Curious about the talented illustrator of ‘???? ?? ??? ?????? ?????’? Say hello to Kaveri Gopalakrishnan

We’ve been following Kaveri Gopalakrishnan’s brilliant artwork for a while now and have always admired her black and white sketches. So when we received Rukmini Banerji’s story ‘???? ?? ??? ?????? ?????’ along with a few visual cues – that the story be largely in black and white – we immediately thought of Kaveri. And we’re so, so glad she agreed to illustrate this moving story. We’ve been poring over her illustrations over the last couple of days, and really, there’s just so much to discover in her evocative art. This is also Kaveri’s first fully illustrated children’s book, so it feels extra special to have it up on StoryWeaver.  You can also read this story in English, titled ‘Didi and the Colourful Treasure‘. 

We hope you enjoy our short interview with Kaveri, in which she talks a little about her illustration process, her journey as an artist and the most important thing of all – finding inspiration.

You’ve been illustrating for a long time now. But this is your first, fully illustrated children’s book. How does it feel to see the story being read and translated by StoryWeaver’s community?

I’m fairly used to doing either stand-alone illustration for cover design work and editorial illustration. I didn’t process what it would be like to actually see a fully illustrated book out there for the whole world to read, until I read comments in the discussion panel. For me this is the most exciting part: that people are actually participating in something that I’ve been a part of making, and keeping it alive through translating, retelling, sharing and talking about it.

Tell us a little about your experience of illustrating ‘???? ?? ??? ?????? ?????’.

Didi is completely drawn and illustrated digitally. I read the story a couple of times, as well as the authors’ notes on how the red dupatta could be used, etc. Since the story had to start in black and white and progress to a bright, colourful ending (or new beginning, as we find out!) I planned the entire artwork to be slightly scribbly, dark pencil lines with different kinds of monotone ink washes and gradients to make it richer detailed. I added colour little by little, as the story progresses and when the children start reading: just like the books are bringing colour to their lives, as well as Didis’ when she’s unwell. The garbage dump as a background was a challenge: I didn’t want a hundred elements to take over from the characters (which were so much fun coming up with, and giving them each different personalities, including the dog) so chose to keep them as dark, grimy mountains with a few boxes and miscellaneous pieces of trash poking out. The little black crow-looking dog was my favourite character to draw.

Do you feel that it’s important for an artist to find a distinct style, or is it more important to be versatile?

It’s definitely important to try out every single thing when you’re starting out as an artist or illustrator: every kind of traditional medium, a few softwares and digital brush experiments, even looking through online tutorials and interviews from artists you admire. As a young animator, I had many preconceived ideas about ‘how to draw’ and ‘what the final output should look like’ which led to a huge, mixed bag of work. I didn’t know how to carry this forward initially. Eventually, I got back to the style of drawing which I was most comfortable with. Those years of exploring and trying new styles and treatments have helped me adapt pretty easily with each new project I do today, and I’m grateful for all that confusion and experimentation. A distinct style is something which happens with time, the more you work and find content that appeals to you.

You have a steady (and growing) following through social media – Facebook, Instagram, etc. How has this influenced your work?

I really enjoy mini-blogging off Instagram, as a platform. The space is image-focused and feels more personal, so I think less about what I upload. It’s also very on-the-go, and I’ve connected and made friends with lovely, talented people on it. Once I started a Facebook page (slightly reluctantly and after a year or so or being convinced) the response rate was better, with actual projects coming through. Also, the sharing capacity and reach is far greater from a single platform online. I work slightly faster and smarter now with work, to make sure it’s ready to be shared online in whatever format on my Tumblr blog, Be portfolio site, Twitter and so on.

What do you do and where do you go when you desperately need inspiration to draw? Yes, we’re asking you to spill your secrets.

Honestly, I travel. I make money to travel and break out of my routine whenever possible. I always have my sketchbook, basic materials kit and sometimes laptop and digital tablet on-the-go. Stories and ideas come to me when I meet new people and have conversations outside my comfort zone. I write down lines I like from songs or something someone will say during a discussion. Also, much of my personal work comes from my own life and experiences. I write and make illustrations and comics out of new thoughts, feelings and understandings I have: I call them ‘ New Age Wisdom Etc’ and the kind of connections strangers make with this content, and how they respond, is also pretty much what keeps me inspired.

As part of StoryWeaver’s ‘Weave-a-Story‘ campaign, we’re asking you, our active community, to translate ‘???? ?? ??? ?????? ?????’ into as many languages as possible. The English version – ‘Didi and the Colourful Treasure‘ is also available on StoryWeaver. Help this story travel faaaar and wide by translating it into languages that you are fluent in. Here’s how you can translate it.


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