Category Archives: Commissioned Illustrations

Flash Card Illustrations: How I did it and what I learnt

I rarely talk about the process behind a finished illustration but this particular project I recently worked on also turned out to be one of the most interesting ones! And besides the fun element, a given on a job like this, I learnt some valuable lessons along the way which in the hope that they prove helpful to someone, I am eager to share.

The project was called EREY, an up and coming language learning platform for English speakers who wish to learn ‘Somali’, the language of Somalia, an East African nation located in the Horn of Africa. To make learning fun and interactive, Erey makes use of flashcards, each having a Somali word, a pictorial representation of that word and its English translation printed on it.

My task was to create illustrations for five ‘Somali’ words and

the challenge was to create images that would best represent the country and its local flavours and embrace the client’s vision at the same time.

Here’s how I went about it.

Illustration for Bakhaarka (the store)Bakhaarka final copy

From my research I figured that stores in Somalia are essentially these one storey brick buildings with strikingly bright coloured facades that sometimes have hand painted images of the items sold in the store.

Forever the food lover I settled for a tan coloured fast food store for my illustration. The picture of a camel on the facade indicates availability of roasted camel meat in the store. The shop signage ‘Moos iyo Baasto’ translates as ‘Spaghetti and Banana’ which is also Somali comfort food.

What I learnt while working on this was how attention to details gives your work that extra edge. By studying tons of local Somali stores on the Internet, I was able to incorporate relevant architectural elements to my store illustration such as the wooden door, metal shade roof, the decorative air vents and the steps leading to the store with the ‘welcome’ sign, all of which increased the credibility of the final image.

Illustration for Dugsi (the school)Dugsi final copy

For Dugsi I wanted to show the interior of a classroom. Acting on one of the client briefs I drew some of the female pupils with head scarves and some without (reminiscent of the pre civil war and less conservative days). The co-ordinates on the black board are of Somalia itself and the motivational quote at the back of the classroom ‘Qoriga Dhig, Qalinka Qaad‘ translates as ‘Drop the gun, pick up the pen’.

What I learnt here was to make an effort in understanding the client’s vision for the illustration, which in this case was a stronger representation of women.

I wove that thought into my illustration by drawing a female teacher at the blackboard, taking the lead in teaching the class. I drew her in the foreground to draw focus and in a slightly larger size compared to the male teacher, who is seen helping a student in the background.

Illustration for Caanaha (the milk)Milk final copy

By illustrating Canaaha as such, I wanted to draw attention to Camel milk, a staple food of Somali pastoral communities and also to the traditional hand woven vessels they use to carry and store that milk.

I drew a traditional Somali rug underneath to bring the image together and add some colour.

The challenge while making this illustration was providing suitable context to the image of ‘milk’ which seemed tricky because milk looks exactly the same across the world! I could get my illustration to work by incorporating elements of local culture and lifestyle. Creative prop choices can make your image relevant is what I learnt here.

Illustration for Bilaha Sannadka (months of the year)Bilaha Sannadka copy

I had a few good ideas for this one but was also curious to know what kind of images others had when they heard this phrase. So I asked around.

And concluded that somebody’s mental picture of a personal planner one-upped mine of a date calendar. I provided context by writing the names of the months in Somali and personalised the planner by adding important events like birthdays of Aabe (dad) and Hooyo (mom). It’s interesting how the planner offers a peek into the person’s life and personality! Our planner owner does not want to miss cheering for Somalia at the Bandy World Championship in January and has plans to join a Somali Book Club later in the year.

What I learnt here was sometimes it’s worthwhile to look outside of your head for ideas and inspiration.

Illustration for Buug (book)book final edited

The brief for Buug was to create several shelves of books. I could draw a library or a bookcase but instead chose to illustrate my secret fantasy which as a book lover and passionate reader has always been to spend hours in a Victorian study, curled up in a plush armchair reading in the warm glow of a vintage lamp that overlooks a polished dark wood table and shelves upon shelves of gleaming books.

The table has a half read book by a popular Somali author and a loose sheet containing a list of Somali authors whose books the owner of the study plans to read.

