The Master Illustrator, Unedited
Brahma’s Butterfly, Pavo Cavo, Jalebi Curls and many more books have made themselves more endearing owing to Kavita Singh Kale’s vivid imagery which brings alive the stories and leaves an indelible impression on the reader’s mind. On the left is Kavita’s special illustration for www.kiducere.com, which we are in love with! Thanks Kavita! Kavita gives vent to her versatility through Underground Worm, an art and design studio. She is a graduate of NID, Ahmedabad and has been passionate about sketching and drawing since her childhood days. Kavita’s body of work spans children’s books, academic, corporate and social projects. Kiducere brings to you the master illustrator unedited…
Q: Kavita, great talking to you! Lets start, who was your inspiration to enter this field?
My inclination towards children’s books illustrations started when I was studying at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. While studying for some courses, I created my own books and the projects turned out to be an enjoyable process. It was at this time that I realized I wanted to explore this area further.
Q: Have you been naturally artistic since your growing years or is it a skill acquired from various courses?
As a child, I was heavily into drawing and painting and my efforts were always recognized. In fact, I would help children of all ages in school as well as in my neighborhood, in their drawing projects. The old family album in my parent’s house is filled with thin layers of juxtaposed colours on black and white images. When I flip through these images, I just can’t imagine what was running through my mind! Credit goes to my parents who were very chilled out even if I used family documentation for my explorations!
Q: What are the difficulties an illustrator faces, creative or otherwise?
Finding the right project and clients with the same wavelength is the key factor in every project. The project that I work on expands based on the freedom and space that is given to me. As an individual, I am very passionate about trying out new visual explorations. It is like an innate quality that I have carried for ages. Maybe I was an inventor in my previous birth? I am always questioning conventional ways of thinking, and I end up going against the wave. If people can understand it, nothing like it. But I do find it hard to get a good mix of clients and projects. On a larger picture, I don’t wait for things to come to me because I am always working on my own material- whether it is films, books or art.
Q: How does an author-illustrator duo work to achieve the final product? Does personal rapport play a part in the equation to create magic on paper or does the illustrator work independently based on a brief?
So far I have always interacted with publishers and not with the author so in my case book illustrations work independently based on a brief. Illustrators and writers are creative and sensitive people who enjoy freedom. Publishers like Tulika give all the creative freedom to explore new possibilities. Radhika and Sandhya are just too amazing to work with. I have done a couple of books with them and it has been smooth sailing.
Q: How different is it illustrating a children’s book vis-a-vis an adult book?
Working on children’s books is like a rubber band that can expand itself to infinite levels of imagination. Working on these books is like getting into the mindset of children. I hit the nostalgia button and take a trip to my childhood days and come back to the present. Everything is fresh and without constraints. In other words, I can create something with out logical or theoretical explanation and simply make it interesting. This is the kind of space they are in- as young individuals, who later on start justifying things. Currently, my one-year-old daughter has been my greatest inspiration. It gives me the urge to create more material for the kids. I have done a few things for adults but the requirements were purely for communication material.
Q: Personally, who is your favourite illustrator?
There are so many good illustrators, to mention one name is very difficult. I like a couple of illustrators; for graphic novels Marjane Satrapi, Frank Miller and for children’s books, Axel Scheffler, Jane Cabrera and Holly Swain.
Q: What professional courses are available to students interested in pursuing illustration as a career and where? How tough is it for a newcomer to get a break?
There is no specific education in the area of illustration in India, but a couple of art and design colleges offer a few courses within the main curriculum. There are many colleges overseas that have illustration as a major. I am willing to become a faculty if an illustration department opens up India .
Q: A word of advice for newcomers entering this field?
Just keep creating things, whether you are noticed or not. There are huge platforms where someone will identify you for your abilities. Having said this, the competition is very intense. Don’t get absorbed by it and become a victim of the rat race. Rather, enjoy the process and do things for your satisfaction. It is easy to know the world around you but trying to know who you are and identifying yourself takes much more time. And this will reflect in your creation.