Art & Culture

Battling with cancer, yet splashing colours of joy across Mumbai, here’s Kartikey Sharma for you

4.6/5 - (32 votes)

Quirky, out of the box, and modernistic, all his paintings try to tell a story to anyone one who cares to listen.

Kartikey Sharma is a Mumbai based graffiti artist. On one end he is currently directing artists to paint at Sunburn, while on the other, he waits for his next session of chemotherapy.

Son of a serving naval officer and hailing from Agra, Kartikey, however, was born in Chennai when his father was holding a post there. Soon afterward his father was transferred to Goa where he received his schooling. He developed an interest for art quite early in his life.

“I’d paint on weekends. It was more like a getaway for me”, he says.

A routine full body check-up in 2009 came as a shocker to Kartikey and his family – with a tumor detected in his chest. Soon it was found to be malignant or cancerous.

“I was in class 12th then. Our entire family moved to Mumbai for my treatment. I was declared fit in September 2009.”, he says.

A bright student, Kartikey joined an engineering college in Pune to pursue mechanical engineering.  It was during his college days that he realized that art is his passion, the only thing he ever wanted to do.

“When I was in the third year of college, I got an opportunity to intern at a company. It was here that I witnessed that this is not my cup of tea. Even though I was good at what I was doing, I never enjoyed it. I decided that I wanted to take up art as professionally maybe because that is the only thing I would enjoy”, says the humble artist.

Coming from a modest middle-class background, it was difficult for Kartikey to convince his parents on his unconventional choice of career.

“My parents thought I had lost my mind. My father is from an army background. Therefore his first choice of career for me was defense services. However, since I was diagnosed with cancer during my twelfth grade, it was automatically ruled out. The least he wanted for me was a secure nine to five job. In a way he was right. But once they witnessed my hard work and dedication, they underwent a transformation and today they support me in my endeavors.”

Kartikey, Red Bull, Cancer

From a guy who considered painting as a getaway to somebody who’s a professional artist, the journey hasn’t been an easy one. Kartikey started painting walls in his college. He also considered T-shirt painting.

The first big opportunity that came his way was when someone from Red Bull spotted him painting and asked him to paint a wall. He painted for fourteen hours straight and the sheer satisfaction that emanated when it was completed was unanticipated, almost incomparable, like he had been on the edge but never further. But now he had.

“Looking back I realize it could have been much better. But completing it made me very happy. I hadn’t slept for the entire night and once it was done, I sat staring at it. It was definitely one of the happiest moments of my life”, the excitement in his voice is almost palpable.

The video of him painting was uploaded on the official website of Red Bull and soon work started flowing in. When most artists chose canvas painting. He chose graffiti art.

“Initially I had given a thought to pursue canvas painting. In fact, I know painters who paint on the canvas and plan to do it for the next five years without any income. But I couldn’t afford it. I had to make money. If I wasn’t making money I couldn’t possibly have taken this up as a profession. Therefore I needed to find commissioned work.”

“Secondly, I wanted my paintings to be larger than life. I wanted my paintings to reach a lot of people. If you paint on walls, the city becomes your gallery”, he says.

When asked about this, he says,  “Conceptualized work intrigues me. I don’t like to see and paint, I prefer to think and paint. Surrealism intrigues me. I like paintings that say a story of their own.”

All these years during college and one and half year after college, he was undergoing checkups for his cancer.

Lamentably, his cancer relapsed in February 2016. Cancer from his chest had spread to all parts of his body and was in Stage four. He had to immediately start his treatment and chemotherapy sessions in Mumbai.

Incidentally, Kartikey along with few of his friends started their own company called ‘Jumbish’ in February 2016. The word Jumbish means movement or vibration. They aim to bring together painters, DJs, mime artists, to pursue a form of art. Although his present health conditions don’t allow Kartikey to travel, his team members are carrying on the good work in Pune. Few of his artists are also painting for the Sunburn this year.

When asked about his future plans he says, “I want to get better, lead a normal healthy life, travel, and paint. For starters, I will paint an old ambassador that’s been lying unused at my friend’s place in Pune as soon as I’m better. I usually don’t plan that far ahead. I believe in preparing the knife rather than dream to carve, but my health has made me reconsider.”

Kartikey, Red Bull, Cancer

Kartikey’s advice to upcoming artists is not to give up. The time between the day when you decide to take up an art professionally and the day when work actually comes flowing in is usually long. The secret is to keep doing what you love. Opportunities in today’s world are numerous and they’ll soon knock at your door.

Recently, a director brother of a fellow painter approached Kartikey. He wanted to make a documentary on him and they are working on it.

Kartikey has an indomitable spirit that refuses to be knocked down by challenges that life has to offer. Though his physical conditions prevent him from doing certain tasks, he makes it up through his incorrigible mental strength. We want him to get well as soon as possible, travel extensively, paint walls and touch lives.

The money will be used for his treatment, visit here to support Kartikey get better!

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Somikkhya Mukherjee

Somikkhya is a contributer to Chaaipani. If you have a passion for telling stories, you can also get published. To start writing, log in to your account, and we'll pay you to write happy, inspiring stories.

About the Author

Somikkhya Mukherjee

Somikkhya is a contributer to Chaaipani. If you have a passion for telling stories, you can also get published. To start writing, log in to your account, and we'll pay you to write happy, inspiring stories.

Read more from Somikkhya