Deepti Sunder is the illustrator of the soon-to-be-published hOle book Bonkers by Natasha Sharma. She is interviewed by Himanjali Sankar.
HS: I was looking at the illustrations that you have done for Bonkers without reading the text and they seemed to tell a story of their own. How important would you say it is for illustrations, which are accompanying a story, to do that?
DS: I’m so happy to know you think the illustrations speak for themselves! I really do think it’s important for the drawings to tell a story of their own, because it gives the reader another medium through which they can identify with and experience the story. I hope that through my illustrations, kids reading the book will feel more connected with Armaan and Bonkers and their little world.
HS: I would imagine that the rapid technological advances that we are all witnessing would influence art and design to a great extent. Is there pressure to keep up and reinvent constantly as a result? How would you say this has influenced your own work and style?
DS:There definitely is some pressure to keep reinventing yourself, though it’s not just technology wise really. As an illustrator, I think there’s also pressure to keep doing something new and to keep pushing yourself to get better at your craft. Personally, I’m just trying to keep myself drawing and sketching regularly, so that I keep improving (hopefully!) at what I’m doing. Also, most of the illustration I’ve done thus far has been almost entirely drawn and rendered by hand, so I’m hoping to explore some digital illustration and see how that turns out too.
HS: What are the steps that you follow–for instance, read the story, make notes, rough sketches? Is there an inviolable order or it varies from project to project?
DS: I prefer not to keep it too rigid, but there is a certain method that I follow and work around depending on what the project demands. Initially, it’s reading through the story like you said, maybe a couple of times till I’ve gotten the feel of it. Then comes a lot of sketching and trying to figure out how I want the characters to look. Once that’s done, I get down to rough sketches, which are then sent across to the editors, and they tell me whether they like how it’s looking and if anything needs to change. Then it’s time to get to work on the final illustrations. Those, when completed, are scanned and uploaded on the computer. A little bit of tweaking and touching up on Photoshop, and done!
HS: I love the detailing in your illustrations for Bonkers (they add to the humour and atmosphere) – is that something you consciously pay attention to?
DS: Oh yes, very much. I’ve always been fascinated by these charming little details illustrators add in their work. I like the idea of someone looking at the drawings and being able to see things that are not necessarily mentioned in the story. It feels good as an illustrator to add something that is above and beyond what the author has described. It’s where you get to display your interpretation of the characters and embellish their world a bit more. For me personally, this is probably what I enjoy most about illustration.
HS: As an illustrator, what is your favourite style and medium?
DS: I wouldn’t say I really have a favourite, but I do prefer working with dry mediums mostly. I am liking watercolours a lot recently too though. All the Bonkers illustrations are in watercolour, with a little bit of colour pencil and pen thrown in there. Stylewise, I honestly feel like there’s a lot more exploration I would like to do before I hit upon something that rings true with me.
HS: Who are your favourite illustrators of children’s books? Do they have an influence on the way you work?
DS: Oh, I have way too many favourites! I keep thinking I’ll be reduced to a blubbering, nervous mess if I actually got to meet some of these illustrators personally. To name a few, there’s Alicia Souza, Prashant Miranda, Oliver Jeffers, Quentin Blake, Mario Miranda, Jasjyot Singh Hans, Priya Kuriyan, Richard Scarry…I could go on and on! It definitely helps to keep looking at work that inspires and excites you. There’s a lot of stuff you can learn from looking at other people’s work, both unconsciously and consciously.