City Hall in Jersey City, some hand lettering in a modern Indian restaurant Gupshup in New York, a solo travel to Lancaster, PA for a henna party, and the Pride Art on Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza in Jersey City last year and this year again.

    jersey city pride

    Who commissioned you do paint the pedestrian plaza in JC for Pride?

    The City of Jersey City.

    jersey city pride 2

    What does putting that piece together mean to you?

    This is a big project for me, for the second time in a row. Last year the City assigned me to create this and with all the feedback received from people, they have me on board again this year. The LGBTQ+ community in Jersey City appreciated the art on the plaza and it is a big honor for me to be the chosen artist again. This art on the plaza is a highlight for the Jersey City LGBTQ+ festival, which is happening on August 24th. I get a lot more recognition by doing such public art projects.

    swati rastogi painting

    What work of yours are you the proudest of? 

    In 2016, at the JCAST Flagship Gallery at 150 Pacific Avenue, I had the opportunity to paint a wall with anything I wanted to. For the first time in life, I attempted to use spray cans and created a huge mandala on the wall along with the reflection on the floor. It became the hottest corner of the event and was the most photographed wall back then. I couldn’t believe what I did impromptu was appreciated so much by the mayor, his family, several New Yorkers, and locals — everyone stopped for a picture and was surely absorbed by the work. I remember all those moments so well. Jersey City got to know me a lot more, too.

    Secondly in 2018 for Holi Indian Festival of colors in spring}, I was commissioned to create a massive 24-foot mandala art for NYC Holi on Governors Island. The scale of the work was humongous and a journey to create

    Also, the Pride Art at the Newark Ave Pedestrian Plaza last year has surely been a super hit project in my portfolio. I am proud to be an Indian artist living in Jersey City, who was given the opportunity to paint hundreds of colorful hearts in the heart of the city.  

    Honestly, I have a bundle of good memories in my creative life and moments of pride.

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    Tell us about another business in the area you admire.

    I admire several. I am a big supporter of all small businesses in town. I see the concept, the hard work, the passion, the enterprising attitude, and the hardships that go into having a small business and hence all the respect to them.

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    What is your favorite restaurant in Jersey City?

    Pinwheel Garden, Lo Fi, White Star at Warren Street, Liberty House Restaurant, Harry’s Daughter, and Bread and Salt.

    What is your favorite boutique in Jersey City?

    Kanibal + Co., CFH {which is no longer in business}, Anthropologie… I am not much into boutique/ store shopping. I do love the city markets in the summertime, though. Flea markets have the real treasures.

    What do you love most about Jersey City?

    I have lived in Jersey City for the past six and a half years. I knew no one then. Today, I have an army of friends and family. The people I have connected with and developed a relationship with are a strong web of contacts and I value them a lot.  We all support each other from our hearts. 

    Jersey City possesses vibrant, diverse ethnicities from all over the world and that is one big reason that my works are anticipated and appreciated from several perspectives.  My works have their own cultural ethos and I have incorporated my style with the indigenous characteristic of the respective region. I’m glad that I live in a city which has people of all flavors and has an acceptance for artwork that is unique and personal. The distances are small in a concrete city, so we save so much time in traveling. There is always something happening year-round. The delicious Little India gives you all the reasons to come and learn about Indian culture. Jersey City is home to so many cultural markets that one can educate themselves easily. Your friend circle is so diverse here, too. We are a closely-knit community who keep bumping into familiar faces all the time.

    What is your favorite thing to do in Hudson County?

    [Go to] Liberty State Park – any time of the day, any time of the year. I have checked out its length and breadth thoroughly.

    I also like to take a helicopter ride from JC over all five boroughs of NYC.

    I like giving fun Indian cultural tours to my friends in Little India and always eating a round of golgappe/pani puri {a popular Indian street food} in a few places I love. 

    How long have you lived in Jersey City?

    I have lived in  Jersey City for six and a half years.

    What is your favorite outdoor place to spend time in Jersey City?

    Liberty State Park {especially the south side}.

    What is your favorite place to work out in Hudson County? 

    I am not one of those who are very active in working out in a gym, taking pilates or yoga, etc. But I love Zumba and I go to my dear friend’s class in Paulus Hook of Jersey City — @goldensneaker_fitness.

    swati hoboken girl week

    Where do you go out with friends in the area? 

    We would go anywhere for food and adventures.

    What is something you think needs to come to Jersey City? 

    We have the best of the best dining scene in Jersey City with almost all cuisines included in it. Fine dining and affordable, we have it all. But we do not have an Ethiopian restaurant. We drive to Mesob in Montclair or sometimes I decide to make a whole Ethiopian meal which is just amazing. If you have not had the experience, please do. Considering the fact that the city is so encouraging of healthy choices, Ethiopian cuisine is just a perfect addition — with so many vegetarian options. It’s a win-win.

    Secondly, I would love to see an art/craft popup or a fair which brings together artists and craftsmen from several countries and offers them to demonstrate their art. People can visit, watch them do their craft and shop there. That way the money goes directly to the craftsmen and it will be a place to educate oneself, too. 

    Thirdly, a new age gastronomy bar/restaurant would be great in the area {something like what José André specializes in}.

    And something fun I think would be a great addition to the city — a mini-golf course with views of New York. Considering we have so many kids and young families in Hudson County that having a fun little adventure would be great.

    Keep up with Swati’s work and travels on Instagram at @swatirastogi.arts and @engagingexpeditions

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    Written by:

    Arielle is a born-and-bred Jersey girl and like a true NJ native, half her diet consists of bagels and the other half pizza. As a graduate of both American University and City, University of London, she’s been a passionate writer ever since she wrote her first “book” in the first grade. When she’s not furiously typing away at her keyboard, she spends her time ticking places off of her “to travel to” list, trying any and all new foods, and trying to stop herself from spending too much money at Zara.