Maths and art don’t tend to go together, but 30-year-old Amandeep Singh has a creative career that’s best explained when it’s broken down into numbers: five years as a professional artist, 800 completed artworks, 150 thousand Instagram followers and 13 global exhibitions under his belt -including in New York, Toronto, Kenya and Australia.
Now known around the world as Ink’quisitive, London-born Amandeep has ‘always been into art’.
The dashing, colour-splashing Sikh uses Indian inks to create his masterpieces – which glow iridescently and drip with style.
“Inks are my favourite,” he said. “I also use watercolours and acrylics. I’m starting to get into oils now. I have expanded my artwork into digital and I’m seeing how that works.
“I have a very strange, spontaneous way of working – whether it’s with my hands, a tablet or bamboo. I don’t have a set procedure on how I produce it and I love that. I’m mish-mashing it all and there are so many wonderful results from it.”
Inspired by his father’s talent in calligraphy, Amandeep began copying him at a young age.
“I became very flexible in moving my hands and dexterous with my fingers. As I progressed through school, I always found myself drawing or doodling and writing text in a certain way, so I’ve always had the passion and creativity. Towards the end of my college days, I realised that I really, really loved it.”
He continued: “I’ve always been into art. I only went into maths and science to draw on the front of my books and because it’s what my friends were doing, to be honest.
“Up until then, I was passionately fond of bright colours and things that were different. When I went to college and university I knew it was my pathway, so it was ambition more than chance that lead me to become an artist. I guess that the progression and seeing the way it has impacted on so many people is luck, but at the same time, a lot of hard work has gone into it. It’s a balance.”
Amandeep describes his work as ‘soul-art’ but refuses to define it as he wants the viewer to ‘become the artist’ when they’re viewing the pieces.
“I would say my art is surreal. I would also say it’s spontaneous. The thing with my artwork is that I might do a hip hop piece which is very direct about a certain character. It could be Kanye West and it’s just him standing there, or it could be a piece based on the moon, and it’s very surreal and it has all sorts of crazy things going on.
“I like to change it up and that’s why I don’t want to define it. I like to play with things and I never know how a piece is going to look like until it’s done, which is great because it’s a gift for me. It’s controlled chaos.”
Amandeep struggled with his GCSE art because his teacher had a different mentality on ‘art’ to himself and he ‘didn’t connect well with her’.
“It’s ok, it made me who I am. It’s the same with the students I studied with – I kind of got bullied into believing certain things at school, which really put a set -back on me in terms of my creative flair. I used it as a challenge to proceed and progress because I knew I really wanted to do art. I went on to do my A-Levels, then I went to college to do my national diploma in graphic design.”
Not knowing what illustration was, Amandeep carried on with his graphics course, which was ‘always about graphic design and typography’.
Once he did his diploma, he went to university to study graphic design and ‘something called illustration’.
“It was only during my last year of my degree I found out what illustration was. I decided to take it on, and it blew me away. After my degree finished I did my Masters in illustration and the rest is history.”
Amandeep’s success really began to sky-rocket after his collaboration with musicians ‘Tigerstyle’ for their opening track ‘Ik Banare’.
“It was very monumental. The video features Bhangra and my artwork. This was only a year into me being known as Ink’quisitive. Then the press came out after the video and people were like, ‘he’s a Sikh, he wears a turban and he’s got a profession as an artist, what the heck?’.
“It worked in my favour because people wanted to know more about me. It was a key project that helped me evolve into being more than an internet guy who sticks artwork up.”
Amandeep’s average working day is ‘all over the place’. When he’s back at home, you’ll find him in the studio; signing prints, signing canvases, signing contracts and doing commissions.
“I always end up waking very early but I go to sleep late. I go to sleep at 5am because I can only paint in my time.
“All the best ideas are there to grab because everyone’s sleeping. It’s just one of my things where I can only paint under the moonlight.
“Most of my lively hours are at night-time. I wake up about 9am and get cracking. I see to emails and my manager handles everything else. I try to spend time with the family and I play cricket, which is another of my loves. I keep busy. Most of the time, it’s about producing new artwork and planning. When I’m not at home, I’m always touring with interviews, exhibitions, meet and greets and all the wonderful stuff that comes with the package.”
Artists who inspire Amandeep have changed constantly over the last 10 to 15 years.
“I like Basquiat. And then there’s children’s book illustrators like Sara Fanelli and David Hughes. At the same time, it doesn’t need to be artists who inspire me – it can be poets and musicians because that’s a form of art. I listen to a lot of music without lyrics, such as DJs like Paul Van Dyk and I make stories out of the music, the way the beat drops or the way the track rises – it’s all motion.”
Basquiat has been hugely influential for Amandeep, so much so that he even has a crown tattooed on the back of his arm in a tribute to him.
“He brought to the world a complete new vision of art in a new direction. His artwork is timeless,” he said.
Artists sometimes complain of ‘the creative block’. When this happens to Amandeep, he ‘takes to the road’.
“My tours consist of a lot of travelling – maybe for three months at time. I like to drive down to London when I’m at home and put on a smooth playlist of jazz music or trance. I pick up what’s around me – city lights, the conversations, the roads and the colours in the sky.
“These things open up so many doors when you’re having a creative block. People need to do that more. All the answers are hidden around us; we just need the time to look. Even a crack in the pavement can help you with an idea.”
The inky inspirer has had his fair share of setbacks over the years but he is calmly philosophic about them.
He added: “If we’re all living with rainbows all the time, we won’t know how to take on the darker challenges. I was bullied at school. It took me a long time to get my artwork online. It was my mum who said I should put it out there but I thought everyone would laugh.
“I’m so glad I listened to her and that she saw my ability. My biggest career setbacks are on tour, when the team is in the final moments of setting up an exhibition and then one of the frames break, and we have to rush to a store to find a replacement.”
To survive in the industry, Amandeep believes you have to bring something different to the table – ‘a different colour of the rainbow’.
“You won’t get noticed doing what someone else is doing. You need to be adventurous; have a wild mind and distinctive eye. My experience is based on creative intellect. Being Indian, it’s been difficult to get my foot in the door but my consistency has helped to build a name. I didn’t expect it to blow up like this. The best is yet to come.”
Amandeep believes the character traits an artist should posses is to ‘know that you’re not always right’.
He said: “What you produce will be seen in a different manner by other people. You can’t lash out and say it means a certain thing.
“People have interpreted my works in the complete opposite way to which I intended, but I love that. You need to be very free with that and accept that. The most important thing is that they don’t need to understand it, but that they’ve taken the time to view it and make their own story from it.
“You need to be patient and it takes a lot of time…long nights and hours of hard work. Be inviting and allow people to engage with you and see a different side of you. Have courage. Know you can do something and don’t worry if people will laugh it, or bless you with compliments.”