If you or your kids are Ruskin Bond fans or generally just avid readers, then you’d have come across Kavita’s creative genius in the covers of your favourite reads! For those of you with younger kiddos, she’s also illustrated the Goodnight series (♥️) and a range of books for Tulika (they’re ALL available in Tamil at NLB) such as Dungi Dance, Brahmah’s Butterfly, Jalebi Curls and Ranganna (We’ve read them all and they’re awesome!) Kavita is a transmedia artist based in Delhi and is the co-founder cum creative director of Underground Worm Art & Design, (@undergroundworm), an interdisciplinary art and design studio which encapsulates clusters of interventions of Art, Design, Science and Technology. Kavita’s artistic explorations have turned into commercial design projects that have been showcased in national and international literature, art, design and film festivals; museums and galleries. Join EliPuli today as we talk to Kavita about her experiences as a children’s illustrator!
If you had to choose a nursery rhyme to illustrate, what would you choose and why?
I am fascinated by the nonsense and humour of rhymes like “Hey Diddle Diddle, the cat and the fiddle”. I would love to illustrate this one!
How do you find inspiration when you start a new project? What is your process and how much research is involved?
I have been practising visual art, which is free-flowing and spontaneous but on the other hand, I also do design projects for different clients, where I need to pitch ideas by making presentations. It is a contrasting difference between self-expression and trying to convince/ push/ sell ideas. The two extremes open doors to innumerable possibilities of drawings and writings. As an animation filmmaker, I started seeing book illustrations as painted storyboards of films. Added to this, looking at my own daughter and seeing the world around her from her point of view is inspiring. Travelling to different places also fills my sketchbooks.
Each book project is different and demands a particular kind of research methodology. Being a filmmaker, I enjoy doing the research in the pre-production stage when I create mindmaps, mood boards and storyboards.
Do you have a secret hotline you can call where kids help you with expert feedback on your art? 🙂 How do you decide if your creation will speak to the young reader?
My daughter and I have been experiencing the beauty of several picture books together. During my children’s workshops, I get the opportunity to interact and observe their reactions to my work. When you observe children seeing illustrations in books, they pay attention to the minutest of details. In my work I try to give attention to every aspect, keeping this in mind. My approach is to create content that could tickle a kid’s mind to trigger their imagination.
What was your childhood like? Were illustrations always your passion?
Childhood was spent between Lutyen’s New Delhi and Himachal. I grew up in Lodhi colony and Pandara road in Delhi. And the entire two months of summer holidays were spent with grandparents in the hills. Like any other 80’s kid, I was the “wild-child”, who got a lot of free play outdoors every day. We played with all age groups and did many fun projects like miniature scenes during janmashtmi to small library creation without any adult supervision. We learnt from the elder kids and later taught our tricks to the younger ones. In Delhi, I went to markets to buy things on my own and got lost in the hills of Himachal on my way back home. My adventurous grandma took me to several village fairs and events.
The school’s teachers and parents encouraged me to do art but I was equally involved in sports and music too.
My inclination towards children’s books illustrations started only when I was studying at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad.
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? What steps can they take to keep progressing?
Parents should not worry too much about the future profession because kids will do what they want to do. Each one has a passion and we should let them discover that on their own. Just give them a lot of free play. Go slow and let them be kids.
If your child likes to illustrate then give them many interesting illustrated books, take them to literature fairs, art exhibitions and museums. The world is a happening place currently because technology is helping stretch the reach for content creators. It all boils down to doing more things. With the advent of new media in our daily lives, if one is talented- it is visibly seen immediately. So we live in this positive world and I see a bright future for aspiring illustrators.
When you’re having a dull day is there something you like to draw that instantly cheers you up?
I don’t draw to cheer myself 🙂 In fact, it is the other way round. My daily experiences make me draw and the imagery comes on its own! It is a very intuitive creative process.
Spread from Brahma’s Butterfly – Click to view
What was the first thing you remember doodling as a child?
I have been drawing since I was really tiny. I clearly remember drawing on my house walls and spotting interesting forms/characters anywhere!
What was your experience like creating Dungi Dance? Did you run into any roadblocks along the way in picturising the spreads? (Did the lungi dance song from the Chennai Express movie become an earworm?)
Haha, yes! The lungi dance song kept ringing through my head! While visualizing the Dungi character, I took inspirations from the sheep of Gaddi shepherds. Their sheep’s colour is not at all super white! So I decided to make Dungi look little dusty by painting it in off-white and peach colours. The character designs are very simplified and stylized. And I have made the sheep look like toys/puppets.
Spread from Dungi Dance – Click to view
Do you ever dance to shake out the artist block? What’s your silly secret to cheering up and getting productive?
I do not experience artist block because there is no time for it 🙂 The silly secret is to just keep on drawing daily!
Is there a new children’s project you’re really excited about? Tell us!
I am excited about my upcoming book illustration project titled, “The Mahabharata: Children’s Illustrated Classics” by Rupa Publications. I am glad that I got the opportunity to go through an exciting long artistic journey while I was trying to simplify the visual storytelling experience of Mahabharat for children from a child’s perspective. “The Mahabharata: Children’s Illustrated Classics” is written by Charu Agarwal Dhandia, illustrations by me and the books are designed Rachita Rakyan.
The Mahabharata: Children’s Illustrated Classics – Click to view
Announcing the winners of the book giveaway… DRUM ROLL….
Congratulations Vetha Dinesh, Usha Joy and Sharon Shanti!
To learn more about Kavita Singh Kale’s work :
The illustrations featured are from Kavita Singh Kale as well as 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!