Looking out for fresh ideas is worthwhile but what I learnt here is looking in and tapping into personal interests and passions for ideas is also invaluable.

Here’s how the final product looks with the illustration – Somali_Words_bakhaarka

You can see the rest of the flashcards in this slideshow-

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

EREY is active on both Facebook and Instagram if you’d like to give learning Somali a go!

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Santa’s been benevolent

How? Here’s a round up of the all the gigs and interesting events that landed on my plate..errr in my stocking last month. First up was a..

Portrait commission 

A lovely lady who is a regular at Tiong Bahru Bakery where I visit every Sunday approached me mid-sketch and asked for my card. Next day, in the mail comes a request to draw postcard sized portraits of her two cute little sons and her two cute little nephews which she’d then give out as Christmas presents to her husband and her sister.

Here’s my take on her youngest son Marcel who was such a treat to draw!

marcel

The next treat in the sock was a chance to be…

In the Changi Calendar

Singapore’s Changi Airport had the noble idea of making their 2017 calendar using hand drawn sketches of the airport. They wished to collaborate with the Urban Sketchers Singapore, a local community of artists and I along with a big gang of sketchers got to scope out the airport, find all the interesting sights and draw our hearts out for one day.

The outcome is as noble as the idea!  A unique piece of artwork represents each month. I was honoured to have not one but two sketches selected, representing August and December. Well thank you, Santa! Here are some pictures:

changi-calendar

The Changi Airport’s calendar for the year 2017

butterfly-garden-somali-roy

This is my original sketch of the Butterfly Garden located inside Changi Airport’s Terminal 3. I sketched this using dip pen and ink.

butterfly-garden-changi

Here’s a page from the calendar.  If you even happen to find yourself in Terminal 3 at Changi Airport, do visit the Butterfly Garden. It’s spectacular!

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Artist at work! Sometimes the butterflies, which were massive in size, would land on my hands and stay awhile as I sketched. Without their unwavering support this collaboration wouldn’t have been possible.

t3-shopping-street

This is the original sketch I made of the shopping street at Terminal 3.  I used dip pen and ink.

shopping-street-changi-with-note

Each artist whose work got selected received a calendar in the post which came with a hand written note. Such a nice touch!

Then right after Christmas I got…

Featured on WordPress Discover

which was one of the highlights of last year because overnight my art and my stories reached a much wider audience. I received heart warming messages from bloggers all over who wrote to tell me how much they appreciated what I did. One lady said after reading my blog she wants to start carrying a sketchbook instead of a camera to document her life!

And that meant a great deal to me because the truth is whether there’s a murmur of approbation every time we send our art into the world or not, we continue to fulfil our need to create, which most of the time is solely for the artist’s own pleasure (Oscar Wilde in his 1891 essay The Soul of a Man under Socialism, said “Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known”) but when this creation matters to someone other than the creator, moves them, encourages them, inspires them in a tiny way even, then I feel what we’ve achieved has much greater value. Also it seems like a less selfish act to be engaged in with a fair ‘sense of purpose’ creeping its way into the equation.

Coming back to what the feature was about, here’s a screenshot of my quote in WordPress Discover’s series on New Year’s Resolutions where they asked selected WordPress bloggers: What’s in store for you – and your site – in 2017?

 

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WordPress Discover’s Glimpse into 2017 is a 3 part series and there are many interesting and thought provoking entries. You can read the first part here, the second part here and the third part here.

And this brings me to the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017,  a time I spent with my parents in India on my much awaited once-a-year home trip, about which I will write in a separate post and share the sketches I made during my visit. Until then, here’s a quick one I did at the airport while waiting for my flight to India.

kol-airport-sketch

Fellow passengers waiting to board the Air India flight from Singapore to Kolkata

 

Lastly and most importantly, before signing off, I’d like to wish all my readers who’ve grown exponentially from 54 until recently to 534 now, a very HAPPY NEW YEAR! A warm welcome to each one of you and thank you for choosing to follow my blog and showing your appreciation in the form of likes and extremely encouraging messages.

Thank you!

