I’ve learnt to enjoy seeing the journey I’ve covered and use that to propel me forward.Bhavya Desai
Having taken up projects for countries like the U.A.E and cities like Kolkata, Bhavya Desai comes from a Southern mix of spices and culture. With digital tools and a sharp memory, he is here to stay.
Tell us about yourself. Being a Gujarati and brought up in Chennai, what were your initial days as a budding illustrator?
To be honest, I was born in Ahmedabad, but consider myself as a Chennaite. My initial days of practicing illustrations were a little difficult. I remember being unable to put down my ideas or concepts on a sheet of paper. With time, practice and discipline, I was eventually able to pen down my thoughts onto paper. Being an illustrator is easy. Anyone can draw. But when you observe and convert that into something unique that everyone relates to, is something I have always enjoyed doing. Till date, the closest thing to my heart are the domestic settings of the urban and the rural that excite me. Most of my illustrations revolve around daily life scenarios.
Were illustrations something that excited you since childhood or a pre-planned career path?
I recall filling up papers with just cars, characters and the usual ‘mountains and sunrise’ in-between. I’ve always been around a paper and pencil which not many people tend to take forward after a certain age. Like everyone else, my textbooks and notebooks were filled with scribbles. Since we had art as a subject in school and a great teacher that gave us all the freedom we ever wanted, this was a turning point where I stuck onto drawing and illustrating. I wasn’t good at it at all. Since art runs in my blood, I was well aware of the difficulties I’d face later on. This did not stop me. I kept carving a path to live on and continue to do so.
How do characters register in your mind and what is the process that goes behind the scenes of illustrating them and bringing them to life?
The characters that I illustrate are purely from my imagination. However, I am deeply inspired and borrow characteristics from people around me. That keeps everything I do original. This is because my first-hand referencing is always the streets and actual locations, but the internet. I do reference things off the internet if I am limited to first hand resources. For example, if I have to draw a barber, I’d make the effort to go and experience it first-hand. I would observe the techniques he uses, study his body language/ posture and make visual notes on a pocket notebook. After which, I come back to my desk and start illustrating the scene.
What are the challenges that you have faced as an illustrator?
There are quite a lot. A few major ones that I have faced are only to do with myself. I want to sustain in an environment where there are equally good illustrators. We often compare ourselves with others. The solution to this is wearing ‘blinkers’ and to just focus on your race and compete with yourself. Being an independent illustrator is a lonely path that only you can travel on. Since its purely based on style, there is no one else who could help you shape yourself, but you alone. There are times I often question myself if I am on the right path. I’ve learnt to enjoy seeing the journey I’ve covered and use that to propel me forward.
Give us an insight into the series you are currently working on, ‘While you were asleep.’
‘While you were asleep’ is one of my all-time favorites and has become a popular series that people looked forward to on my Instagram handle. The series basically highlight the role of workers whom we do not see post sunrise, but play a very important role in our lives. For example, we take having milk packets or newspapers at our door step for granted. Little do we realize, that these are actually people who wake up much earlier to serve the city.
Why haven’t you considered working for media houses who require cartoonists for their articles and online content?
That’s a good question. I have always considered it, but just waiting for a really good opportunity. I feel I would be good at illustrating articles.
Your packages on ‘InstaMojo’ include a five-session class. What else do you plan on offering to the budding illustrators out there?
Oh yes! This is something that has recently started. Over the years, I have had people who have asked me to guide them and help them develop characters and scenes. I have enjoyed taking a one-on-one session with individuals over groups as I can personally help them develop. I plan on sticking with the individual sessions over the next one year.
You have designed illustrations for a lot of people. What have been one amongst the best projects that you would vouch upon?
I have worked on some really interesting projects that has allowed me to travel to new cities. Two projects that have allowed me to do so, was an invitation by an art gallery in Dubai, UAE. I was asked to spend a week there and illustrate the city through my eyes. Another project that I have personally enjoyed is a trip to Kolkata where I was asked to document heritage eateries. I spent a week in this wonderful city documenting them.
Having engrossed into the culture of Chennai, how would you sum it up to someone who hasn’t been here at all?
I cannot express this in words. It’s more of an emotion. Each city has its own charm and Chennai is definitely the place that I would recommend to one and many.
Claiming to have become an artist on accident, where do you see yourself 10 years down the line?
It is a conscious decision that I have made and it wasn’t an accident. 10 years from now, I plan on illustrating more cities and continue to enjoy the process of creating magic with my hands.