Art thou ready for our first ever Illustrator Workshop!

Posted by Sherein Bansal on November 20, 2018

Written by Sheena Deviah, Art Director, Pratham Books

 

This year, over two balmy days in May, we teamed up with the talented Vinayak Varma to conduct an immersive workshop with a bunch of extremely talented illustrators. The participants were Priya Kuriyan, Rajiv Eipe, Somesh Kumar, Sunando C and Kabini Amin and the workshop was led by Vinayak. Fun and snacks were had by all.

This workshop has led to the zany Bow Meow Wow by Priya, the lovable Khusar Pusar by Somesh and a couple more that will be up on StoryWeaver very soon.

Here’s what happened in picto-typographical form!

Lettering: Sheena Deviah

Photos: Aparna Kapur, Vridhhi Chaudhry

 

A huge thank you to the folks at Lightroom Bookstore and The Ladies Finger for hosting us.

 

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Fahad Faizal, illustrator and animator, has illustrated two books - Unni's Wish and Fly in Space for Pratham Books this year. 

He started drawing at the age of three and hasn’t stopped since. He is married to Sunaina, his classmate from NID, and they work together from their cozy home-studio in Kochi calling it BABAKIKI. Fahad is a foodie, he loves cycling and tending to the plants in his balcony garden. But what he loves the most is playing with his son, Orhan.

 

 

Read Assistant Editor Zeba Imtiaz's interview with Fahad to learn more about his illustration process, approach, and inspiration.

You illustrated two books for Pratham Books this year. What excites you about illustrating children’s books?

The sheer act of drawing always excites me. It is a good break from animation, which is fundamentally the main thing we do. Unlike animation here I get to spend more time on one image. Exploring the details is always fun.

How did you decide your approach for each of these books?

I did Unni's Wish first. I really liked that story because I was able to relate to it somehow. And to add to that I took a trip to this place called Wagamon and stayed in a house like the one I drew. That was fun. I always enjoyed drawing black and white images. Just with shades of grey you can add a lot of depth and it’s not that common to see children's book in Black & White. The story supported it.

Fly in Space on the other hand, I took a different route of flat colours. In fact, fly as a character is something I did recently in an indie comic called Autobiografly. Though that was not exactly for kids. But here I tried to keep it simple. Even this story was really inspiring. I believe the concept is the king.

Do you think there’s a difference between illustrating for children and adults?

Fundamentally, there is not much difference between illustrating for adults or children! For both, it's the child in me who is drawing. The content makes the difference. Being a father of a 2 year old I think sometimes we underestimate kids. They are way more intelligent than us.

You have created some absolutely wonderful and memorable characters in your stories. Could you tell us more about the process for creating these characters?

Like I mentioned the story was my base, then I gathered all my memories of being a Malayali boy, and to add to that, the trip to Wagamon really helped. There we met a boy who helped us get back to our cottage through the coffee and cardamom farm. Putting all these together I drew Unni, a boy with little over grown curly hair, who wears an oversized shirt, who looks a bit like my son. What we are exposed to, is what we are.

For Fly in Space again like I mentioned the fly as a character is something I have been working on from my previous work. I tried to keep up the age.

 

 

Your visual narratives contain a distinct sense of humour. Is this something you consciously do?

Being in Kerala I am exposed to lots of uncensored humour. I think that is very important to be able to think free. I tried to be there in each of the frames I drew, say if it's Unni enjoying the wind from fan or drinking chilled lime juice. I was aware of what I drew by might not be with too much planning.

You run a studio called Babakiki along with your wife Sunaina Coelho, also an illustrator and animator. What sort of projects interest you?

We are interested in working on socially relevant projects. Anything that gives us an opportunity to create something new: idea-wise or technique-wise. We believe animation and illustration is a very strong medium that can communicate universally.

What do you most enjoy drawing?

That is tricky question! That’s like asking a foodie what you enjoy about eating. From time to time I immerse myself in studying anatomy, small details of structures or imaginary creatures inspired from what is there in nature. It is all connected.

How did you decide that you wanted to be an artist?

It's the other-way around, the artist decided to be me. I just went along. The sheer act of drawing always excites me.

You can read Unni's Wish and Fly in Space for free on StoryWeaver in Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, English, and Kannada.

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Anjora Noronha was one of the Illustrator Gurus for our #6FrameStoryChallenge in 2015, and we're delighted that she is illustrating a book for Pratham Books this year. Written by Sheila Dhir, this story is about the moving friendship between a goby fish and a pistol shrimp who live deep in the ocean. 

Read a short interview with Anjora, in which she gives us a peek into into her illustration process. 

What mediums do you most enjoy working with? How do you choose a particular medium for a story?

For personal projects, my drawing kit contains a sketchbook, watercolour postcards, a tiny bottle of Indian ink, a tiny tube of watercolour in ivory black, a mechanical pencil, a 'pencil' eraser, an aquapen, a MUJI gel pen (LOVE) and lots of tissues collected from all over the place.

