April 24, 2014
Be it for editorial illustrations, personal scribbles or other assignments, feline creature have been a part of her work since long. Recently as well, Prabha Mallya dedicated a day to drawing leopards. Though other animals (including humans) are also equally at home in the illustrations that she creates. “My work frequently involves environmental and dystopian themes,” she says.
Mallya grew up in Goa, acquired a mechanical engineering degree from BITS Pilani, followed by MDes in Visual Communication from IIT Kanpur and then went to the Savannah College of Art and Design and graduated in Illustration. Since then, Mallya has been a freelance illustrator. She has worked as an illustrator and art director at Pencil Sauce; and then at Manta Ray Comics. She is also a contributing creator to the Small Picture, a full-page comic that appears every week in Mint. She is also a collaborating artist with the Kulture Shop, has also illustrated many books and collaborated with some brilliant writers including Vikram Seth, Nilanjana Roy, and has also illustrated for various books covers and magazines. Here we speak to her about her work, influences and her favourites. Read on:
Sometime during my final year of studying engineering, I took up some advertising electives for fun. I had been drawing on the side all the time up to then. It was the first time I had ever heard of design and the very real possibilities of drawing for a living. I decided to study visual communication design after graduating, so I could give myself some time to figure out what I wanted to do creatively, and get lots of exposure to different kinds of creative problem-solving.
You have to spend a whole day painting only one animal. Is it going to be a cat, an owl or a dog?
Right now it could be a cat – a BIG cat, a leopard. And, I actually did spend a whole day painting leopards recently. There’s plenty more leopard-ish ideas though, and I will possibly take another day out to draw those.
Editorial illustrations for Current Conservation
What is the best thing about drawing/illustrating and writing?
I find many of my drawings are inspired by random strings of words overheard, lines of poetry, other languages, interesting passages from books. And when I write, there’s almost always a visual lurking behind the words. The part I enjoy the most of how I work (on graphic stories) is I get ideas as a sort of inseparable combination of words and pictures, like the two were meant to act together. So what goes on paper right in the beginning is a stick-figure drawing and a scrawl of story, and I build it up from there.
Which has been your favourite book and author to work with?
I really enjoyed working on Nilanjana Roy’s The Wildings. Making illustrations for this book was a great combination of a well-crafted story (the fact that it was filled with cats and other urban wildlife was an added plus!) and a writer whose thoughts and ideas I continue to be inspired by.
What time of the day do you feel most creative?
I usually work early in the mornings, and in the evenings, and the occasional owl shift.
Your most challenging project?
So far – illustrating the Beastly Tales. Developing a new visual interpretation of the tales, especially one to suit a young audience wasn’t easy, because I’d always thought of the tales as meant for grown-ups. And I really loved Ravi Shankar’s black and white line illustrations for the original edition. It was helpful to discover an approach I liked, and my own way of working, with some relevant sketchbook work – and the rest of the illustrations grew from the mood and concept of one of these personal pieces, ultimately very satisfying and lots of fun!
Does music play a any influence on your creativity?
I listen to music while drawing, and it happens, quite by chance that there’s one artiste or a particular atmosphere associated with each project. Nine Inch Nails’ moody ambient tracks felt just right while making some of the more wintry and rainy illustrations for The Hundred Names of Darkness.
Your favourite (illustration) work by yourself.
On Making Wet Food at Home for your Growing Kitten for the characters and the lines they all cross.
A favourite work by someone else.
Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan, for some of the most evocative and haunting illustrated stories I’ve ever read.
If you have to pick a few lines by a writer who has had a lot of influence in you, it would be…
Alan A Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh, and this particular one of Pooh’s hums:
The more it snows
The more it goes
The more it goes
And nobody knows
How cold my toes
How cold my toes
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading the collected short stories of Flannery O’Connor.
And what are you working on?
I’m working on a picture book with Red Turtle. And adding to my sketchbook, thanks to many long walks, bike rides and bird-watching trips.
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