Inconspicuous Sketches

sneaky artist publishes book of Eau Claire drawings

Samantha Kobs

SNEAKING AROUND DOWNTOWN. Artist Nishant Jain has created numerous “Sneaky Art” pen-and-ink sketches of Eau Claire people and scenes. Now he’s compiled them in a book, Sneaky Art of Eau Claire.
SNEAKING AROUND DOWNTOWN. Artist Nishant Jain has created numerous “Sneaky Art” pen-and-ink sketches of Eau Claire people and scenes. Now he’s compiled them in a book, Sneaky Art of Eau Claire.

Nishant Jain is a professional spy. Well, maybe not a real spy, but he is a pretty good urban sketch artist, which requires some spy-like skills. From literary festivals in India to concerts in Chicago, Nishant has spent the last few years covertly watching and sketching thousands of everyday people and places. Unbeknownst to many of us locals, a good number of those sketches were created right here in our very own community. In fact, he has even published an entire book full of them: Sneaky Art of Eau Claire.

After growing up in Kolkata, India, and studying in the Netherlands and Chicago, Nishant wasn’t sure what to expect when moving to “Smalltown,” Wisconsin. Like most people outside of the U.S., his assumptions were based solely on his knowledge of That ’70s Show. Luckily, his sneaky art adventures have helped him realize that Wisconsin is much more than just a bunch of hazy, unfinished basements full of witty juveniles. In fact, he seems to have taken a liking to our state, which is why he keeps on sketching here.

Nishant’s sneaky art set-up is quite simple: sit, observe, and quickly draw what catches his attention. Oh, and try not to get caught.

Nishant Jain
Nishant Jain

“I’m here and I’m trying to not get noticed, but I’m looking at people,” he said. “Being sneaky – or being inconspicuous, so to say – it allows you to see people more naturally. They’re not conscious of you. … I found this was a good way to capture something natural without them finding out, and I got kicks out of being sneaky.”

Unlike some artists, Nishant isn’t necessarily aiming for realism or hyper-accurate proportions. His art is clean, simple, and minimalistic, much like the comics of his childhood, such as Calvin and Hobbes and Dennis the Menace. For Nishant, it’s not so much the nitty-gritty details that matter. Rather, the joy comes from the process itself.  It’s the watching, wondering about, and appreciating one’s surroundings.

Nishant isn’t the only one getting joy out of his sketches, of course. He has built a solid following on social media, and at this point, he might not be as sneaky as he once was because, well... people are catching on. What community wouldn’t want their own international artist drawing its people all the time? Of course we want that. And that’s why his book is so dang cool.

Broken up by the changing seasons, the 112-page book is Nishant’s personal impression of Eau Claire.

“It compiles all this art that I’ve drawn over three years,” Nishant said. “My art has improved. I discovered new places. I’ve drawn people that I later became friends with. It’s all these things, and it makes sense only when they’re all together. This book is about that. It brings together all of these different things. I want people to see the city how I see the city.”

Designed to lay flat when open, the book is intended as a sort of “changing art exhibit” that one can simply leave and come back to. Sketches include recognizable settings such as local coffee shops, the public library, the farmer’s market, Barstow Street, the Pablo Center, and more. Most sketches were created using a simple fountain ink pen, but Nishant also included a few digital sketches in color just for funsies. Because the sketches feel so personal to locals, it is an absolute must-have for anybody who has that contagious Eau Claire Home Town Pride.

Copies of Sneaky Art of Eau Claire are now available at Tangled Up in Hue, SHIFT Cyclery & Coffee Bar, and Visit Eau Claire. And just because he’s a heck of a guy, Nishant will also sell copies at the downtown Artist Market over the summer where he will include a free SneakyArt portrait of each buyer! Don’t miss this chance to support a local artist – he did this all for us! Follow Nishant Jain on Instagram: @thesneakyartist.