Thursday, February 11, 2016

Brought to Book

The Caravan, an excellent magazine of politics and culture invited me to do three editorial illustrations for them, super-fast, for an extraordinary essay about an author who had to face litigation for some of the contents in his book. He was hauled to the courts by people who hadn’t even read his book or deliberately chose to misunderstand what he had written. I had very little time to deliver something substantially complex for a story such as this. In the time I need to conceptualize and complete one illustration, I had to do three. But one does one’s best, takes a few by lanes and is thankful when such a project is completed and delivered.

In the illustrations I did for this essay, rather than creating standard visuals with courtroom scenes, I chose instead to depict the overwhelming emotions of paranoia, bewilderment and frustration that the author was consumed by; how small and vulnerable one can feel while battling strange and terrifying forces in an unfamiliar world. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Sunday, January 24, 2016

An Exercise in Curiosity

 There is a lot of difference while working on large sheets of paper with charcoal and when working on smaller squares of paper and graphite. While working with charcoal, I am standing at my desk, exerting pressure and practically hurling my entire body onto the paper, cutting, tearing, blending, coaxing...The complete opposite seems to be the state that I am in while completing these 13 illustrations for a story about barbaric Witch Hunts in India.I have posted two other illustrations for these in the previous post as well. 
While drawing these I have been seated at all times during the last two weeks in the same position and the only movement has been my wrist as it builds up layer upon layer of graphite on textured paper (Cretacolor 6B graphite on 180gsm precut Canson). The only sound is the kich kich kich kich as the lead moves while shading yet another area.

I took on this graphic novel kind of short story for The Big Picture in Mint, out of curiosity, to see whether I could do this, if I liked doing it and if I had the patience. This platform is a great one for amateur illustrators and writers and I only wish I had had something like this to work on in my early years as an illustrator. However for professional illustrators this is a wonderful way to try out and experiment with what they have never tried before as I am doing now. I directly began the fair work without rough sketches or planning because you are compelled to work at a fast pace. In this case unlike the highly professional editorial illustrations that I do which involves so much thought, planning and conceptualizing, a completely different mindset is required. It seems that here the illustrator is a tool rather than a voice.

Will I attempt this again? I am not sure. I find sitting chained to my desk for lengthy amounts of time exhausting and frustrating. Also, there is not much if any thinking at all for the illustrator because you are told what to draw. I found the trite visual interpretations given to me tiresome and while I did what was wanted of me for some of them, I also did what I wanted for others. If I do attempt something like this once more, the story will have to be a very good one. However I must say this, doing this has left me with nothing but admiration for illustrators of graphic novels, their patience and tenacity is to be lauded.

Outside, the Bangalore winter results in cloudy weather and beautiful diffused sunlight in which I took the first three pictures at my desk. Naturally my thoughts go back to last year especially when I see blog posts of friends in the midst of winter. Some of the pictures are beautiful, like this post from The Cassandra Pages and these haunting and moody pictures from the same blog.  Winter can be beautiful when you are looking at it in photographs.
But when I look at my own pictures like the one above (this is a color picture btw), I am reminded of how I removed my gloves, quickly took a picture and quickly, quickly put the glove back on again over my freezing hand at -20 degrees in Montreal last year beside the St. Lawrence river. Immigrating to Montreal too was an exercise I took (a mega exercise perhaps) to satiate my curiosity and yet again, I wonder how I ever did it all.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Bicycle Dreaming

Here is a section of the cover illustration I did for Mridula Koshy's upcoming book Bicycle Dreaming. The author requested the publishers to invite me to do the cover illustration. That is a nice thing to happen :)
From her first book launch that I attended in 2010, I know that Mridula leaves her audience enthralled, so if you are in Delhi, do save the date to attend the launch of her latest book. I am copying the invite sent by the author ~

My book, Bicycle Dreaming is going to press as we speak, and I want to invite you to the launch on Friday, January 29 at IIC. I can promise you good conversation, tea and samosa. There will be an after party, of course, with details to follow.

