What Matters to Shantanu Sharma

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Debbie Millman has an ongoing project at PRINT titled “What Matters.” This is an effort to understand the interior life of artists, designers, and creative thinkers. This facet of the project is a request of each invited respondent to answer ten identical questions and submit a nonprofessional photograph.

Shantanu is an Indian designer and illustrator based in New York, currently designing with Wieden+Kennedy. You can find his work @shantanu.sharma or shantanu.work.

What is the thing you like doing most in the world?

There are a few things it’s hard to pick one. 

Making things. I love that I get to wake up every morning and work on things I’m passionate about. I love the challenge and the feeling when things go well.  

I sleep at 2 am every Thursday night because I wait for new music to come out at midnight and spend a couple of hours listening to new releases and usually have whatever resonates on loop for the rest of the week. 

I love walking or biking around the city and listening to said music. 

I love calling my family and friends in India every day and hearing about their days.

I love hanging out with my partner and friends.

I love watching football every weekend (when my team, Arsenal, does well). 

I love being home and playing FIFA with my brother and best friends.

What is the first memory you have of being creative?

I feel like I’ve always been drawing. I’m technically right-handed but I remember when I was in nursery school we would all sit on the floor and draw with a crayon, I saw all my peers using their right hand to hold their crayons in their fists and scribble. In some weird effort to stand out, I switched to my left hand and haven’t looked back since. I still eat, brush, and do most things with my right but using my left hand to write and draw has become second nature. I’m quite proud of baby me for that. 

I also used to paint with my dad a lot. We would go to art stores together when I was a kid and buy canvases and throw acrylic paint onto them to see what we’d end up with. They were “abstract” but we would always apply our own meaning and intention to them after the fact. It’s one of my fondest memories with him and what planted the seed for me to decide to pursue art/design as a career.

What is your biggest regret?

I try my best not to have regrets. I believe everything happens for a reason and mistakes are inevitable and an opportunity to grow and learn (doesn’t always feel like that in the moment but hindsight is key!). 

However, I do think I might look back at where I am in a few years and wish I did more things for my own happiness, based on my current lifestyle and trajectory. I feel like I still have my whole life ahead of me and I’m pretty self-aware, just depends on what I decide to make a priority to focus on at any given time.

How have you gotten over heartbreak?

Time, distance, learning by looking at things from a different perspective, journaling, and talking to those close to me.

What makes you cry?

Sad tears: Loss, news about my dog’s health deteriorating, news about a loved one’s health deteriorating, things being entirely out of my control, heartbreak, Arsenal losing.

Happy tears: big accomplishments, loved ones (especially my brother) sharing big accomplishments, Arsenal winning.

How long does the pride and joy of accomplishing something last for you?

A decent amount of time but not long enough. I feel more joy sharing my accomplishments and experience with those around me and experiencing their reaction. I set very high standards for myself, for better and for worse, that sometimes when I get a win I feel like it’s something I should’ve attained anyway and shift my focus to the next thing. But I never take what I get to do for a living for granted.

Do you believe in an afterlife, and if so, what does that look like to you?

I haven’t thought about the afterlife too much— suffering and death scare me and it’s probably a thought process I’m saving for myself for a later stage in my life. I would like to believe everyone goes to a “better place,” but more importantly they live on in the memories of the people around them.

Although, I hope I’m reincarnated as a dog to a loving (and financially comfortable) family.

What do you hate most about yourself?

Hate is a strong word but I don’t like that I don’t do a lot to prioritize my own happiness. I do have a few set routines that bring me joy but I do believe I could and should be doing more for myself instead of attaching a lot of my self-worth to my work– something I’m actively working on.

What do you love most about yourself?

I love that when I set my mind to something I will usually stop at nothing to get it.

What is your absolute favorite meal?

My mum’s chicken Kathi rolls and my Nani’s aloo paranthas.