Sunday, December 6, 2020

A Fitting Conclusion - The interview

So this is the most in-depth and extensive interview I have done in my career as an illustrator. I talk about process, pictures, payment, profession, publishers and other related matters. The difference with this interview is that the questions were asked by another illustrator, making them pertinent, relevant and allowing me to open up as I have never done before. This is also a wonderful closure to this blog and to an entire part of my career as an illustrator at the end of this year. Now I can move on to other things with much gratitude for all I’ve been given.

Many thanks Niharika Shenoy, not only for giving me this chance to articulate my thoughts but also for interviewing and showcasing Indian illustrators so nicely on Medium.


Click here to read The Interview



It has been a great 10 years on this blog and a full 13 years of blogging. It is time to close the circle here too as with an entire volume of my life.

Here are the places you can find me and my work -

https://priyasebastianillustrations.tumblr.com/

https://www.behance.net/priyasebastian

The writing, travels, sketchbook stuff, opinions, photographs will all be at

https://priyasebastian.tumblr.com/

Thank you and goodbye.




The Forest

One day when you wake up,
you wil find that you've become a forest.

You've grown roots and found strength in them
that no one thought you had.

You have become stronger and more beautiful,
full of life giving qualities.

You have learned to take all the negativity around you and turn it into oxygen for easy breathing.

A host of wild creatures live inside you and you call them stories.

A variety of beautiful birds nest inside your mind and you call them memories.

You have become an incredible self-sustaining thing of epic proportions.

And you should be so proud of yourself of how far you have come from the seeds of who you used to be.

-------------------------------------------------------- Nikita Gill


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#priyasebastian #priyasebastianillustration #priyasebastianillustrator #seagullbooks #isitthesameforyoubook #conflictzone #picturebookartist #picturebook #kashmirbook #illustratorinterview #picturebookillustration #picturebookillustrator

Friday, December 4, 2020

Up in the Hills

 Sometime in December, I went off to spend time with friends in Mussoorie and Landour. I got my very first glimpse of the Himalayas from the plane and I was enthralled. I got acquainted with words phenomenons like "Winterline" and tried to draw new shapes (mountains) in my sketchbook. I also ate loads and loads of pork and had to beg for simple vegetables with my meals. I used a walking stick to walk even a few kilometers because that is a necessity when you live in the mountains.




The spectacular Winterline where hot air gets trapped beneath cold air 
causing this beautiful phenomenon.


Landour Bakehouse (below) with the classics - 
Delicious Chicken Tikka croissants and Rose Cake. 
So good. 


Sketching the Himalayas in Chakkar in Landour





Apart from the desperation to get out and about, this holiday made me remove my Montreal woolens from the recesses of my wardrobe and wear them. I was still very cold however, until my friend simply threw her mother's sheepskin shawl over me and I was instantly warmed. As Henrik Drescher told me, "It is not how much you wear but what you wear!". When it comes to weather, Bangaloreans don't know very much.


Beautiful pageants around fires are something completely new to a Bangalorean's eyes!



Below, gorgeous treasures picked up during treks around the mountains.


When people like Thoreau spoke about walking amidst nature to rewire the mind, I don't think he meant a walk at the local neighbourhood park, not even Lalbagh, although it can be a good substitute if there is nothing else, but what a healing, soul-cleansing experience it is to walk in a proper forest. How blessed and beautiful is Jabarkhet Nature Reserve.



Many thanks Sam and Bussu for this memorable holiday.










Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The Trek

 







This picture has not been taken from a plane. I actually trekked up this height at Makalidurga Betta.
You will have to click on the picture to fully appreciate the magnificent view.

The rest of the pictures are somewhere on my Tumblr.



#Makalidurga

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Together / Apart

 




Sometime ago I was asked not only to illustrate but also to write about the effects of the pandemic on the theme Together/Apart for The Indian Quarterly. This is the result. It also got me my name on the cover of my favourite magazine, which is nice :)

Blogger does weird things when I cut paste from Word, in fact I find it is no longer a pleasure to use Blogger. Much like Wordpress, it is a chore to upload, align, write in the right place etc. If you want bigger, more sumptuous images, you can find them in my Behance account, where you can also read what I've written.

I think I am going to be done with Blogger and blogging very soon.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Ancient City

 


Matera, every step of the way, every turn of the head, so much beauty.





Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Evil



The evil that persists and persists and persists.

What do we call the horror that stretches across our present age like a canopy, a kind of shadow violence, the sort we are all guilty of: violence of the ignored, utterly avoidable variety. The casual violence of cruelty. The violence of poverty, denial, lack of care, of turning our attention away from slow burning fires that we ought to be duty bound to watch and hold in our eyes. We are not innocents here, but shadow men, looking the other way while havoc is wrought in our silence.

