Every week through the Tamil Language Month celebrations, EliPuli will be interviewing one illustrator 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!
Eli Puli’s fascination with artist Sandhya Prabhat’s work is not new – we’ve reviewed her picture books time and again and even made flashcards of her art from her “Today I Am” story (featured below). So we were over the moon when she agreed to be interviewed by us for this interview series. Sandhya’s work is internationally recognised, and she’s worked on a wide range of projects from digital to print. Yet when chatting with her, it’s like talking to a long known friend, her honesty, humility and humour are delightful. It’s lovely to be able to feature an artist who is well-versed in Tamil for this month’s language celebrations and we’re really happy to share some of Sandhya’s experiences with you today. We encourage you to check out her picture books (all listed below), your kids will certainly be delighted to read them/be read to in Tamil!
If you had to choose a nursery rhyme to illustrate, what would you choose and why?
This one :
Hey, diddle, diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed
To see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.
I’ve actually animated this already, but I love it! My favourite type of poetry/rhyme is nonsense verse. Also, my grandfather used to sing this and was equally amused by it.
A spread from the story ‘Stick your tongue out! /நாக்கை நீட்டு! பார்க்கலாம்!’, authored by Sheela Preuitt and Praba Ram, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat,
Published by Pratham Books. Click on the image to read on StoryWeaver.
How do you find inspiration when you start a new project? What is your process and how much research is involved?
Typically for work, the client approaches me with a brief and ideas.
Personally, I don’t like working with too blank a slate. That’s daunting and it’s really hard to guess what a client requires. Therefore, if I don’t have enough information to begin designing for a project, I ask the client to help me with either more discussions or references. I try to supplement the conversation by sometimes sending a moodboard or collection of ideas to my client. These could be sketches, my own previous art work, others’ artwork, story ideas, colour ideas, photos and other material that would make the vision for the project clear.
Once (and only once) I get reasonable clarity, I get momentum to design.
Do you have a secret hotline you can call where kids help you with expert feedback on your characters and art design? How do you decide if your creation will speak to the young reader?
Not really, however, a lot of my clients do take feedback from focus groups with children, for picture books, for instance and this is immensely useful.
I’m an avid consumer of children’s content on screen and in print. I keep myself updated with the latest content as well out of sheer excitement and not as research for work. I try to keep the child in me, alive. This is not hard. Adults are boring.
I believe that children are the best critics. They’re brutally honest and really hard to please. I keep this in mind and try to produce content that looks good and tells its story well.
Illustrations from the Rose & Rocky (ரோஸ், ராக்கி) series, authored by Annie Besant, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat and published by Pratham Books
Click on the image to read on StoryWeaver
What was your childhood like? Was illustration always your passion?
I always liked to draw from a young age, along with my sister Chaaya Prabhat, who is also an illustrator now. I also loved to read. My Bachelors degree was in literature, about which also, I’m very passionate. I come from a family of avid readers.
Animation and illustration are only recently accessible options for professions and I think I’m very lucky that I live in a time when I can combine my drawing and storytelling interests and make a living out of this.
What advice do you have for parents and children who feel strongly about a future in art but are worried about whether they would be good enough? What steps can they take to keep progressing?
A little bit of self-doubt can be very good fuel to keep learning and practising. I wouldn’t advocate entirely against it. 🙂
Cover art and illustration for the book ‘Money Monsters’ by author Okeoma Moronu Schreiner, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat
Check out the Kickstarter Project by clicking on the image
When you’re having a dull day is there something you like to draw that instantly cheers you up?
Many dull days happen because of way too much drawing. Drawing has become my drug of choice. I’m learning to stop with healthy doses.
Sometimes, I do like to draw nonsense, as a break from work. Last year, Chaaya and I worked on a series called Meownday where she’d draw scenes with cats and I’d animate them and we’d post it on Mondays. This series was about cats being cats in interesting locations, and nothing else. This was nice. We might do more.
Illustration from the story ‘Today I Am /இன்று நான்’ authored by Varsha Seshan, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat, published by Pratham Books
Click on the image to read on StoryWeaver
What was the first thing you remember doodling as a child?
My grandfather G. S. Balakrishnan, was a great storyteller and a prolific writer in both Tamil and English. He used to tell me many stories. He often told the story of Ali Baba, in which he described Morgiana to be the most beautiful and clever girl. She caught my fancy when I was about three to four years old. My parents still have my many drawings of Morgiana.
What was your experience like in drawing for The Color Thief? Did you run into roadblocks along the way?
No roadblocks! It was terrific working together with the Tulika team. I was really thrilled by the story.
I initially designed the giant in one set of clothes. We decided that he would be better suited in Indian-ish hunter clothes and I created another set of clothes for him based on this brief. I then created a sheet of his expressions and moods and we discussed at length, how we’d treat colour and the lack of colour, in the design of the book. Following this, I did one sample page and storyboards, as is the typical process, and proceeded to create the entire book with the team’s help and feedback. I loved the experience!
Cover art for the book ‘The Colour Thief / வண்ணத்திருடன் ‘, authored by Stephen Aitken and Sylvia Sikundar ,
illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat, published by Tulika Publishers. Click to view on the Tulika website
We asked our little readers: if you could take the color off anything in this world and keep it for yourself, what would you take it from and why? What are your answers to these questions?
I like colour. I draw colourfully. My workspace is colourful. I add as much colour to my home as possible. I am really comfortable wearing a riot of colours. I wouldn’t take it off of anything.
Announcing the winners of the book giveaway… DRUM ROLL….
Congratulations Methra, (Age 3), Chuvanika (Age 6) and Vismayashree (Age 7)!
Click on the following links to follow Sandhya Prabhat’s work:
Featured illustrated have been presented with the permission of artist Sandhya Prabhat from her Instagram account.
The Colour Thief cover page is as taken from the Tulika Publishers website.
Illustrations from the story Stick your tongue out!, Today I Am and I Spy are from the StoryWeaver website.