Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Meal

This illustration wasn’t created to depict my hosts as a rhino and a bird, that would be far too simplistic an explanation. Instead, what I am trying to show in this picture is how much of a divergence into the strange my experiences in Montreal were for me, somewhat like stumbling into a forest full of unusual creatures and vegetation. Of course like most urban Indians who have traveled and are brought up on a diet of Western films, the settings of Montreal were familiar, however actually partaking in rituals within those settings made me sometimes feel like an aberration. I should have been outside watching this on screen.

Montrealers, at least all those kind and lovely people I met, went out of their way to introduce me to their culture. The question I was asked most often was: Do you like it? There was my friend B who looked at me anxiously while I partook my first artichoke, ‘do you like it?’, there was my loony Montreal flatmate who handed me Maple syrup poured into a spoon, ‘do you like it?’, there was The Mushroom Hunter who watched me cautiously try squeaking cheese and asked  ‘do you like it?’, my friend J gave me  green smoothie one morning and asked ‘do you like it?’, there was my kind proprio, benevolent as always, who handed me something, one of the many things she handed me while she asked ‘do you like it?’ Everyone showed me something, handed me something and always asked me anxiously, ‘do you like it?’ while I, new immigrant, utterly, totally overwhelmed and bewildered by it all, never knew what to say…

Monday, October 26, 2015

Friday, October 23, 2015

Sometimes a Wild God

One cold, dark autumn day in Montreal, I read a poem by Tom Hirons called Sometimes a Wild God which made my heart contract and clench a little. I remember considering the message within that poem in relation to where I was at that moment in my life and mulling over it for a while. I remember feeling very uncomfortable. I remember I shifted my thoughts then to wondering how this poem could be illustrated and whether Tom Hirons' partner, the illustrator Rima Staines had considered doing so.
The answer to that appeared on the Hedgespoken website and by the time I had returned to Bangalore I decided I wanted that book. I didn't think I would get my hands on a copy of the book so soon but I did, thanks to someone from England visiting here.
In this post I present a small glimpse of the book with its unforgettable poem  accompanied by intimate and unique illustrations by the absolutely extraordinary Rima Staines.

When illustrating a poem, especially a descriptive one,it is easy to end up making the images repeat the text, something that good illustration should never do. I feel it not only dilutes the message but creates an unnecessary echo which ends up becoming an irritation. Therefore here, as an illustrator, I have to truly appreciate what Rima has done to illustrate this poem which is a difficult one to illustrate. Her illustrations are not beautiful in the general sense of the term but disturbing, as disturbing as the poem; the images are symbols juxtapositioned together to create strong compositions aptly suited to partner whatever part of the text they are illustrating. 
I have long admired Rima's work. She never disappoints. 

I am glad to be reading and admiring this book at my desk in my studio in beautiful afternoon October light :-)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Copying Gorey

The complete opposite of working with charcoal, or at least the way I work with charcoal, is to do cross-hatching with pen and ink. Somewhere along the way I decided I needed to work small and compact and easily manageable and mess free and clean and black and white so I thought I must at least try pen and ink. I decided not to use a dip pen yet and brought out my nice Lamy fountain pen with its fine nib. I decided to copy technique from BW drawings I had collected on Pinterest in order to teach myself, so first I drew this skull which I was rather pleased with. Naturally I instagrammed it.

Then this
I decided that wasn’t so bad either so I got more ambitious. I must learn technique from the best I thought so I brought out a book by Edward Gorey and decided I was going to copy technique from there. After flipping through the pages and feeling rather taken aback by the complexities of what I saw, I settled on what looked like the easiest drawing.

Somewhere along the way, when you copy drawing and technique from great masters, a cloud of humility descends on you and envelops you; not just because they draw as well as they do but because while you are following their lines in an attempt to recreate their image you come into a realization of how they solved a problem in the best possible manner while you laboured through it with gritted teeth. While copying Gorey, it begins to occur to you why this man's work is so much more superior to the rest. You also realize that 98% of all illustrators are bull-shitters who bluff their way through and it is only a miniscule 2% who not only really know how to draw but also know the art of illustrating well. These 2% are almost always grouchy bearded men who have a bottle of wine welded onto one hand while they draw ceaselessly with the other. Thirty, forty drawings a day I am told. They all swear. They are all atheists. Here, one of those bearded blokes has instagrammed Ronald Searle’s collection of pen nibs. After seeing this I want to bury my head in my hands that I attempted to copy Gorey using a Lamy. 

But still in the spirit of being positive and that kind of thing, I have promised myself that I will do at least one cross-hatched image a day so that in about a decade from now I can draw extra small size. Okayfine, now where did I keep that stick of charcoal?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Montreal Sky and Bangalore Color

One early morning sometime at 6am, I ventured outside during a Montreal winter to catch a bus to Sutton. Around me, the world was a desaturation of black, white and grey. And then I looked up and saw the sky. It was this shade of intense blue, the colour I would use as a child to colour in a night sky but while thinking that skies did not really exist in this colour and I was using this shade of blue because it was the darkest blue in my box of crayons. But here it was, that impossible blue as the real thing contrasting against strange shapes in a monochrome world. An hour later, the sky turned grey, then dirty white and everything looked bleak once more.

And then Bangalore where the brightest of bright colours clash and jostle with each other. Montrealers will wonder what the heck I’ve drawn above while Bangaloreans will instantly recognize a Bangalore sky in October - bright orange of African tulip flowers set amidst leaves that are so dark green they are almost black. Rows and rows of them emphatically making their presence felt against a bright turquoise sky.

At an Art supply store in Queen street in Toronto I saw giant bullet-shaped sticks of Senelier oil-pastel obscenely priced at nine dollars each. Here, an artist down the street has an entire box of them in different shades of red which I was generously allowed to use. 

And this beautiful woman standing with confidence in her Sunday best. I quickly hurried home and drew her in her stunning attire.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Package from Rome

Last evening I received a package all the way from Rome. It contained two beautifully illustrated books and one of them, the one on the right was a book I'd wanted forever.

The book on the left, Italia Z is an alphabet book where each letter gives a commentary about the Italians and their society. But as you turn the pages you can see from the illustrations that it doesn’t necessarily seem to be the Italians that the pictures comment upon –

And then below, the extraordinary story The Strangers - 

this is a story created out of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians and the land they inhabit. As always with this author’s stories, the text is minimal, it says only what it should and it is his powerful images which take over the story and capture our mind and hearts creating a shift in perspective in a way in which only great books can. You are never quite the same person you were after you close this book.
Here are some of the pages -

It was a land of sand and stones and not much else, but it was home to a people.
On that land they tended their goats
and waited for the olives to ripen,
and at at night the old ones
told their stories to the youngso that they would remember who they were.

One day, out of a storm that was raging over the horizon,
the strangers appeared.

When the war had ended,
the strangers dug their first grave in their new land
and then they knelt and prayed to their God
and hoisted their flagand began to till the sand and the stones.

Of the people, those who had not died fled...

...and somewhere,
in a land that was not theirs,
they went on with their lives, not as always
but as good as they could.

In the meantime the strangers prospered.

So they (the people) rose up in anger

The revenge was swift

But the wall was not content with protecting the strangers.
It began to grow.

And it grew
            and grew
                        and grew...

For those of you who are interested and who want to hear the author talking about this story, you can hear it over
here > at 44:16

Well, those are some pages from the two books I received from Rome, but there is one more thing that arrived with them,the icing on the cake, these drawings :)

Monday, October 5, 2015

Extra Large

I have a hundred thousand problems to deal with but right now it feels damn good to draw extra large once more.

Dogs and Roses