Interview of Ravina Kaur Toor by Ruppa Kaur
Often times a lot of us aren’t aware of all the different career options out there. So, in an effort to highlight non-traditional career paths and to inspire Kaurs to explore unqiue educational and job options, Kaur Life launched the “Kaur Careers” series.
Based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, artist, Ravina Kaur Toor, shares her experiences of being a full-time digital artist. Ravina’s passions that embody her artwork include; showcasing the importance of women and gender equality, shedding light to injustices seen around the world, breaking generational norms all while connecting with the divine.
Name: Ravina Kaur Toor
Education: Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Human Resources and Marketing.
Describe what you do:
I currently work as a full-time digital artist, in the midst of creating, I run my own small business that allows others to purchase prints, clothing, and other merchandise. With that, I also have another job that is in the tech industry which again has nothing related to my degree.
When and how did you realize this was the career path for you?
I have always loved expressing myself through art since I was a child and throughout the educational system my favorite classes were the ones that allowed me to create. However, that opportunity wasn’t presented as frequently when I started university because none of the classes I took allowed me to express myself in that medium. So, I would always be eager for summer to come which provided me the gift of time to create art. This one summer I actually dropped out of my classes just so I could do art and that summer I had my first local feature. When it comes to creating art, I feel a sense of purpose and a passion that has never once been dimmed throughout my life. Every time an aspect of my life didn’t go the traditional way, the door opened towards me dedicating more time to creating art and that’s how I knew this was what I wanted to dedicate my life to.
What do you enjoy the most about being an artist?
The thing that I enjoy the most about being an artist is the fact that there are no limitations and no restrictions when it comes to art. It is literally whatever you want it to be and at any point, you can change what you want to create and how you want to create it without second-guessing the actual definition of it being art. In addition, as a digital artist, I find it beautiful that I am able to provoke emotion through a screen and not have to be in front of individuals around the world to provoke that same emotion I felt while creating it. Lastly, I enjoy being able to create more representation in the Punjabi community through digital art. As a kid growing up who saw none until late teens/early twenties, it brings me great joy to witness different generations envision themselves in my art.
Considering it is nontraditional, what was your parents’ reaction? How did you deal with their response?
I’ve had this discussion with a few of my peers that are in the art industry, and I personally feel like a common trait our parents have been nurtured to believe as they have spent a large amount of their lives dedicated to survival mode is that success is monetary. The belief of the fact that the more money you’re making, the more successful you are and traditionally the most secure jobs were the ones that provided that monetary success. Allowing yourself to see your parent’s perspective is equally as important as sharing your own perspective of how you want to spend your life – which isn’t always an easy conversation to have with them.
My parents are very traditional in a lot of aspects but I have been lucky enough to have parents that never stood between my art and me. After we got over the barrier of them first not understanding what I was fully doing, they started to slowly become more curious as they see my dreams come true every day. Now, they happily and willingly provide me with feedback when I show them my art and even go to the extent of helping me write thank you cards when shipping out orders. Overall their only response when it came to my career was to never depend on one stream of income and I wholeheartedly believe in that for everyone.
What types of themes does your artwork depict?
Common themes my artwork depicts would be largely centering around my community, injustices around the world, and my own spiritual beliefs. I have a heavy passion for creating art on the injustice my community and other communities face and bringing light to topics that are rarely touched on in the mainstream media. The injustice faced by communities isn’t always from others, but sometimes within the community itself – that is why I focus on breaking generational norms, and household roles within the community. I want to create healthier realities that are not generation-specific, hence why I use a lot of grandparents as references in breaking these traditional roles. I believe that art has a strong hand in revolutionizing the system and that is why I create with that purpose in mind.
What is your connection with these themes?
My art is an embodiment of who I am and what I believe in, and that’s where the connection comes from, through my passion for these specific themes. I have been nurtured with love for the divine and that turned into the spiritual art I create. I have firsthand seen my family face hardships and injustices that are common to my community, which inspired the spark to fight for those who are suppressed under the system. My day-to-day life connects me to the themes of my art, as they say, life inmates art.
How do you feel Sikhi inspires your artwork?
Several Sikhi teachings inspire my work specifically starting off with the importance of equality, whether it is treating genders equally, or those other communities equally. Sikhi has been based on fighting for the freedom of the suppressed, and I want to use this to fight for injustices that happen not only within our communities but throughout the world.
In addition, much of art is inspired by spirituality, and I practice spirituality through Sikhi. The more I set myself to be lost in the message of the Divine, the more art I am inspired to create. Sikhi serves as a constant reminder to not get lost in the maya (delusion) of this world, and I try to showcase that in my art to emphasize the ultimate truth of our purpose in this life. For all the languages the Divine talks to us in, I feel the strongest presence when I am creating which leads to the most important element that inspires me from Sikhi is to serve humanity. The service of others can be categorized in many elements, for me the art I create serves as peace to the mind and soul, and the outcome of this art allows me to serve humanity beyond internal aspects and a chance to give back to the community in more than one way.
What elements of Sikh values are in your artwork?
A large value that is incorporated in my art inspired by Sikhi is the value and importance of women in this world. As revealed to Guru Nanak Sahib (Guru Granth Sahib, Ang 472) “From her, royalty is born. From woman, a woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all.” Based on this, I choose to serve as a reminder to others to not get lost in cultural standards that are used to suppress a women’s voice in this world and in their households. A woman holds the home together, yet that does not mean the man will not provide aid in daily household tasks. A daughter is the light of the home, yet that does not mean the son will dim the light of other daughters.
What advice do you have for young Kaurs who want to follow a nontraditional career path?
The biggest lesson I have learned so far in this life is that every soul that comes to this life brings a purpose, a role. This purpose does not fit into the box that society has molded, so go after what makes you feel alive. Focus on what you feel gravitated towards in this life, separate yourself from factors that alter what you really want to do every day. These factors commonly include the opinions of our loved ones and the doubts in our minds. Once you start doing what you are passionate about, every other aspect of your life will come into tune with success. That energy will transmit to those around you who once never understood the path different from the norm.
Is there a Kaur or Sikh woman you know who has a cool career? Drop us a note firstname.lastname@example.org .