Thursday, December 26, 2013

Excellent Printing

Sometime ago, after Dr. Kalam's book, My Journey, was published, the editor of a publication in Indian languages wrote to me to tell me how much he appreciated the illustrations that I had done for the book while working on its Tamil translation. Mr. Kumaraswamy, the editor promised he would send me the Tamil edition of My Journey so that I could see for myself the excellent quality of the printing at Manjul Pulishers. I received my copy this morning and was truly pleasantly surprised at the way my illustrations jump out of the page almost as if I had actually drawn them right there. The quality of the printing is indeed sharp and excellent as you can see. The different textures and nuances of charcoal are brought out to their best and partner so nicely with the beautiful Tamil script. Now I feel my efforts in illustrating the stories have been worthwhile. Good printing does matter.

Once again I am really touched by the kindness of readers of this blog who stop to comment, write to me, take the trouble to personally meet and befriend me as well as encourage, assist, and appreciate what I do through the years. If Mr.Kumaraswamy had not taken the time to write and send across a copy, I would never have known how well my illustrations had been printed in the Tamil edition of the book.
Thank you!

Process for illustrations for the book My Journey

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Gathering Shapes at Hampi

When I look at this image that I've created after my return from Hampi, I cannot help thinking how comical it is and yet so reassuring at the same time. This is my interpretation of Hampi; reassuring in its simplicity and unpretentiousness and yet simultaneously comical in the strange vibe it gives off, thanks to the kind of people who flock to the land and inhabit it - gaudily dressed hippies and English speaking villagers who intersperse its giant boulders. I had the option to either immerse myself in hippiedom or in natural surroundings. I chose the latter which is why the picture above is sans hippie.

My first visit to Hampi was over 10 years ago when it was far less touristy and when thanks to the kindness of a villager, for some fifty rupees I was taken to see all the many monuments of Hampi off the beaten track known only to locals and given one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life.
This time however, I was very clear that I wanted to relax and take a total break after hurtling from deadline to deadline for nearly the entire year and to resuscitate my brains which had been frying over the internet way too long. I did exactly that, and Hampi was the perfect place with its 'chill-out joints', natural beauty and laid back atmosphere.
I didn't take too make photographs, I didn't anxiously try to create magnificent drawings in my sketchbook, I simply ate, slept, took long walks, finished a storybook, explored shapes in my drawings and drank lots of masala chai. It was wonderful.
Here are some pictures that I'd like to share with you all -

The sweet smell of exhaled pot-fumes and lolling hippies finally calmed my anxious city-girl nerves at the Laughing Buddha, where I drew Matanga Hill while eating a delicious wood-fired pizza.

Day 2, I grudgingly clambered over to Achutaraya temple and stuffed up many attempts to capture its shape in my sketchbook. Then I got up and explored the beautiful landscape further, breathed freely in open space, drew some more and caught the last ferry back across the river.

The final day, I simply drank lots of masala chai, finished my book, swayed gently to sleep on the hammock and took leisurely walks along the river. The only tangible things I brought back with me were my drawings and these beautiful stones that I found along the banks of the Tungabadra. What better treasures could any traveller carry back?

While processing my visit on my return, I remembered that I had chanced on an unusual 45-degree angle of Virupaksha temple which I had happened to glance up at while returning to the ferry in the late afternoon sun. A dark jagged curve climbed up against the sky along the left side of the temple and seared downwards in a dark trail across the centre. I drew it at home in my large Moleskine sketchbook with graphite and pastel.

Later I reminisced about the things I saw to another artist who had visited Hampi earlier. "The shapes at Hampi are different from the shapes in Bangalore" I said. My listener knew exactly what I meant. Ultimately I think that is what we artists do, gather shapes and collect them within the pages of sketchbooks. And then sometimes we interpret them in our pictures. That is what we live for.

The Journey

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Compliments and Comments

The editors of IQ Magazine wrote to tell me that Prajwal Parajuly, the author of the story that I had illustrated, liked my illustration so much that he had 'pasted it all over Facebook'. I found Prajwal's page and saw what he had written:

The November issue of The Indian Quarterly has an extract from LAND WHERE I FLEE, my novel. One of my favorite characters in the book -- a beedi-smoking badass octogenarian Nepali-Indian grandma from Gangtok -- has been so accurately and amazingly interpreted by the artist that I want to sit down with the fascinating artist for a coffee. Notice the cigarette, the ring stretching the septum and the loose end of her sari covering Chitralekha Neupaney's head -- the uneasy marriage of demurity and brazenness...'

I don't often get appreciation from the authors whose stories I illustrate. More often than not, when the subject is women, it is typically and unimaginatively about suffering and sacrifice where I resort to the asked for formula of bent head and bleak colours. Therefore, it was wonderfully refreshing to read a story extract from Land Where I Flee and illustrate the wily Chitralekha Neupaney with her beedi, ensconced within an atmosphere of intrigue. 
I am waiting to get my hands on the book - Land Where I Flee.


One day, during a Google search, I chanced upon this beautiful image of a princess dancing. The artist who created that image was Clive Hicks-Jenkins, a name I was not familiar with. Some more Google searches revealed that he was a very well-known Welsh artist whose paintings on Google images had me hooked for days. 

Mr. Hicks-Jenkins also keeps an Artlog where he documents his process in creating all the many wonderful things that he does. There is always an erroneous perception that artists simply whip up their work out of thin air. But creating art is work, sheer donkey work and very few artists, caught up in the frenzy of creating, have the patience to document their usually exhausting process. Clive Hicks-Jenkins however does that and watching him build up step by step from basic to marvellous is as riveting as reading an engrossing detective novel.

A few days ago I was surprised to find an email by Mr.Hicks-Jenkins in my inbox. He had actually come over to my blog and looked through my work. Here are some of the nice things that he had to say -

First of all, I LOVE your work. Just wanted you to know that. The images for Current Conservation are beautiful. Direct, elegant, harmonious and vividly conjured.

This gorilla skull is magnificent!
But you do 'tender' beautifully too, as in those gorgeous images of boats on a dark sea.
I don't know what happened to make you disable comments. Something bad perhaps. If that's the case, then I'm so sorry. You should be fielding praise for what you do. I love it. LOVE it. Just sayin'.

Keep up the good work.

When I have Clive Hicks-Jenkins asking what happened to the comments section, I just quietly put it back.

When I read appreciation like this, I think wow and I am reminded how far I've come since the days I landed back on Indian shores with a fresh post-grad from a distant country and to a dubious family. Nobody really knew what illustration was then let alone the possibilities it could open up apart from 'diagrams' for how to sow seeds in a farmer's catalogue or pictures in textbooks for school children. I was desperate for encouragement and appreciation then, but the things we chase with anxiousness always elude us.
Enjoying and improving my drawing however, has resulted in surprising by-products. Suddenly door after door has opened up and I am heaped with praise, not Facebook likes or idiotic numbers, though I get that too, but emails from bloggers, other artists and authors, who take some of their precious time to tell me how much they appreciate my work and that they avidly follow my blog. During such moments these days, I realize that I am happy for a while and I am truly encouraged by such words, but it is also during these moments that I am also very aware of the fact that I am blessed to be given the time, the privilege and the peace of mind to draw. 
Nothing else really matters.