Friday, October 25, 2019

An Exercise in Restraint

This illustration for the latest issue of The Indian Quarterly was done by layering my drawings with Photoshop, the first time I have used digital assistance this extensively to create an image.

I had a rough idea of what I wanted my illustration to say, but apart from that, as I do with charcoal and pastel, I explored and found my way through while creating the illustration until I reached something satisfactory. I came away with the opinion that while making a digital collage such as this, it is so easy to get carried away by stuffing your composition with as many elements as possible and overcrowding your image. It seems to me that creating an effective illustration using Photoshop is ultimately an exercise in self-restraint – Does the image really need this? No? Then just remove it because the lesser the elements the better the image.

Initially I admit I got overexcited with all the different things I wanted to use – gold leaf, pressed flowers, dried leaves, Punjabi lettering, drawings, strokes of pastel, butterfly wings etc etc. I stuffed it all into the composition like I would a suitcase for a long journey and then seeing the weight and the sheer clutter, I was compelled to eliminate  the layers one by one by one.

Finally what makes this illustration effective apart from the symbolism of the elements is the way the eye moves around the composition, from the darkness towards the right bottom led by the black lettering  towards the stroke of red pastel on the left and upwards by the white lettering to the top of the rock and the house and then the birds and the inland letter onwards in the sky in the shape of an arc. All this ultimately reflects the words of the poignant essay about migration which I was given to illustrate, written by Anvita Budhraja, titled No Home but Memory. The essay was  based largely on a poem by Amrita Pritam called Mera Pata or My Address.

Here is the poem by Amrita Pritam

My Address
Today I effaced the number of my house and
The name of the street at the top of the street;
I removed the signposts of all the roads;
Even so if you must find where I am
You must knock at the door
Of every house in every street, city and country.

This is both a curse and benediction
Wherever you come across a liberated soul
You can take it to be my home.