We had the good fortune of connecting with Param Bhattacharyya and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Param, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
So I was born in Kalyani, India and my family moved to the United States when I was about a year and a half old. I grew up mostly in New York and New Jersey. There are a lot of major things that impacted who I am today and I can’t list them all, so I think it’ll be better if I focus on the major impacts.
One of the first was when I was about 12 or 13. I used to take computer paper from my dad’s office and I would use it to start making my own comics. I remember listening to Pearl Jam on the radio, drawing comics, and thinking to myself, “I think I could do this forever.” I found something powerful that motivated me at an early age, so I had an intense sense of purpose from a very early age.
Fast forward to when I was 21, I remember getting into a ferocious fight with my parents about not going down the doctor/lawyer road. To be fair, the art thing was a tough pill for them to swallow and it was something that neither them nor I fully understood. However, one important thing that I did learn was that I was going to have to fight for this and that there would be many more battles ahead of me. But that also allowed me to really appreciate art. It wasn’t just “a thing”, this was something that I had to fight for.
Ha ha, fast forward again to being about 36 years old, and being blessed to train at the New York jiujitsu gym called Unity. (Shout out Murillo and crew!) I was changing in the locker room, and I got a chance to speak to an athlete named Matteus. He had recently moved to the United States, he was still learning English, and he was working as a construction worker while he trained at Unity to tighten his skills. When we spoke, it was a great chance for me to connect to someone who had left the comfort and familiarity of Brazil to move to New York. With so much uncertainty in his life, he looked at me and said “Life is not so bad!” It was at that moment that I realized that I needed to leave New York. I knew that I had reached certain limitations in my own artwork, and that some of the things and ways that I needed to develop, would not be reached in New York and it was in that locker room that I began to ask myself, “If he could do it, why haven’t I?” Several months later, I finally did make that big move, and although starting from scratch can be very painful, the creative growth and the personal growth was beyond enormous. People think that you only grow based on a certain age or level but that’s not true.
Fast forward again to about a year and a half later. I was living in LA and made a point of surrounding myself with people who were the best at what they did. One of those people that I had the chance to train and learn from was a jiujitsu legend named Cobrinha. We were talking one day, and I remember telling him, “You got where you are because you stick to your daily habits like religion.” He looked at me and said, “Of course!” That was a huge reminder to me of how important daily habits are to literally doing anything. Nothing was going to work without them.
Finally fast forward again to three years later. In my spare time, I had began to learn how to meditate from a Zen mindfulness meditation teacher named Carina Nickerson. As I began to meditate for longer and longer periods of time, I slowly began to experience how so many of the challenges in my life had been the result of believing in damaged thinking and my own ego either over compensating or under compensating. It was an amazing moment. It was a reminder to me of not only how short life is and how important it is to make the most of that time, but also how many of the limitations and short comings that I had experienced were in my own mind. Identifying bad advice releasing damaged thinking was like a sailboat cutting its anchor. I had everything I needed. It doesn’t mean that life will always be perfect but I can trust myself to figure it out.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I honestly don’t like to tell people what my work is about but I’m definitely down to say what I believe in. To get to where I am today has been very difficult. I had to turn my back on a very successful career which was difficult. I had taken a job offer to move to Bangalore and manage artists in the games industry. The job paid well, I was putting money away and I was living a very comfortable life doing what I wanted. However, deep down, I felt like I had only been scratching the surface as a visual artist. I needed to go deeper.
When I left India, I moved back to New York and I quickly realized that I wasn’t the artist that I thought I was. (Whatever that means.) One of the toughest moves that I made was leaving New York for LA. I moved with just a suitcase and I was arrogant enough to think I could make it work. That move cost me several relationships, and losing them was very painful. I remember one day sitting on the side of the curb in LA, my fiance had broken up with me, I had left a lucrative job, and my car had a flat tire. I remember the sinking feeling of wondering how my life had brought me to that moment. I felt like I had failed and my life had added up to nothing.
Although, yes, it was very painful, I had to clear my slate and begin anew. I put away all of my old art, and my old beliefs. I approached my art and my life as a humble beginner. I had to be hombre nuovo, a new man. As the slate cleared, I found myself gradually moving towards the things that I had wanted and I realized just how much I had to let go of.
But what kept me going was always my artwork. The last four to five years have been very intensive almost exhausting years of creative growth. I don’t just make art differently, I changed as a person. When you change, your art changes. Its really been a trip to look back and see that.
I realized that creatively I hated working in a corporation! I wanted to work for myself, I wanted to make my own art, my way about the things that I had experienced and the things that I believed in. I was deeply inspired by things like punk rock, or martial arts or Buddhism, or just having been fortunate enough to have visited so many different countries in the world. The world is so much larger and mysterious than any of us realize. On the flip side, it was tough to come back to New York and be in the East Village and to watch a lot of that bougie crap around me. I know we’re in the age of bling but what’s cool about that? Nothing.
