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‘Illustrating for children is no child’s task’

Four top illustrators of children’s stories talk about their favourite characters and what d rives them.

November 26, 2013 12:41:53 am

Their drawing boards are a parallel universe where strange and mysterious beings spring to life and become a child’s whackiest friend (or foe). Illustrators of children’s characters have to match the vibrant imagination of young readers and developing it further. Reason enough that at Bookaroo,an annual literature festival for children in Delhi,illustrators were popular with youngsters and their parents. We speak to four of them.

Savio A Mascarenhas

Once upon a time,Savio Mascarenhas (in pic) would hang around bookstores to see if a Tinkle comic book was available. “I wanted to see what my favourite characters,the village simpleton Suppandi and the lazy hunter Shikari Shambu (below),were up to,” he says. Now,as Art Director of Amar Chitra Katha,which publishes Tinkle,Mascarenhas gets to draw and dictate their movements. He also liked The Ghost who Walks aka The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician.

“Everything needs to be more edgy now. So while characters such as Suppandi and Shambu may be the same,their characterisation has evolved,” he adds. He speaks of Aisha,a female superhero of sorts,and the Defective Detective duo that Tinkle has introduced. “There’s also the Dental Diaries series that’s become popular,” he says,“It is inspired by Dracula and is about a vampire in search of his lost fangs.”

Ayeshe Sadr & Ishaan Dasgupta

Be it doodling for postcards inspired by Indian mythological characters or inking posters for a friend’s band,Ayeshe Sadr and Ishaan Dasgupta (in pic) are on a mission to make the world a funkier place. Working under the label 211 Studio for the last four years,the illustrator duo believe the key to move forward is experimentation. “We draw by hand,in watercolour,pen and ink and also experiment with mediums. We draw on textiles or draw on paper and then scan it,” says Sadr.

Graduates of Srishti School of Art and Design,Bangalore,Sadr studied textile design and Dasgupta graphic design. Their differences make them the team they are — while Sadr was fascinated by Panchatantra and the mythological stories her naani brought her up on,Dasgupta was always a Calvin and Hobbes and Asterix fan. The duo had put up six pieces for Bookaroo,one of which shows a cow basking in the limelight. “We tend to draw animals more than human figures as both of us have an abiding love for animals,” adds Dasgupta.

Suddhasattwa Basu

“Illustrating for children is no child’s task,” says painter-illustrator Suddhasattwa Basu (in pic). “Children are very impressionable and you have to be careful about the message being given out to them through illustrations and storytelling”. He is the creator of the country’s first animation series for children,Gayeb Aya,which was first telecast on Doordarshan in July 1990.

An alumnus of the Government College of Art and Craft,Kolkata,this Delhi-based artist was primarily a painter. “I didn’t really have any special or favourite comic book characters while growing up,” he says,“We were taught to draw inspiration from the real world,so comic books were never my source of motivation.” In his bag of real-world

illustrations for children,there are some for adults also. Basu has made illustrations for Nature Watch,in which Khushwant Singh writes about the birds and bees,and also for Ka: The Story of Garuda,originally written by Roberto Calasso and retold by Geeta Dharmarajan in 2004.

Suvidha Mistry

After years of working as a graphic designer for multimedia companies and an advertising agency,Delhi-based illustrator Suvidha Mistry realised her calling lay elsewhere. “I had never got the chance to explore much as a graphic designer. Then,while teaching crafts at a school for children and after my daughter was born,I realised how I could make illustrations for children,” she says.

Mistry has 20 picture books to her credit and more of them are underway. She has grown overly fond of the adventures of Bhabhloo the Bear,protagonist of the Bhabhloo series published by Pratham Books. Coming up are My Best Friend,a series for children,Rahul and his Dream Bat and Aaloo Maloo Kaloo. Mistry has also worked on fables and tales such as The Princess and the Pea,and The Field Mouse and the City Mouse for US-based publications.

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