Nancy is both a graphic designer and illustrator primarily interested in painting and illustration. If you take a scroll through her insta account, you’ll see that she enjoys capturing people, their emotions and involvement in daily life, and adds a touch of humour while she’s at it! If you’re wondering how to find her work at NLB – she’s brought to life Maharani the Cow (2018: The Hindu Young World-Goodbooks Award – Best Picture Book – Illustrations), Mala’s Silver Anklets, Catch that Cat!, The Village Fair, Malli, The Snake and the frogs and Hanuman’s Ramayan for Tulika (ALL of which are available for borrowing), Achoo! for Pratham (a really fun BIG book!) and countless others. She’s been showering EliPuli with a lot of love and encouragement and for that, we are ever grateful 😍 Do check out the amazing Diwali coloring sheets she’s created for us, you will definitely be blown away! Join EliPuli today as we talk to Nancy about her experiences as a children’s illustrator!
If you had to choose a nursery rhyme to illustrate, what would you choose and why?
What is more exciting than food in the season of Deepawali and Christmas – yes it has to be all the (indian) food Rhymes! From Adhiramsams and glabjamun
Spread from The Snakes and the Frogs – Click to view
How do you find inspiration when you start a new project? Do you have a secret hotline you can call where kids help you with expert feedback on your art? 🙂
As any children’s book illustrator, it always starts with finding the characters and the right mood to begin drawing for a book. Every piece of illustration that I work, goes through research and planning. I am always conscious that illustrations can go flat and literally destroy a dream that the book can create, however powerful the text, it is the pictures that sticks in the mind.
I draw passionately everywhere like paper napkins, benches, back of books, bits of papers, walls and more which need no planning or organisation (with some carefulness not to be caught scribbling on the walls), it flows spontaneously, it needs no corrections, it needs no eraser. (Though it’s difficult to transfer into anything useful). That kind of spontaneity helps build and imagine my characters for my books, the way they move around and the kind of expressions they make. I like going outside to the streets, talking and looking around at ordinary people and their life (for my sketchbook)I am not nosy, but I take a good look at anything that holds my attention – from braced teeth to silly gestures, merriest laughter, sideway glances or even someone’s chapel, saree-pallu, nose and eyebrows … That kind of drawing is the basic challenge that makes illustrations attractive, I actually feel the gestures and expressions with my pen. Yes, my art style has changed from my first book Malli to my latest Maharani the Cow and Achoo. I have upgraded my drawing tools from paper to digital and love this journey, I’m sure this will keep evolving. My lines I feel are the same – the spirit and energy are what I like to control with enjoyment to detail and depth to the characters. A crowded scene or an empty one, I like every character to be expressive, witty and individual.
Because the word ‘children’ is included in the description of the project, what I draw is not necessarily related to children at all, it’s always a combination of vivid access to memories, or of occasions with children, or by some reactions or perhaps by an urge and most importantly the narrative and essence of the story that’s given to me. Once I have an idea for the book, the fact that it’s for children is beside the point. Once the idea is formed and I begin to work on that, then I feel that all my audience is not only children but a much wider group – its people. So, I like to combine reality and childish things into my art. Therefore, as an illustrator I also think it makes reading interesting to provide lots of visual cue and bits of information into the visuals that will act as a sort of springboard for imagination and thinking – that help the reader (child or adult) to visualise the real surrounding and also in which the story is happening.
What was your childhood like? Was illustration always your passion?
As a child, I enjoyed making pictures and caricatures of friends and family. I have been a designer working for corporate organisations for over 12 years, and that journey has always been teaching me to explore, experiment and realise my passion and love in making illustrations for Children’s books. Which is why I chose children’s book illustration over a corporate job.
What advice do you have for parents and children who feel strongly about a future in illustration but are worried about whether they would be good enough?
There are many paths to explore if illustration is something that excites you. (Comics, movies, fashion, digital, animation and many more) keep exploring and experimenting, you may discover creative ways to do things and this is a never-ending journey if you ask me.
Spread from Catch that Cat – Click to view
When you’re having a dull day is there something you like to draw that instantly cheers you up?
Quirky flowers and birds and sometimes people. (They become goofy cartoons in my mind.)
What was the first thing you remember doodling as a child?
I remember dots and circles of all sizes transform into giant scribbly flowers.
Spread from Maharani the Cow – Click to view
What was your experience like in creating Malli 2 fourteen years after Malli 1?
With Malli (even after a gap of 14 years) there is a unique ease, bond and a sentiment that puts me in a compact one-to-one relationship with the characters and mood of the story. Also, that comes from the fact that Malli is my first book that brought me into the Indian children’s book world.
Spread from Malli is Coming – Click to view
What is the most special handmade gift you’ve ever given and received?
My mother still has the inland letters and cards I made for her as a child. They are all beautifully preserved by her in a file. The colours are fading and papers are becoming thin and delicate. I adore handmade gifts, anything that is made by a person with his or her effort and time is something I value so much. It’s beyond the actual gift itself, these things create a beautiful bond between people. I once received a small paper with a water-coloured beach scene from a dear friend. Unfortunately, the painting and the person is no more and I have both of them exist only in my memories.
Spread from Hanuman’s Ramayana – Click to view
Announcing the winners of the book giveaway… DRUM ROLL….
Congratulations Sumi Sweet, Kavita Subramaniam and Puvan Selvam!
To learn more about Nancy Raj’s work :
The illustrations featured are from the respective Tulika Publishers and StoryWeaver websites
An initiative that started with Tamil Language Month 2019, EliPuli continues to interview children’s book illustrators to find out more about their work and experiences. Why you ask? Because they bring to life the picture books that our little ones love so much! Your child may not be at the age to read words yet, but what draws their attention anyway are the vivid images on the page and these illustrations lay the seed towards passionate readers in the future! EliPuli would like to give thanks to them for the amazing work that they do. Tamil has not enjoyed a very wide range of well-illustrated picture books, so it is important to celebrate the artists who are helping us on our journey as parents and educators to make reading in Tamil fun, enjoyable and mesmerizing!