Portraits // Neelam Chattoo of 'Art is a Verb.'

Meet Neelam Chattoo, an Edmonton-based visual artist, graphic designer, clown and theatre artist (to name just a few) operating under the name "Art is a Verb."

Neelam and I met many moons ago through her older sister, a good friend of mine. And in the years since, Neelam's become a friend in her own right, an apartment-building neighbour, one of my very first photography clients and, as an artist, an invaluable source of advice and encouragement. 

Last month, I met up with Neelam at her home to learn about the process behind her whimsical mixed-media pieces, and to create a set of images she can use to spread the word about her work.

Stephanie: What is mixed media? 

Neelam: Mixed media in visual art is about using multiple mediums to create your work. I love the freedom of not being confined to one tool and having the ability to mix colours, textures, objects... pretty much whatever strikes me. 

Describe your typical day when you're working on your art.

It's messy. And I usually keep to myself. There's a balance between pieces that I make start to finish in one go versus the pieces that I come back to again and again, adding bits here and there over time.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Really everywhere. Most of it comes from my imagination and then translating that somehow onto canvas. I draw a lot of inspiration from nature, time, theatre, other visual artists, antique imagery, my lived experience and much more.

How would you describe your work? 

Hmm. Whimsy with an edge.

What's the best piece of advice you've been given as an artist?

"Put a frame around it" is the best piece of advice I've gotten as an artist. I don't interpret the advice as a flippant comment, but rather, art is all about one's interpretation and perspective on the piece. The phrase to me just means, well, what if you look at it in a different way?

What advice would you give to other young artists?

The best piece of advice I could give to another visual artist is simple. There are people out there who will enjoy your work and there are people who won't so just forget about all of that and just create for yourself.

What would people be surprised to learn about you and your art? 

The stories behind them, I think. I've often laughed to myself about having an "ask me anything" between myself and the person who loved a piece of mine. What I do is so collage-based and each layer has a story to it. I love that the piece would mean something new and unique to every different person, but sometimes I entertain the idea of letting them in on whatever was going on in my head when I created it. 

What's the best thing about working as an artist? 

The best thing about being a visual artist is the outlet it provides. With Art is a Verb., if I want to create art at two in the morning, I can. If I'm traveling or on a long car ride or stuck in a waiting room, I can pull out paper and pencil and just start drawing. I don't need anyone or anything else to create and that is an incredible feeling.


Want to learn more about Neelam and her work? You can find her tweeting and posting away at:

Twitter: @art_is_a_verb
Facebook: Art is a Verb.
Instagram: @neelamchattoo

Want to book an At Work session of your own?

I'd love to create for you a library of beautiful images that help promote the amazing things you do! For more details, head this way and check out 'commercial sessions'.

To book a session, drop me a line at hello@stephsimpson.ca and we'll start dreaming up something incredible.