I was feeling very blue since there were no sketching jaunts outside Bangalore this weekend, when the doorbell rang and I was delivered the latest copy of The Indian Quarterly (IQ) Magazine.Here is my illustration for Calcutta Noir, where I had to illustrate a Bengali woman addicted to detective novels who eventually ends up solving a murder. I have depicted the protagonist engrossed in a detective story in a Kolkata tram and a scene from what she is reading taking place in the tram window behind her.
To show that the background is her imagination, I have done it in moody colour as appropriate to the story she is reading while the rest of the illustration is in black and white. To bridge imagination with the reality of the story, I have shown a cloud from the coloured scene making its way into the black and white one.
I was asked to do this illustration right at the beginning of the year, before I had barely recovered from the cacophony of a New Year party. Voices with strange South-Indian accents were ringing in my ears, weird psychedelic lights flashed in circles behind my eyes, drunken men carrying a sofa knocked around the insides of my skull, bad memories of fruit flavoured beer I had been plied with haunted my dreams and I was still freaking over the contents of my 2014 horoscope when the curt and coldly professional art-director sent me a mail saying 'Kindly complete this in three days'. Trams! Electric wires! Kolkata! Three Days! If that wasn't bad enough, I swear with my hand on my heart that drawing electric wires across the sky is the most daunting feat I have ever accomplished in my entire career as an illustrator. As any illustrator who has attempted this will know, it is like running full speed across a tightrope with your heart between your teeth. It can make or break all your hard work in creating the illustration. By the time I finished this picture, my hands were shaking with nervousness and my teeth were chattering with excess caffeine...
But it is done! And over with! And published!
Now I need some more morning filter coffee.