At Greenwich Market you’ll see the amazing watercolour and calligraphy of artist Monsoon Note

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How the inspirational ‘rainforests and lush greenery’ of south India inspires Greenwich artist Neethu Babu Raj

“With calligraphy, it’s like the old saying, practise makes perfect. Anyone can learn calligraphy as long as you have the patience, and you are willing to practise the drills over and over,” says Neethu Babu Raj, founder of Monsoon Note. 

Neethu designs and creates artwork using watercolour and calligraphy, including bespoke wedding writing, and sells her work at Greenwich Market on Saturdays. 

The name Monsoon Note comes from her time growing up in southern India. She says that it was her husband Rohith who came up with the name. They both grew up in Kerala, which sees a lot of monsoon rain and “is full of rainforests and lush green”. 

Of working with watercolours, Neethu explains: “I love how seamlessly I can blend colours as I paint. It’s really versatile, depending on the amount of water you add or how wet and dry the paper is, you can create so many variations of shades with just a couple of colours. 

“Just like how our eyes can see so many shades of one colour, you can create different variations of one colour with watercolour.”

Neethu can’t remember exactly what inspired her to first start drawing, but her earliest memory is attending a drawing competition – which she didn’t win – but was soon encouraged through classes outside of school. 

She explains: “Although, growing up in India, art was not seen as a profession or career choice. It was always an extracurricular thing or just a hobby. I studied science and maths to A level and decided to study architecture at university, which at the time sounded like the best option to combine my love for drawing and maths.” 

But she never stopped drawing. “Architecture indeed helped me to nurture my drawing further as it required a lot of sketching and painting to develop ideas,” says Neethu – and then got into calligraphy much later. 

During a time of furlough due to the pandemic, Neethu began to explore the art of calligraphy, utilising her free time to read articles and watch videos to figure out the rules of different letter formations.

She participated in a 100-day Instagram art challenge during this time, too, and developed a routine – and was enjoying creating her art. 

“My friends began asking to do small commissions and my partner’s sister was getting married around that time, and I designed the wedding invitations, that was sort of the beginning,” says Neethu. 

“All the text was written in calligraphy and had some tropical-inspired leaves. I quite enjoyed preparing those.” And these would soon inspire her to launch Monsoon Note. 

Neethu and Rohith were also planning their wedding at the same time as she started Monsoon Note, “so I obviously decided to create the wedding stationery myself”.

She says: “I put so much time and effort preparing the invitations and a welcome poster. It was really amazing to have all that creative freedom to experiment and discover different techniques, especially at the beginning when you want to just explore the possibilities.”

Greenwich has always been a favourite place of Neethu’s, “with a beautiful high street, riverside and the park”. She says she enjoyed visiting Greenwich Market to see the stalls and artwork, before she started selling her own work there. 

She says: “The market has a great number of artists and it’s always interesting to see what everyone is doing and to be part of it. It’s a privilege to sell in a market that has over 300 years of history.” 

Neethu is often at Greenwich Market on Saturdays

@neethubraj on Instagram


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