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Pandemic leads student to revisit first love: art

Portrait of Nikita Patil
Nikita Patil, pictured last fall, explains how the pandemic has led her back to exploring her love of painting and drawing (photo: David Callahan).
Published Feb 18, 2021

Coping with the isolation and anxiety of the pandemic has led Nikita Patil back to her first love – making art.

“For as long as I can remember, I have been drawing,” says Patil, a second-year master’s student in Sustainable Energy Engineering. “It was always a big part of my growing up.”

Painting of field with small house and running stream
A rural landscape by Nikita Patil. (Photo: Nikita Patil)

Flipping through a folder of pictures she has painted over the last 12 months, Patil admits she hasn’t been so prolific since beginning her academic career. But her long-dormant interest was reawakened last spring when Stockholmers – and KTH students – began sheltering in place as COVID-19 infections surged in Europe.

“I started painting with acrylics at about the age of 12. There was never a time when I wasn’t taking some drawing class.”

But that ended when she began her bachelor’s studies. “Until 2020 I hadn’t painted anything,” Patil says.

What reignited her interest was a call on Facebook for someone to reproduce a work by the poet and artist Abdul Ghani Khan. “I felt like should get back into this again and see if I was good enough for someone to pay for my work. And then some of my friends started asking me for customized paintings.”

A resurgence in activity

Landscapes are her passion. Patil says she collects Instagram photos of natural and urban scenery to use as models for her next paintings. Since the spring of 2020, she has sketched the mountainous scenery along the famous Kungsleden hiking trail in northern Sweden; and she painted portraits of animals on a farm she worked at during the summer. Patil and her friends even got together for a Bob Ross painting session, together following one of the famous television painting instructor’s tutorial videos on YouTube.

Painting of city street with colorful buildings, trees and a blue utility truck.
A streetscape painted by Nikita Patil.

Lately she has begun contributing illustrations to the quarterly KTH student magazine, .

“Even though we were in Sweden and we could meet a few friends here and there, we were quite isolated,” she says. “You couldn’t go to the campus and it was quite difficult, so painting was a good way to distract yourself and do something that didn’t involve thinking about the situation around you.

“That’s why I really got back to it. When you’re painting, you’re not really thinking about anything else, and it’s good to sometimes cut yourself off from what’s happening for a little while, and just do that thing.”

Looking to future

After graduation in 2021, Patil hopes to work with energy modelling with techno-economic social analysis aspects as well as policymaking in India (she hasn’t returned to her home in Pune since August 2019), so it’s hard for her to tell how much time she can continue to devote to art.

But she’ll continue browsing landscape photos on Instagram and perhaps never shed the impulse to save them for inspiration.

“Nature is so beautiful, and when I see certain landscapes on Instagram, I feel I just have to paint them.”

David Callahan

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Last changed: Feb 18, 2021