                                                                                       ~ Fathima Bhutto

Monday, September 28, 2020

SMELLS

 Click on the pictures for bigger images -














Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Glimpse

 


The people of Matera are white, all of them, even the tourists are white, there were no Asians, South East Asians, Blacks or Latinos; in this city of all white people I was the lone exception. I was looked at with curiosity each time I entered a shop  and then after a pause and an overcoming of diffidence, I was asked where I was from.
Then one day suddenly out of the blue, I saw this young lone Black woman walking along one of the streets with a lilt in her step. She had none of the tourist accouterments and she seemed very much at home. Her appearance against the pale, bleached walls of Matera was striking. And then I saw her yet again from the balcony, walking somewhere. I wonder who she is and what her story is.



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#matera #materasketchbook #italy


Sunday, August 30, 2020

Owning my Path


And if I

Asked you

To name

All of the

Things that you love,

How long

Would it

Take to

Name

Yourself?

                         ~ via TS



Sometimes you make a long journey for a specific reason only to find that your curiosity was leading you towards a mirage.

The wonderful thing is that you can always take the return flight home; you can always turn the steering wheel back, to your own road.


*


One of the most striking properties of survival-machine behaviour is its apparent purposiveness. By this I do not just mean that it seems to be well calculated to help the animal's genes to survive, although of course it is. I am talking about a closer analogy to human purposeful behaviour. These may include 'desire' for some object, a 'mental picture' of the desired object, an 'aim' or 'end in view'. Each one of us knows, from the evidence of our own introspection that, at least in one modern survival machine this purposiveness has evolved the property we call 'consciousness'.

 

The fundamental principle involved is called negative feedback, of which there are various different forms. In general what happens is this. The 'purpose machine', the machine or thing that behaves as if it had a conscious purpose, is equipped with some kind of measuring device which measures the discrepancy between the current state of things, and the 'desired' state. It is built in such a way that the larger this discrepancy is, the harder the machine works. In this way the machine will automatically tend to reduce the discrepancy - this is why it is called negative feedback - and it may actually come to rest if the 'desired' state is reached.


~ Richard Dawkins THE SELFISH GENE






 

Monday, August 17, 2020

Class

 


One of the many things I've learned during this pandemic is how to make an InDesign cover.

The illustration I've used is one from my book of course, but I thought it would work very well for what I am reading at the moment - My Body and Other Stories. I had read the first story called The Husband Stitch in Granta before I bought the book and it was intense. A key element in that story is the green ribbon. Rather than drawing the green ribbon and incorporating it into the illustration, I've chosen instead to use the element  in the design by using a cursive font and the colour green. I was told that people buy a book, sometimes even a second time only for the cover. Would you pick up this book and buy it if it had this cover?




 The other thing I learnt to do in InDesign is to draw this egg below for an unpublished book with an imaginary title. It was one of the first things I did and I enjoyed making it.

 

The InDesign classes conducted by @sukrutianah are during weekends on Zoom. Each class is one saturated hour. I realized much to my bemusement that the screens of my fellow classmates suddenly going blank is absolutely normal and they are still listening. I once made a comment about the Harry Potter movie being better than the book and the blank screen of one of my classmates expressed outrage.  We are from Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore respectively and the experience is  great. Thanks to this course I actually opened InDesign on my computer and started using it.






Saturday, August 1, 2020

The Newspaper Thing

The Hindu Metrolife 


So the inevitable happened and my book and I got featured in the newspaper.  The deputy editor, Deepa Alexander spoke to me over the phone:

Priya, first tell me what is your age?

I am 50, Deepa

That's all! My, that's really young! I thought you would be in your 20s or 30s!

Naaa, not that old Deepa!

 

Considering the entire article was written based on a phone conversation, it has turned out nicely enough with the essence of what I said appearing in print. There are some small stuff ups here and there but that is normal and probably more due to an editor's scissors rather than the way it was written. It is interesting that the epaper has one format for laptops where the illos are chopped up and a different one for phones where the illustrations of the book are shown in full.

 

Since I am making this post on my blog I might as well put in writing what I told the editor in some detail about the book. This blog is turning into my personal journal and I find I make these posts  to clarify the thoughts in my mind. So here they are below:



 I had wanted to do a picture book for a very long time and over the years I kept searching for a story, one which I hoped would interest me enough to spend time on and something which was suitable for my intense and moody style. Then when the Goethe Institut, Kolkata workshop on children's books presented itself to me I was more than happy to attend. The theme of the workshop was Children Understand More which I assumed meant giving children stories with substance and food for thought.

During the course of the workshop I was given a story written by (playwright and actor) Neha Singh. The story was a brief and simple one. It was suggested at the workshop that she expand on that story and make it more wordy but in retrospect I am so glad it was given to me at this raw stage completely devoid of description with only the lone voice of the young girl running through the spartan text. This allowed me to fully unleash my imagination rather than have it constrained by a descriptive text.


