Pooja Pittie, ’05, doesn’t remember the first time she picked up a crayon and started drawing. She can’t exactly articulate what it was that made her keep drawing as a hobby throughout adulthood. She does know, however, what caused her to jump off her career track as an entrepreneur to pursue a full-time vocation as an artist: it was the sense of purpose that she found in painting.
“As an entrepreneur and a businesswoman, I was so focused on the goals I needed to achieve that I forgot about the process,” said Pittie, who trained as an accountant in her native India and worked in finance for Unilever before launching several entrepreneurial ventures. “I’ve found that the process of creativity is enough to be purposeful on its own.”
Pittie also appreciates art as an outlet to help her deal with a deeply personal challenge. In 2000, she was diagnosed with a progressive and incurable form of muscular dystrophy. Her paintings—done in acrylics, and oils—are meditations on movement that help her recapture some of the physical movement she has lost, in the way others might get from exercising or going for a long walk.
“When I’ve painted for four hours at a stretch without a break, without even realizing that time has just passed by, that feeling of being in a ‘flow’ state is just incredible,” said Pittie, who went by the name Pittie Goel while at Booth, reverting to her maiden name after a divorce. With evocative titles such as Drama, Walk on the Wild Side, and I Dream of Dancing, Pittie’s abstract, intuitive work evokes her childhood, her travels, and her life experiences. “The process of abstract painting is so emotional,” she said. “All my past experiences have been valuable and they’ve all led me to here.”
Pittie sees parallels between her experiences as an entrepreneur and a painter. “Entrepreneurs and artists have a lot in common, especially in being creative problem-solvers and risk takers,” Pittie said. “As an artist, I have to be willing to fail and confront my doubts and insecurities every day. Luckily, I have some practice doing this in my previous ventures.”
Throughout her business career, Pittie continued to make art, carrying a sketchbook with her whenever she traveled and taking endless photos for inspiration. She incorporated her artwork into one of her most successful entrepreneurial ventures, Little GuruSkool, which teaches children about Indian culture via books, music, and movies. Pittie contributed artwork to some of the illustrated books and helped produce videos for the company.
She had pursued a career in business in order to be financially independent, and her entrepreneurial efforts met with success. Pittie, however, did not find this work completely fulfilling. “Some people are lucky to have found work that they enjoy for its own sake and I envy that,” Pittie said. “I think I'm too philosophical about life and I was struggling with that existential angst until I started a daily art practice.”
About a year ago, Pittie launched her artistic career full time. She set up a home studio and just began painting every day, slowly establishing a daily practice. Pittie is happy with her new direction. “I don’t think the business world would have given me the sense of purpose that I have with just painting now, regardless of what I do with it, how many pieces I sell, how many shows I have,” Pittie said. “Having that sense of purpose is grounding for me.”
Pittie was recently accepted into the HATCH Projects residency program at the Chicago Artists Coalition and will be participating in two exhibitions in the coming year. “Ironically, being an entrepreneur and having studied at Booth gave me the confidence to leave all that business ambition behind and focus on my art,” Pittie said. “I understand now that this is the life I am meant to be living.”
Learn more about Pooja Pittie's art at www.poojapittie.com and on Instagram.
—By Whitney Halperin
February 7, 2017