November 19, 2014
Under the guise of a talented graphic designer and illustrator, Vinayak Varma is a storyteller, who dreams of authoring a book one day. An alumnus of Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore, he has an experience of more than 10 years, during which he has been an illustrator of children’s books and travel guides, the editor of a magazine, art director for a pub and illustrated murder mystery novels, among other things. He’s even found his way into Creative Review.
Vinayak started his journey illustrating children’s books, which was never easy because children tend to see the world as speeded-up flipbooks, in a manner that is both thrilling and fleeting at the same time. Even so, Vinayak considers this to be one of the most cherished phases of his career. “I owe a lot to the editors and publishers who gave me my first break. A lot of my confidence as an illustrator has come from working on those books”. When asked to pick a character from one of his favourite children’s books, he picked Willy Wonka.
Thanks to his interest in films and the nuances of filmmaking, his love for narration is deep-rooted. When it comes to illustrating, his personal rule is simple – “never to draw illustrations that only support a text”. It has to mould and add dimension to the story. Most of the time, he gets straight to the point, makes a few conceptual sketches, inks the one(s) he finds the most suitable to the story, and produces work without too many crumpled papers thrown in the dustbin. He spends a major part of his time reading books, sometimes more than one simultaneously, and setting his playlist to suit his mood, which is mostly blues and jazz.
Here are excerpts from our conversation with the jovial Vinayak:
“Brainwave was started in 2012, and I was its editor and art director from February 2010 to November 2012. The first five years involved planning the magazine’s content structure and design, building a team, setting up an advisory board of eminent scientists and educators, and a team of talented freelance writers and illustrators (including Prabha Mallya, Rajiv Eipe, Sunando C., Archana Sreenivasan, Srinath Perur, Priya Kuriyan and others).
Our in-house team – Aparna Kapur, Rajita Gadagkar, Somesh Kumar, Anuranjini Singh and I – wrote and illustrated roughly half of every issue, while the rest came from our freelancers. In an overall sense, I particularly enjoyed working on the issues and cover stories themed on archaeology, space, energy, movie visual effects, chemistry, sound, light, flight and pseudoscience.”
For more on his work for Brainwave click here
“Brewsky initially brought me in to paint artwork onto their beer fermenters. I ended up creating their visual identity, mascots, a story for these mascots, all their print collateral, and helping with their social media presence. The collateral ranged from menus, table collateral (coasters, mugs, plates etc.), uniforms, merchandise, environmental graphics, posters and other graphics. I also generally tend to be partial to primary colours, all the more considering they’ve become a bit of an underdog’s choice of late. I figured that it made sense to go bright and bold and over-the-top.”
To read more about the Asuras of Brewsky: the ‘Brewskasuras’, click here
Love Travel Guides
“At the time, Fiona (Caulfield, the publisher) had only commissioned two of her Love Travel guides – Love Bangalore and Love Mumbai. I illustrated the former, and Sameer Kulavoor did the Mumbai illustrations in parallel. I was working at an art curation and design firm called Jackfruit back then.
I remember it being a fun experience. I knew very little of Bangalore at the time, having grown up in Madras. It helped me discover many aspects of the city that I didn’t fully know at the time as I had only lived in a little suburb on the outskirts for five years.”
“It was certainly a thrill seeing all the artwork in print when the book was released. In hindsight, though, I feel I shouldn’t have put so much detail into the pen-and-ink work. I did the drawings not knowing how much they would be scaled down and on what sort of paper they would be printed. They ended up being tiny spot illustrations on handmade paper, so a lot of the detail was lost.”
What do you think is more challenging – commissioned or personal work?
Personal work is often more challenging, I find. It’s harder to finish a project when the client (me) has the same miniscule attention span and tendency to procrastinate as the junior employee (me), and the impatience and lack of commitment of the studio boss (also me). I can often be really difficult to work with!
What inspires you?
It’s movies. I’ve been a serious cinephile all my life, and I did a year of filmmaking at art school, so it’s had a huge influence on me as a person.
Filmmakers who’ve inspired me are Stanley Kubrick, Blake Edwards, Francis Ford Coppola, Guillermo del Toro, Steven Spielberg, Wes Anderson, Mani Ratnam, Ridley Scott, K. Balachander, Spike Lee and many others…
Illustrators I admire are Ralph Steadman, Chris Ware, Eddie Campell, Sean Phillps, Edward Gorey, Mario Miranda, Goseki Kojima, Anjora Noroha, Aindri Chakraborty …and from people I have worked with – Sameer Kulavoor and Prabha Mallya.
Your journey, summed up in one line - “It’s not always been fun, nor has it always paid my bills, but I hope to make those the consistent aspects of my journey ahead.”
If you wish to see all of Vinayak’s amazing work, visit his website.Kyoorius is a bi-monthly print magazine on visual communications. Subscribe here. For buying a single copy (or any of the previous issues), write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can order the issue from Tadpole, get the digital copy from Magzter and also buy it from bookstores near you. For any feedback on the magazine or to submit your work, do drop in a mail to us at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.