Other than that, I don't have a particular style or medium that I work with, so the start of a new project is always a mix of excitement and nervousness at discovering which medium is going to be the medium of choice. I somehow never know, and so each time I start, I have to go through sheets and sheets of paper and material, looking for what 'feels right'. 'What feels right' includes: how much texture I can achieve; if the essence of the medium suits the essence of the story (this is naturally highly subjective); and also very simply - if it excites me.

What kind of stories do you enjoy working on the most?

For children's books I prefer working on books that have a strong environmental theme. For adults I prefer working on stories about people and cultures. My favourite thing to draw is portraits of people I meet when I travel.

Which part of your work do you enjoy the most, and which part do you enjoy the least?

The most enjoyable part is when all the frames and page sketches have been approved and finalized, and it's time to colour them in. That is the most charming part of any project for me: I put on music, or a podcast, and spend hours glued to my desk in creative solitude. Most details have been decided by this stage, at this point it is a matter of turning off the thinking side of my brain and allowing things to happen on their own. I sleep at night excited about the next day of drawing. Even though I find it more challenging, I also love the character development stage because either I act out expressions and postures, or I ask someone to act them out for me. What I enjoy the least is scanning and cleaning the final artworks and preparing them for print. Following that, there's always the big existential angst about which font to chose, and at what size, with very few helpful cues from the universe.

This year, you’re illustrating a book for us on the symbiotic relationship between a goby fish and a pistol shrimp. We loved all the character sketches you made for this. What kind of preparation goes into illustrating a book for children?

Ideally, the initial stage would involve doing studies of the characters from life, but since I didn't have access to the two main characters in the story I'm currently working on, I watched as many YouTube videos and read as many articles as I could. Then I filled many pages with drawing after drawing of the characters, repeating them over and over again. My aim was to get to know these two so that I could intuitively draw them in any situation. This was followed by a style and colour test, which is the phase where I try to discover which medium I will be working in. For this book, it is colour pencil, which is a medium I have never worked in before. I tweaked my colour palette multiple times and drew one page over and over again, changing individual details with every attempt to discover what textures and effects I could achieve with them. I have stopped using sites like Pinterest to find inspiration.

The third phase has been to thumbnail the entire book, and incorporate feedback. The practical side of illustrating for children cannot be ignored, and I like collaborating with editors as they are involved in the entire process but are not stubborn and attached to everything (as illustrators tend to get). This is where we have reached so far. Some pages need to be tweaked, some are good to spend afternoons of coffee and music with. Each thumbnail will be fully detailed and shared with the editors before being coloured in. The last stage is scanning, cleaning and layout. After that I hand over the files and wait for the printed books to come by mail :)

Who are some of the illustrators whose work you follow closely?

For children's books: Carson Ellis and Júlia Sardå Portabella. http://www.carsonellis.comhttp://www.carsonellis.com has a Q&A section on her website, and one of the things she speaks about is her limited gouache colour palette, and how - when she added a colour to it - it was quite ground-breaking for her. Júlia Sardå Portabella seems to work mostly digitally, so I turn to her work for clues on how to work digitally - a new medium for me. Recently I discovered the work of Joann Sfar, and have bought every book of his that I can get my hands on. The colourful and surprising artwork of Brecht Evens. One of my favourite young, contemporary artists is this guy called Ward Zwart, who puts up a lot of his work online, but is very mysterious otherwise. (He did reply directly to a message I left him on Instagram though :) Stephanie K. Birdsong, mostly known as shoulda-woulda-coulda: for her daily and very quirky warm up paintings in her Planner. Oh, to be so productive on a daily basis! And of course, the work of my peers in India, some of whom I know personally, and whose creative journeys I have been following for a while now.   

How do you deal with creative blocks?

In three ways. The first is that I break down what I have to do into micro steps, and then push myself to complete one micro-task after the other, all the while telling myself that I can change everything at a later stage. The point is just to gain momentum, which always leads to enthusiasm. Most of the time, producing a lot of work that doesn't work leads to something that does work, and when that moment comes, the Battle against the Block is won. The more involved I get with an artwork, the more enthusiastic I am to delve into the details and spend time on it. The second is that I try to meet someone who is currently in a good creative place / moment. There is nothing that kindles my excitement about the work that we illustrators and designers do, than having a long, dense conversation about the nitty-gritties of the creative process. There hasn't been a time when it hasn't left me fired up to sit down at my own table and MAKE. The third is to not allow myself a break after completing a big project, so that I don't lose the rhythm and flow, but I'm still working on that, I almost always end up taking a short break :P

Anjora Noronha grew up in Vienna, moved back home to Goa, studied at the Srishti School of Art and Design in Bangalore, worked in Delhi, and then studied more at the University of Barcelona. She currently lives between the Indian tropics and a windy little town somewhere in northern Europe, where she works as an illustrator on a variety of projects ranging from comics, children’s books, and  historical books of places long forgotten.

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