Creative Bravery: Breaking Boundaries with Swetha Shenoy

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

Photos by Swetha Shenoy | By Abi Isa Lee | May 28, 2021

Swetha Henoy teaching at a hand-lttering class.

This week, we're excited to share a new interview with New Jersey-based artist & instructor Swetha Shenoy! Swetha is a self-taught artist exploring her creativity through art while spreading positive messages into the world.

"I realized that everyone is creative - they just don't know it yet."

Swetha showing example of hand-lettering.

Artist Biography

Swetha Shenoy is a lettering and watercolor artist based in New Jersey. She worked in the tech industry for many years before switching to an artistic career. Swetha discovered the world of hand lettering on Instagram and quickly fell in love with the process. She finds it relaxing and therapeutic to letter words and phrases that inspire her. Swetha’s current obsession is painting watercolor florals. She is mesmerized by the unpredictable nature of watercolors and can paint floral compositions for hours on end.

Swetha now spreads the joy of creating through her art workshops. She believes that everyone is creative, but they just don’t know it yet! She teaches multiple lettering techniques like hand lettering, brush lettering, and watercolor lettering. Her watercolor workshops on florals and galaxies are beginner-friendly and highly rated. Swetha has taught nearly 1000 students at over 90 workshops. Some of her past clients include the New York tri-state area public libraries, Distill Creative, and Shapeways.

Her work has been featured in Arjuna Design Studio, Your Creative Adventure Podcast, and Distill Creative.

Swetha speaking at an event.

CW: So you have a computer science background and worked at Marvel Entertainment. How cool! What made you decide to look into a whole new career path in art?

SS: So my transition from the tech industry to the creative world was very organic. In 2016 I decided to take a break from the corporate world. I was working as a Product Manager at Marvel Entertainment. But I was really burned out and I just wanted some time for myself. My plan was to take a break for the summer and look for a new job in the Fall. But, I never went back!

I spent time doing things that I always wanted to do. I learned how to swim, enrolled in Indian dance classes, and performed at recitals. I even started a food and travel blog! And on the side, I explored lettering as a hobby and it was just another thing I was doing to feed my soul.

"So two years into my career break, I had no desire to go back to the corporate world. But I was spending more and more time making art and really enjoying it."

I participated at a local arts & crafts fair where a few people bought my artwork. That led to me getting my first order to make handmade cards for a bridal shower and then I got a couple more orders during the holiday season. I didn’t think much of it then, but looking back participating at the local crafts fair was definitely a key moment that shaped my hobby into a business. That was the first time someone BOUGHT MY ART and would eventually give me the confidence to pursue an artistic career.

Around the same time, on Instagram, I was also getting a couple of requests to teach hand lettering. People would ask me questions about supplies and how to get started. But I had no experience teaching and I didn’t even know if I would enjoy it. So I started reaching out to local libraries to see if they would let me teach a class for free, just so I could get some experience. I even offered to bring in all the supplies. All I needed was one person to say yes and that set me on this beautiful journey of inspiring others to create.

"I follow a lot of artists on Instagram and I was really inspired by their stories too. I saw that many of them were self-taught just like me. I saw that age wasn’t a limiting factor and that there was room for everyone."

So, I thought, why don’t I try this and see what happens. I read Lisa Congdan’s Art, Inc. and that’s a great primer for anyone who wants to explore a career in arts. And I believe Lisa herself didn’t start making art until her 30s. I also learned that as an artist, you can have multiple revenue streams and that was encouraging. Because then you’re not limited to just teaching or just selling art online - you can do both and then some!

So when the time came for me to decide between going back to a corporate gig or starting a new career path altogether - I chose the latter. I knew the money would be way less but it brought me so much joy and peace! I got to set my own work hours and spend time doing what I loved. It also helped that I wasn’t the sole income provider in my household and that my husband was 100% supportive of my career transition! He even helps me part-time with my business now.

Swetha running her Zoon class.

CW: Can you tell us how you started, and how you got to today as a lettering & watercolor artist and instructor?

SS: In the spring of 2017, I randomly came across lettering videos on Instagram. I was intrigued and got a bunch of supplies to try lettering myself. Initially, my work sucked, it didn’t look “nice” as the videos and it wasn’t as easy as I had expected. So, I kept the supplies aside (aka, I gave up!). But thanks to the Instagram algorithm, I kept seeing those videos again and again. And each time I tried lettering, I got a little bit better. Soon, I came across the #The100DayProject, where I had to choose a creative project, do it for 100 days and post it on Instagram for external accountability. I jumped on that bandwagon and haven’t looked back since!

By the end of 2018, I had completed the #The100DayProject challenges two years in a row and was posting on Instagram “semi-regularly”. Friends and family started to appreciate my artwork and asked if I could teach them. After the initial self-doubt of “Am I good enough to teach?”, I decided to give it a shot.

Two years later, as of April 2021 – I have taught over 1000 participants at nearly 90 lettering and watercolor workshops. Through teaching, I get to share the joy and positivity that lettering brought into my life.

Along the way, I also launched my Etsy store so people could buy my artwork and I’m looking forward to growing it in the future.