A little bit about Bicycle Dreaming, a story set in working class Chirag Dilli:

Noor turns thirteen on the first page of the book; we leave her at fourteen on the last page. In between, she falls in right and wrong love, comes apart, together, and apart again from her family. We, the readers of the story, take measure of how much we know about happiness and wholeness in relationship: where does it come from, how do we account for it, and when the bottom falls out from under us, how do we survive our unheroic stories?

Deepalaya Community Library and Reading Project


And the days that I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, 
I have really good days.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Helping Hands

If there was any one consistent factor that characterized my adventures on the other side of the world it is this - time and again I felt that I was hanging by a hair's breadth and clinging for dear life on the edges of all kinds of strange cliffs when someone or the other would extend a helping hand and steadily haul me upward and onto safe and solid ground once more. This is a drawing to remind me of those moments and to remind myself that however inconvenient it is for me, when someone needs my help I must extend that helping hand. It is such acts of kindness that makes the world go round.

My entire life can be described in one sentence: It didn’t go as planned, and that’s okay.
~ Rachel Wolchin

Friday, January 1, 2016

A New Philosophy

Whenever I come across the beautifully worded truths written by Buddhist monks and the virtually omnipresent Rumi I pause and contemplate these philosophies and decide with my hand on my heart that I must, must, must adopt them into every moment of my life. Unfortunately, there is usually a new beautiful philosophy presenting itself on Facebook every single day. And then there is the fact of real life and real people to deal with in a real world. I find that at such times my brain can hardly sift through a dozen peace poems or twenty Rumi quotes that I saw this week already. BUT, during very such times I find myself totally embracing an unforgettable philosophy that has worked miracles in my life since 2012. It has eliminated the *&%# and brought in fresh, sparkling energy. I have decided to share it here not because I give a **** about those who will be shocked but because I feel it partners very well with the ship picture above and I frantically needed a convincing new year philosophy after I came up with that damn title. So here it is! Onward to new philosophies then!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Superb Ending

I have just received the latest copy of the beautiful and very readable The Indian Quarterly magazine with my illustration in it for the story Mountain Disease, my first assignment since returning home. The story extract was a very challenging one because it consisted of a lot of conversation taking place in a school. There was no strong visual description within the story that I could use to capture the essence of it. However while re-reading the conversations within the extract, I found that it dealt with prejudice - about appearances, colour, places, intelligence, looks, wealth, gender... it was all there. I chose to depict it by drawing two symbolically different faces (by varying the eyes and the colour) and depicting the unpleasantness of racism in the conversation through snakes coming out the mouths of the faces .The colours are muted and cold. The atmosphere created in this image echoes the mood of the story.

I don’t use software while creating my images and I do everything using my hands, pastel, paper and a pair of scissors. Someone whose opinions I value a great deal pointed out that in a world of buffed and polished, perfectly finished images, this business of working directly with my hands makes my visuals unpredictable, spontaneous and very distinctive - qualities which give my images depth. I am glad to hear that. Probably because of these results, the kind of illustration work that I have been invited to do in these last few months has been very interesting to say the least.

2015 has been a year of hair-raising adventures, mind-boggling challenges and fantastic experiences across continents. It is a year that I will never forget especially if I consider my mindset during the start of the year and how I feel now. A friend in Montreal once assured me that everything would turn out all right. I didn't believe her then but I thank her for that reassurance now. This year has ended in the best way possible. Apart from the warm and supportive friendships that have been constant throughout this year, I can consider getting a copy of this particular magazine with my illustration in it as a sign of a very good ending to 2015.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Making Lace

I had gone to get my large illustrations laser scanned when I stumbled into a small stationery store where I saw these white Signo pens. The white ink flowed smoothly and it was thick and creamy. Only another illustrator will understand the excitement and importance of a find like this. Smooth flowing white pens are a rarity and when you find them they are useful for lots of things while illustrating.

The last few weeks have been spent hurtling through two very tight and challenging deadlines. At the end of it all I was so overwrought and exhausted that I found it impossible to unwind and relax again. Last night I sat on my bed and drew intricate patterns with this pen. It seems to be a good thing to do because at the end of it all I felt relaxed once more and was able to sleep. I wasn’t sure what to do with the lace I made so I cut around it and stuck it inside my new sketchbook. That’s a start to overcome the fear of blank pages!

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