Year of the Rat? Year of the Rabbit? No! It is the year of Priya Kuriyan! :-)

of the ten books that we published this quarter, Priya Kurian has
illustrated six of those – five books from a series based on the Indian seasons called The Rituchakra Series written by our very own Mala Kumar and Manisha Chaudhry and a standalone book called Susheela’s Kolams
written by Sridala Swami. Jackpot eh? Let us just say that we hit a
jackpot, having had the privilege of working with this gem of an
illustrator. Oh, those wide eyed characters and such vibrant colours!
All of us, very religiously dedicate at least ten minutes everyday, just
to sit and stare at her illustrations. Well, I am not sure about the
rest, but I do.

I declare that the world should know more about this wonderful fraud mallu
and her work.

When, where and why did you start illustrating?
The only
thing I really liked to do as a kid was to draw. I was glad to finish
with school and go to a place where I was expected to do nothing but
that. I attended the fine arts course at Maharaja Sayajirao University
Baroda for a year and then joined NID, Ahmedabad, specialising
in animation film making. Making an animation film involves
conceptualising; thinking of the storyline, characters, etc. Creating
‘Concept Art’ is a part of this process, and involves imagining and
illustrating various scenarios for the main characters of the film,
using different visual techniques, mediums and
treatments. A lot of ideas are generated. Not all the scenarios created
are included in the film. I enjoyed this stage of the
film making process immensely and my interest in illustrating books was
really an outcome of this. Later, in my final year, I wrote to the
people at Tulika books on a whim and they were
kind enough to give me the chance to work on a sweet story about an
elephant who forgets how to sleep. The book is called I’m so Sleepy and is written by Radhika Chadda.

So, do you remember what your very first illustration was? If you’ve kept it
in-between a book or under your mattress perhaps, may we see it please? 

I’m sure my first illustration must have been a birthday card for my mom. We
never made a big deal of birthdays, but a hand made card
was a must on all occasions. Though she must have proudly displayed
that card on our refrigerator for quite a while, I doubt if she liked it
enough to keep it this long! 🙂 It is also likely, that it was a
picture of her, since I believed there was no one prettier than her for
miles! I wish I had kept some of those cards and drawings. We moved towns
and cities almost every two years. So, a lot of stuff was bound to
get lost. But my very first ‘professional’ illustration was that of Baby Bahadur and
his mother from

I’m so sleepy. The idea that someone would actually
print something I had drawn/made was so thrilling.

Your idol/idols and mentor/mentors?

Blake! I love his spontaneity and the slightly wicked sense of humour
that his drawings have. Mario Miranda’s work has always been a huge
inspiration, with all its lovely detailing. Especially Miss Fonseca with
her polka dotted frocks, among the other wacky characters that he made.
Then there is Atanu Roy, a very senior illustrator who was kind enough
to share his
wonderful work with a bunch of wonder struck illustrators that included
me. What struck me the most was his complete dedication to the craft,
and the passion
with which he practiced it. Other idols include Piet Grobler, Axel Scheffler and Manjula Padmanabhan!

Coming to mentors, I’ll always be extremely grateful to some very good
professors at NID. I also gained a lot of experience by working with people like Mr. Rammohan, who helped me with my diploma
project, Mr. E Suresh and other co-workers from famous studios in
Mumbai. They exposed me to many things that have definitely influenced my work as an illustrator.

Tell us about a few important/special projects that you’ve worked on previously.
I loved working on The fried frog by Sampurna
Chattarji. Being a book of nonsense verse, I went completely wacky with the drawings. I’ve been illustrating for Roopa Pai’s Taranauts series for about four
years now. Another interesting project I worked on, was a book called Our Toxic World, written by Aniruddha Sen Gupta. It used the format of a
graphic novel to talk about various toxins in the environment.
Whispers in the classroom,
voices on the field
, an anthology of school stories published by
Wisdom tree, is very special to me. The editor, Richa Jha convinced me
to do a visual piece for
the anthology (called school daze), for which not only did I illustrate
but I also wrote a little. The Pratham Books calendar is really
special, simply because when I did it, I
didn’t expect it to reach so many parts of India, including Ladakh, and
that so many kids will get to see it.

Aha! The calendar! Tell us more about that and the Rituchakra series that you worked on.
in November 2011, Pratham Books got in touch
with me to see if I was interested in doing a calendar similar to the
one that I had done earlier for Manipal press. I was thrilled, but there
was very little time in hand
and it would not have been possible to do a hand drawn set of twelve
months in the available time. So I tried something that I hadn’t tried
before, which was
vector based illustrations done entirely on a computer. I had no idea
that the calendars would reach so many
people and children. This makes me very happy.

The Rituchakra
series was my first project with Pratham Books. I had read about the
organisation, and was amazed by the
fact that the books reached millions of children in remote
parts of India and therefore, I was only too happy to hear from you.
Five scripts were given to me, with the freedom to
do what I wanted.
My favourites are the autumn and winter stories, perhaps because they
are my favourite seasons too! The authors took great care in helping me
present subtle but important points; like a child walking in the garden
should be barefooted or how a snowman in
Shimla would look different from one outside the country. I also
have to mention that the editors at Pratham Books are some of the most
appreciative and encouraging! I must sheepishly admit that they
are extremely patient too. As all the books were supposed to be
done in a single season, I took the luxury of going through at least
three seasons
in order to finish the books. 🙂

Oh, well thanks. That we are, that we are! 😉
Finally, out of all those colours that you use, what’s your favourite?

This is by far the toughest question!!! I think I will say yellow… it makes me happy… no blue… Rani pink?? aaargh!

Read more interviews with Pratham Books authors and illustrators.



  1. Aly Chiman May 23, 2019

    Hello there, My name is Aly and I would like to know if you would have any interest to have your website here at prathambooks.org promoted as a resource on our blog alychidesign.com ?

    We are updating our do-follow broken link resources to include current and up to date resources for our readers. If you may be interested in being included as a resource on our blog, please let me know.

    Thanks, Aly


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

DISCLAIMER :Everything here is the personal opinions of the authors and is not read or approved by pratham books before it is posted. No warranties or other guarantees will be offered as to the quality of the opinions or anything else offered here