‘Surreal but nice’

was how I felt when Bon appétit, commissioned me to illustrate an article for them. Those who haven’t watched Notting Hill, this is what the awestruck bookstore owner played by Hugh Grant says about his chance encounter with a revered Hollywood superstar, played by Julia Roberts in this über popular romcom.

Anyway, what I mean to say is for a person who loves food and to feed, has hand written recipes tucked inside every drawer, purse and in between the pages of old diaries, watches cooking shows to lull her to sleep and cooks not just to eat or feed but to create, Bon appétit magazine has been an unvarying source for reference and inspiration for many years, a reliable friend that always has my back and also spurs me on. Hence the fuss over my chance to contribute to my fav publication!

The assignment was to illustrate for the an article called: Let’s Chaat: A Guide to Indian Snacks. I was to draw (and salivate simultaneously over) 6 popular kinds of Chaat along with a cover image of a table laden with an assortment of Chaats. Chaat-  if you don’t know already – is a colourful and incredibly addictive Indian snack with layers of textures and flavours packed together that surprise, excite and pleases your palate at the same time leaving you craving for more and then more. It’s pretty easy to whip up too.

Check out the article to learn more and those feeling hungry view my illustrations pronto for instant gratification. Hope you enjoy and bon appetite!!

Chaat Table

Assortment of Chaats

 

Gol Gappa

Golgappa

 

Samosa Chaat

Samosa Chaat

 

Sev Puri

Sev Puri

Bhel Puri

Bhel Puri

Aloo Tikki

Aloo Tikki

Dahi Vada

Dahi Vada

To whoever’s Bangkok bound

and time crunched ( or not) but wants to make the most of his/her visit to this incredible city, I give you  24 Hours in Bangkok , written and illustrated by me and published in Selamta Magazine, the magazine of Ethiopian Airlines.

Bangkok Map final.jpg

Hand drawn illustrated map of Bangkok

This above is the map illustration accompanying the article. I drew it with a dip pen and sepia ink and coloured it using watercolours. By creating a compilation of little watercolour sketches of the sights, I wanted my map to convey that ‘sense of place’ to the traveler; take him/her on a visual (and at times, sensory) tour of the city even before the flight lands at Suvarnabhumi airport.

For the armchair traveler and if you are one, this map should work equally well. As you trace your eyes across the sights on the map, following the paths marked out, I hope you can taste the sweetness of the ripe mango served with fragrant rice at Baan Khanitha or sense the calmness of your surroundings while resting on the wrought iron bench at Jim Thompson’s House, be awestruck by the sheer size and beauty of Wat Suthat as you follow the orange robed monks there and finally at the end of a long day, feel your aching muscles spring back to life at the healing hands of your masseuse at Ruen Nuad Massage Studio.

Whether you travel actually or virtually, I hope my write-up and hand drawn map takes you places. And since we’re talking about maps, here’s another one I drew of Mumbai for the same magazine. Check out : For the love of maps

 

For the love of maps

My favourite pass time as a teenager growing up in a suburban industrial town was to leaf through the pages of my Atlas. Against the sombre back drop of a steel manufacturing factory and the regimented lives of its employees (and their families) , the candy coloured maps glowed like fireflies flitting in the dark, promising adventure, boundless possibilities and deliverance for one curious and utterly restless mind. Countless after school hours have been spent on my study table examining landscapes, tracing fingers over dark patches of emerald forests, around little blobs of turquoise lakes, across golden deserts and along spindly roads vanishing into horizon; spelling out unpronounceable names of places and rolling them on my tongue to savour their exotic unfamiliarity, memorising them and finally, drawing outlines of maps in the notebook ,colouring and labelling them. It was all very fascinating.

Little did I know that the wondrous child’s play I was so enamoured with would resurface in adulthood, that I would get to illustrate an article I wrote for Selamta magazine called 24 Hours in Mumbai (click here to see the massive sized digital image and/or read the write up). The illustration you se below is a hand drawn map. Yes, it was a grown up job with deadlines, approvals and all but I was just as giddy with excitement as I used to be during my Atlas-loving days. What a sense of déjà vu!

Somali_Mumbai map copy low res 1

Hand drawn map of Mumbai