Shyama Golden

Shyama Golden has become a recognizable local Austin artist whose witty and retro style fits right in with Austin’s hip, youthful culture. Her success as a graphic designer has allowed her to pursue oil-based painting and silk screen printing, some of which has been displayed at coffee shops Austin.

Photo Credit: Tamir Kalifa | Daily Texan Staff

A growing figure in the Austin art scene, Shyama Golden never expected she would be able to attribute her success to social media. After joining Twitter, Facebook and Dribbble, a website that allows designers to share their portfolios, Golden noticed people were beginning to take an interest in her work.

“It’s such a small world online,” Golden said. “Social media has so much momentum that you can really reach people as somewhat of an underground artist.”

Her pieces are witty. A giant painting of a brontosaurus features the surprising element of a family sitting to dinner in its stomach. Another, titled “Covert Operation,” features a fish-like creature with ’60s-esque women working on supercomputers inside its body.

Even though the subject matter is fanciful, the paintings have a realness to them that Golden attributes to the size of the canvas.

“The things I was painting wouldn’t have worked as well if it hadn’t been that size,” Golden said. “The richness of oil almost makes them real even though they aren’t physically possible.”

After graduating with a design degree from Texas Tech University, Golden worked with companies such as Seiko Instruments Inc. and Texas Monthly magazine, but she felt she was unable to truly express herself because she was confined to the needs of the companies she was working for. After putting some money away, she decided she was comfortable enough to take some time off from commercial work.

“When you have the opportunity to do anything you want, it’s very scary,” Golden said. “But it was really satisfying; it was worth it.”

Last year, an opportunity landed in Golden’s lap that she could not refuse. An artist had dropped out of a scheduled show at Progress Coffee, and a friend suggested Golden to take over. What she thought was going to be a small show turned out to be much more than that.

“I wasn’t going for sales,” Golden said. “But people were really excited about it and bought almost all the prints I brought there. It happened to be the perfect place to have your first show.”

After that, a show at Halcyon during Austin’s annual South By Southwest festival allowed Golden to broaden her audience even more.

“I was able to reach people that aren’t really going to go to a gallery by showing my work at a coffee shop,” Golden said.
Parts & Labour co-owner Lizelle Villapando has had great success in selling Golden’s work, a variety of prints and T-shirts, at her shop.

“I think she is a really good illustrator, and she has a style that I know my customers like,” Villapando said. “It’s not trying to send a message; it’s just cute.”

It is a mixture of hard work and talent that has gotten Golden to where she is today. She finds inspiration in everyday life. Golden takes photos on a regular basis, using what she’s captured within her paintings. “Red River Nightcap,” a painting of a woman and a bear, was inspired by a night at Mohawk. She used photos she had taken that night of a stuffed bear and a woman at the bar to create the piece.

Golden works in a variety of media other than oil paints. A number of her prints are done using a method called silk screening in which a design is applied to a screen of silk. Ink is forced through the silk on to a surface.

“The process uses a lot of your left brain because you have to think of how the colors layer on the screen,” Golden said. “It’s like you’re solving a problem.”

She advises aspiring artists to stop worrying about whether their work is going to appeal to everyone. She thinks artists should simply be original and do what they like.

“It’s better to be the best at doing some weird thing that nobody else does,” Golden said.

Her art is a testament to her advice. She is doing something original that makes her happy, and it just so happens that people like it.

“Art exists to bring people joy, and that’s really cool,” Golden said. “It’s nice to make something that exists just to make
people happy.”  

Printed on Wednesday, September 14, 2011 as: Artist expands reach with social media.