“The only positive direction that the world is moving in is inclusivity”
Where did your love for drawing start and how did you decide to move towards Illustration as a career?
Drawing / making as a form of self-expression started in kindergarten for me. The biggest influence at this time was illustrations in storybooks. In that sense, drawing and writing always went hand in hand in my path towards art/design. Around 14-15 years of age, I declared to my parents that I wanted to draw on the walls of my room and luckily, there was no resistance. My room would transform into a different theme every few months. I think that sense of scale and ownership at an age when everything else was confusing was a telling factor that creative expression was the path that brought me most satisfaction and closure.
Have you undertaken any formal training for the same and from where? What role has it played in your growth as a designer?
Growing up in Vadodara, where the MSU Fine Arts Institute is located, I was fortunate to be in an environment where art training is encouraged and accessible. I started by taking Fine Arts alongside my Science subjects in eleventh and twelfth. I also joined Mudra School of Fine Arts to refine my foundation and art theory. The class was taken to various sites around the city to draw. Even though I digressed from the assignment, being with like-minded and passionate individuals and engaging in discussions on art gave us the first sense of identity as an artist/designer. It was an incubator for the years to come.
I began my formal training in Art and Design at Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore in 2009. It was here that I discovered the limitlessness of art not only because of the subjects and discussions in the classrooms but also by discovering the works of my peers, faculty and the larger art community. It attuned me to appreciate art and design not only where it was exhibited and conspicuous but also where it as subtly at play or even invisible. I can’t say I mastered these techniques but I became more curious and aware.
How would you define your personal style and how is your workflow pattern for any assignment?
In my personal work, I enjoy creating figures /characters/ settings and giving them a backstory. I like to complement most artwork with a write up or a prop that gives the viewer an entry point into the mood. My personal style is defined by make-believe, macabre and emotion. I like to play with elements of nature and darkness. I often use de-saturated, low contrast palettes and hand written type in my artwork.
For a fresh assignment, I love reading up and referencing – the story is very important to me. Once I feel like I have acquainted myself with the subject, I start working on the layout and frame. Thereafter, I play with different media which is usually a question of hand drawn vs. digital illustration. The lines, textures and colours follow. Once the artwork begins taking shape, I like to take feedback and then piece together the final outcome. Some works go from a doodle stage to a finished artwork within a few hours while some take several cycles. I enjoy working over the course of the night. It allows me to put in several productive hours at a go.
Which has been your most memorable piece of artwork that you have created? Can you give us a brief description about it and the tools that you used for the same?
A traditional shadow puppet from the Tholpavakoothu tradition of Kerala. Tholpavakoothu is practised by the Pullavar family of Shoranur for the past 800 years. It was a memorable experience as it combines my greatest passions – art and storytelling. It gave me an insight into the community’s rich heritage. The various characters of the Ramayana are represented with distinct motifs and features.
The tools used were goatskin, leather work awls and hammers. The finished puppets are painted with natural paints and mounted on a rod framework.
What kind of challenges do you usually face while working on such projects?
The challenge often faced while working on assignments is finding a balance between the design brief and one’s own instinct and flow. Time constraints also lead to a negotiation towards the outcome which is why it is important for designer/ artists to demand a realistic time period when taking on commissioned work. Often, the prototyping period is negotiated because of which experimenting with material, production and prints is limited.
Who or what has inspired you to create such unique artwork?
Needless to mention, the works of significant artists and storytellers has an influence on me- when you study them, they always leave a whiff of their greatness in your mind. In my practice, I’m influenced by many sources among which are my teachers, peers, current events, films, animations, folklore and the natural world. I feel that inspiration can come from the most mundane things as well as the most extraordinary experiences; it is important to keep your feelers extended for something that moves, affects or tickles you.
What does the industry demand in terms of technical / soft skills from a fresher artist?
From my experience, I feel that in a team the designer / creative associate is given the onus to go beyond creating a product to directing experiences. A keen understanding of the context and foreseeing a design from its conception to its entire lifecycle has become the designer/ artist’s expertise. Often, the client / users find it difficult to express their need and communicating/ articulating is expected from the artist. Since the need of design/ visualization is getting recognized in every field, coming from an interdisciplinary frame of mind is more and more sought after.
Where do you see yourself 5 or 10 years down the line?
I see myself working as an art/ design consultant on a variety of projects and scales, from storybooks to conservation to theatre productions. I wish to touch as many subjects as possible to understand the various ways in which creative thinking can be put to practice. In which case, I also hope I become better at time management!
What message do you have in mind for the aspiring artists?
The only positive direction that the world is moving in is inclusivity. Keep an open mind and do all you can to contribute to it with your creative expression. Honest art/ design always finds an audience so keep sharing your work. Access to art education / creative thinking has always been for those who can secure the resources for it – so be sure to handover your knowledge to many. Some stages in your design/ artwork can become trying, especially if it involves a difficult client. The only thing that will really help is your sense of humor!
To see more of Malvika’s work, click here