 

Once the writer writes the story and hands it over to the illustrator the writer has to metaphorically wash her hands off the story and trust the illustrator. This is a system that is followed for the best picture books. If the book is a movie then the author is the scriptwriter and the illustrator is the actor who breathes life, emotion and substance into the story thereby making it into what it is. The writer cannot tell the illustrator what she would like the story to look like. That would be a useless thing to do since the illustrator cannot look into the writer's mind or draw in a way the writer expects. Neither can the writer ask the illustrator questions like, "what is your vision for the story" as I was once asked by another writer. The illustrator cannot describe her vision in words to the writer since the vision emerges during the process of illustrating where the images and text lead the illustrator onward in the path created by the story. The illustrator can give the story meaning in a way only she knows how and based on her own experiences, style and expertise. Whatever she chooses to do the writer has to accept since any interference especially by someone who cannot draw let alone illustrate will only cause the construction of the story to crumble. That is why Picture Books are called Picture books, because it is the pictures that primarily tell the story with the function of the words only to give direction.I feel the need to mention this because although it did not happen in this case, a lot of writers  feel the necessity to tell the illustrator how they expect the book to be illustrated.



When I was given this story by the writer, I was told that it is the story of a young girl growing up in a conflict ridden zone and it was Kashmir in this case. However since no where in the story was Kashmir mentioned, I found that it gave this story an inadvertent universality in the sense that this story could be happening anywhere in the world, Afghanistan, Palestine, Syria or Iraq. Also since war is never mentioned and the presence of conflict in the story is an undercurrent, the conflict could even be happening within the home and among parents because conflict, whether within or outside the home has certain common elements - the absent father, the preoccupied mother, the lack of food, the longing for love, the loneliness of the neglected girl child on the cusp of womanhood...look at any conflict ridden situation involving home and family and you will find these elements present.

I recall the author telling me that she wanted the protagonist in the story to be a "strong woman". I remember thinking about this. What does it mean to be strong?  Does this girl go through her life kicking a*se, taking charge and bringing about change? Most of the time young children within an unstable environment are terrified and lost. They go through their lives and endure whatever they do simply because they have no option. I would prefer the word "resilient" used to describe this protagonist, rather than strong. 



For me growing up in the South, I hardly know anything about Kashmir except for pretty pictures and newspaper photographs which is hardly a way to acquaint myself with that distant land, so in order to be able to relate to what this girl in the book was going through, I chose the perspective of conflict when it takes place within the home and evoke the sense of isolation and abandonment a young child feels within such a situation. The book became a cathartic experience for me.

 

I find that in most countries in the world, the feelings of young girls are usually completely negated. A girl is never asked "How do you feel?" or have her feelings taken into consideration. Choices are usually made for her on her behalf. These girls then grow up into women completely unaware that they matter and that their feelings are valid. They are incapable of making decisions that benefit themselves as a result. I've tried to make my pictures  in such a way that they evoke feelings in the reader  in order to make them empathize with the complex emotions this protagonist  in the story is going through.

 

For the ending of the story, the writer has chosen to show the girl caring for her tired mother, an inevitability for a girl in the circumstances. However since it is the illustrator's story as much as the writer's, I could not help wishing for a different ending for this young girl, a way out of life in the midst of conflict. In one of the pages it is mentioned that the girl once played football with her friends. I decided to use that as  an outlet for the child in a subsequent page - when the girl goes into her brother's room, I depicted her reaching out for a football, a suggestion that the sport may eventually get her out of her situation and into something better.


 

The publisher: I happened to drop into the beautiful offices of Seagull Books and meet Sunandini during my visit to Kolkata after the Goethe workshop at Shantiniketan. I told her about this story I had been given and I recall her saying, "Priya, anything you illustrate we will publish". I thought Sunandini was being polite to me and that she didn't really mean it, so when I sent her the initial illustrations and when she readily accepted to publish them as a book and that too with so much enthusiasm, it came as a shock to me and it took me a couple of days to get over my disbelief.  If even the most beautiful illustrations are not  partnered with professional design and good quality printing then it would be useless. But Seagull Books are what they promised to be and when you see the end result you know why they are so respected. The process of working with them was seamless and professional. They did not interfere with my work at all and gave me complete freedom to do as I wished, something I am very thankful for. Everything worked out so well with regard to this, my first picture book where I used all the skills and knowledge I had acquired over time into making these pictures, so it was serendipity in action. I have much to be grateful for in every possible way.













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#priyasebastian #kashmir #conflictzone #picturebook #seagullbooks

Friday, June 5, 2020

Mangoes like Parrots







I had bought a box of colourful mangoes which were drawn into a picture yesterday. Thanks to @thealiporepost for giving me a nudge and getting me to open my box of pastels once more.

After completing my picture book about a year ago, I had kept all dry media aside and experimented and splashed around with ink. It was akin to thrashing around blindfolded in the ocean. If surprises happened they did but most times the results ended in the bin. Last night, working with pastels again was like returning to an old love, the relief of familiarity is enormous. I knew exactly which colour to pick up and how to seduce the medium into revealing its delights. That being done, I can now eat the mangoes.