As a kid I was encouraged to focus on studies only, so I didn’t draw much unlike other illustrators. I first started drawing when I was told that I was “too young” to carry around a camera. So because I could not take pictures, I started drawing the places and things that I wanted to remember. This is how I first got introduced to art. Eventually I got very interested in drawing but never thought it could be considered a career choice. In India, art as a profession is not encouraged. So fast forward few years, I finished my undergraduate degree in Computer Science Engineering and got an IT job at a major company in India. However, after working there for around three years I got very frustrated and realized that I needed to make a change. As I was still interested in art, I looked up online different creative fields and found Illustration. I spent a year in making a portfolio and applied to three art schools and got selected in the MFA Illustration as a Visual Essay program of School of Visual Arts (SVA).
1. How did you get your start as an illustrator?
SVA invites many art directors as guest speakers to its programs. So back when I was a student, one of the art directors that came in was Florian Bachleda, Creative Director of Fast Company magazine during that time.
At the end of his presentation, my classmates and I gave him our postcards and promotional work. A few months later he contacted me to do illustrations for an online article for Fast Company, my first assignment that introduced me to illustration as a profession. He was the best first art director I could have ever worked with and also learnt a lot from that experience.
2. Your style is very distinctive – how did you develop it? Was it conscious?
When I first started drawing, I didn’t like my work much. Then I realized that I need to understand why I like certain artwork and perhaps incorporate those elements in my work. A few things that I like are pencil textures, limited color palette, patterns and lines. For some odd reason I love drawing lines and love to look at patterns of lines too. So I experimented with those elements and developed my current way of drawing.
3. Does your Indian identity influence your illustration work?
I am not sure if being an Indian influences my work because I don’t think stylistically my work looks Indian necessarily. However, I do know a lot about India since I am from there. So if there is a topic related to India, then I can definitely work on it with more ease and efficiency than a non Indian illustrator. An example would be the Google Doodle that I made on Rakhmabai Raut, the first practicing woman doctor of India.
After reading about her I found out that she was a Marathi, a culture followed in a certain state in India. India is a multicultural country and each state has its own language and different lifestyle. So I knew that Marathi saree has a specific look which is characterized by a thick border and a repeated pattern. But nurses wear different type of saree which is white with blue border worn with a blue blouse. So since I am from India, knowing about such details come naturally to me.
4. Do you ever experience self-doubt in your work? How do you overcome it?
Yes, sometimes I have self-doubt about my work on whether it’s good enough or if the solutions in my illustration work is effective. But I have a few friends who give me their honest feedback. So I usually show them my work, and if they say it’s good then I trust them despite my doubts. Also, having a little self-doubt is good because it pushes me to make my work better.
5. What advice would you have for someone wanting to become an illustrator?
- Work hard. This is a very common advice given for any field but illustration needs thrice as much or even more.
- Illustration is not just drawing, it is a small business where you need to constantly market your work and keep in touch with your clients. This will take almost 50% of your time. So it requires a lot of self discipline to manage your time.
- Be interested in things other than illustration. Because those things will inform your work and help you develop a voice.
- Be nice and help your peers, you will always gain from that.