Brands are okay I guess, but I think its a lot cooler to just be a genuine person. Just be yourself. I’ve had my fair share of flops and failures as well as successes. Sometimes things work, and sometimes they don’t. Life is such a trip in that you can win it all in one moment, lose it all in the next and win it all back right after. I think the cooler thing in life is having the courage to be yourself and just be honest and open. Even if that can be painful or fucked up. I don’t have all the answers, and I just try to do the best I can but if you can keep it raw and honest, like 100% real, its amazing. Its like no one can tell your story in your way but you. No one is perfect, and even the painful things in life can have their own beauty. Its the good and bad that just keep dancing with each other. Call it sublime I guess, I dunno, its the human experience.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If its Long Beach, I like dive bars a lot so the Red Room is a lot of fun. Somebody tried to pick a fight with me once but its still cool. Ha ha, kinda makes it fun!
One of my favorite spots is hanging out at Bixby Park or the Bluff. I really like Yoga on the Bluff, they do a free yoga class outdoors and its open to everyone. I always feel really good after I do it. Me and my friend Enacio like to chill out on beach that’s right in front of the bluff.
As far as food well there are definitely a few placed. For smoothies, check out Eco Coffee or Tru Nature. They have really good smoothies, they’re local businesses and the owners are really nice guys. Portfolio and Viento y Agua are great coffee shops too. They’re good for sitting down and working.
I honestly love the Pop up shops that bands like the Sleeperz and Calm Kill and a bunch of other people help to organize. I really love their originality, fashion and openness that they have. They’re also great bands. They happen organically sometimes at Bixby Park, Dorado Skate Park so its probably best to follow them on instagram.
Also there’s a legitimately good spot called Appu’s Cafe. Its a fusion of Indian and Mexican food, but no bs fusion. Like the food is actually good and it tastes good. Its in a medical building, its a small little shop in the middle of it but well worth checking out.
Make sure you swing by Atomic Basement comics. The owner is super cool, I’ve met some great artists and they also do spotlights on local and indy talent which is ALWAYS a great thing.
I also love getting a brownie sunday at the Shoreline. Watch for the bar food though, you’ll get the runs!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are so so so many people that deserve it.
I have to thank my friend Enacio for being an amazing creative soul and a genuinely amazing person. He more than anyone else I know is the one guy that listens without any judgement. Its also been fantastic to be around a creative person who doesn’t hold back and just puts himself out there.
I also need to thank Nate Milton and Matt Sheridan. I met them both at the School of Visual Arts and they’ve both changed the trajectory of my life. Matt Sheridan was my art teacher at SVA, and he was almost like a . . . jazz man of visual arts. We really had to hone our chops in his class, but at the end of the day, you hone your chops to clearly say what’s important to you. Say your message.
Nate Milton as well because I realized that he was a kindred spirit. I really admire Nate and how he totally unapologetically is himself. He doesn’t try to be anything else but himself whether its for better or worse. Nate’s style is completely his own, and watching his growth and evolution has been incredible. Just as amazing is to watch someone become that talented, and at the same time have that generosity of spirit.
I also wanted to also thank Ruth Marshall, and Deborah Ross for showing me watercolors. Both of them are amazing painters and artists just other visual jazz artists. It was an amazing experience to learn from them. It was literally another game changer.
I also have to thank Murillo and everyone at Unity, Cobrinha and everyone at Cobrinha HQ, Hunter Kate the Sweat Lodge, and Kevin and jiujitsu league. If I had to take everything that I’ve learned and distill it down to one thing, “Just keep showing up!” Thank you guys, its honestly meant the world to me.
Also Marcello Vignali was another game changer. When I first met Marcello, I was new to Los Angeles and didn’t know anyone. I was dealing with crazy room mates, going through a major break up, couldn’t find work, and was totally despondent. Marcello was a true friend and a guide he opened up to me with genuine warmth. Today, I’d say, he’s awesome because he’s a legitimately wonderful person who chose to take the time to listen to me ramble and gripe and he really didn’t have to. He was also an amazing artist he really served as a guide to me on how to be able to comfortably make technical things work for me. He was also the person to remind me of what was important for life, and I’ll always be grateful for that.
Carina Nickerson thanks so much for introducing me to Zen meditation. Life is so much easier when you can recognize your own bullshit! I really appreciate everything that you’ve done to help me and make me a better person. Its been a wild wild journey!
Anoushka Thomas, Kelly and Aiyanna. Your hope and positivity are amazing and your lifelong friendship was definitely one of the best things I found living in India.
Doris Mirescu and the Distance from Here for literally taking me into a new world, showing me 100% commitment, and how to make a Do-It-Yourself production that would make any punk rocker proud.
I also have to do a quick shout out as well to Steve, Palash, Double Meter, the Jannissaries, the Ramones and my mom and dad.
Linkedin: Param Bhattacharyya
All Images Belong to and Are Copyrighted to Param Bhattacharyya