Being A Disney Artist-In-Residence With Nidhi Chanani

Joy. Love. Beauty in diversity.

So much of Nidhi Chanani’s artwork is filled with LIFE! The rich blend of colors, the artistic use of time and environment, the juxtaposition of foreground and background, Nidhi is brilliant at celebrating the everyday moments in a way that puts a smile on your face. Her work is fun and whimsical, yet at times deep and meaningful, too.

One of the reasons for her success is the way she is able to blend her personal life, her art, and her beliefs into each piece. She is able to integrate herself and her work seamlessly, and the passion she has for what she does is evident. So evident in fact that she was named as a Champion of Change by the White House in 2012. Her hope is to inspire other Asian Americans to pursue a career in the arts and she has shown a willingness to be an inspiration through her personal story.

Love this picture of Nidhi! Wish I was this photogenic

I felt a personal connection to Nidhi’s story because like her, I’m also in a mixed race marriage and trying to raise a family while pursuing my own career. And my daughter Emma has a love of writing, music, and the arts like Nidhi did as a young woman. It was great to see an Asian American woman being successful in an artistic career.

I met Nidhi during one of her appearances at WonderGround Gallery this past February. She was so extremely nice and even signed our postcard prints of her work (I love the little personal touch she did on each with a little picture to go along with her signature). I asked if she would be willing to answer a few questions and she graciously agreed.

Signing one of her personal pieces for my friends Mark and Crystal at WonderGround Gallery
  1. How did you become a Disney Artist-in-Residence and what were the responsibilities once you became one?
    The curator of the gallery found my work (I believe) in 2013 at Wondercon. She said she was drawn to my piece titled Rollin’ in the Deep. She invited me to showcase my work, and the following February I was a featured artist. Since then they’ve had me come to the gallery each year and each time it’s an honor.
    This past February was the first time as an artist-in-residence. A featured artist is invited to showcase and sell their personal artwork at the gallery. An artist-in-residence does the same AND live paints at the gallery every weekend of the chosen month. My responsibility in February was to paint in front of the public every Friday and Saturday night!
Some of Nidhi’s incredible artwork
  1. What inspired you to create your two new Disney pieces – “Our Happy Place” and “Love Adventure?” Do you have a favorite Disney moment?
    For Our Happy Place my aim was to combine two warm fuzzy feelings that I have because of Disney. One happens whenever the castle and magic fairy dust appears on screen – I know that what follows will be a visual treat. The other happens when I approach the gates of Disneyland. I also enjoy drawing couples facing their destination, away from the viewer – when we see their hair and back it’s more relatable. That perspective invites you into their moment of happiness and love.
    Love adventure came from my sincere love of the film Up. One of the best love stories on film! I saw heart shaped balloons last year and kept them in my mental library for a future drawing. The love between Carl and Ellie is so sweet and the cheek kiss encompasses that sweetness – it’s a kiss that I enjoy with my husband often! I also relate to Ellie and I see my husband as a kind of Carl – so in many ways the piece was both a tribute and personal.
There is nothing more cool than a personalized autograph – Thanks Nidhi!
  1. You seem to be an amazing mom! I read on your blog that you gave up a chance to visit with President Obama during a reunion of the Champions of Change to be with your daughter who was ill. That story really touched me, as did your story about your daughter hopping in your lap and asking for a pen (Treasure those moments! They pass by so quickly!). How has being a parent influenced your artwork?
    I honestly believe it’s made me better in every way. I’m more conscious of my time because I don’t have the same time luxuries now. I’m more understanding of others and honest with what I can and cannot do. Saying no is part of my every day and I feel comfortable with it.Beyond those things, though, I feel that my daughter has helped me hone my desire to be better. If I want her to grow up to be a kind, loving, sincere and confident person I must model those traits. Each day is an opportunity for me to be my best for her.

    One of the pieces Nidhi was working on for WonderGround Gallery
  2. I am so impressed with how you are able to integrate your beliefs, your social causes, and your life into your artwork. What is the key to your work-life balance?
    I’m not sure I have a great work-life balance! I worked 5 weekends in a row recently and came right back to work without a day off. I should take more time off! I love my work so it makes it easy to keep going, but I also see a value to self-care. I hope to get that balance soon!
    My ability to do my work does hinge on a supportive husband. Nick is unwavering in his support of what I want to do whether its provide free coloring book pages, write and draw my own graphic novel or travel for many weeks in the year. Someday I hope that will allow us to slow down and enjoy some time off – but for now I love our evening family time as much as I can when I’m not working!

If you get the chance read Nidhi’s blog on her website  You’ll find inspiration, joy, and meaningful thoughts from her on a regular basis.  And if you enjoy her art, you’ll also find her drawings, comics, and paintings featured on it.  She’s also coming out with a book in the fall called Pashmina and you can bet I’ll be getting a copy.  I can’t say enough about this talented writer and artist other than support her.  We need more people with this kind of passion in the world.

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