Thursday, February 4, 2010

Interview with Shilo Shiv Suleman


Illustrations are an indespensable part in the world of books for young readers. They have the magic of invoking wide range of emotions in children (and adults too). And if the illustrations are like those done by Shilo, they become a beautifully laid out feast for the eyes and source of inspiration for many people. It is marvellous to see that a girl who is just out of her teens is so imaginative and mature in her expression through her strokes of brush.

Shilo Shiv Suleman has done some breathtaking illustrations for the book Pampasutra. I did a question-answer session with her.

1. What is the best part about what you do?

The best part about what is possibly in the process of illustrating a book - In visualizing each word and watching it become a tapestry of images woven together and trying to experience the text and imagine the text a way a child would - with wide-eyed wonder and love. As Antoine de Saint Exupéry says in the ‘Little Prince’.

Here is my secret. It is very simple. ‘It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. Only children know what they are looking for'. I can't even begin to express how grateful I am to be doing something I love with all my heart everyday. Just dreaming in full colour.
2. How long have you been working as an artist/illustrator?

The first book started when I was 16. A book of Children's poems in Hindi that I illustrated, post that there have been 3 other children's books- two for Karadi Tales (one of which is a super spooky Tim-Burtonesque book called Tak Tak) and the latest (and possibly the closest to my heart) was released last month- Pampasutra by Arshia Sattar, about the river goddess of Hampi. It flows through the Tunghabadhra River’s mythology, history, and finally environmental perspective on what's happening to the river right now. The Dam, the motorboats, the plastic, the dumping - all of it.

3. Please elaborate some of your educational qualifications, your experiences and skills related to this field.

I am 21 years old and still studying in Srishti School of Art Design and Technology in Bangalore. Doing my 3rd year in Design and Animation whilst freelancing, painting walls, instruments, posters and Tshirts for NGOs working on different campaigns, wandering around the country, Illustrating for Ads, Magazines as well as (and most importantly) Children's Books.
Right now I'm working on Illustrating, Writing and Animating with Srishti an Interactive Graphic novel for children called 'Khoya'. Using technology called Augmented Reality to enhance storytelling as well as bridge the gap between the technological and the tangible. :)

4. Which medium do you use for the illustrations, which software do you use? Which is your favourite medium and style?

I mainly use watercolours and collages -all sorts of textures and photographs that I find while travelling around the country. I feel watercolour+collage works the best for me because I love layering my paintings both physically and in terms of meaning and content. As for style- I work with what comes most naturally to me and is an almost instinctual and personal form of expression.

5. When did you think that you want to make a career in fine arts and especially being an illustrator?

I'm always learning...career aside..through university, through travel and all the experiences and opportunities that come my way. And all of this comes out through me brush. :)
My mother, Nilofer Suleman (Suleman Chai), is an artist as well and so that's been a big source of inspiration.

That aside, I also studied in Valley School- a hundred and something acres of wild sprawling land. And all I did was wonder-wander-wide-eyed at all the trees and paint.

Another source of inspiration was possibly all the travelling around India.

Beyond colour and form there was so much love in every journey. And after dabbling in a bit of photography- Illustration became the closest way to fulfil the gratitude I felt for those experiences and landscapes encountered. I started to draw incessantly in notebooks that I carry with me. Collecting stories, places, and faces and pressing flowers between the pages.

6. Which kind of projects do you want to do? Which is your next project?

I'm open to anything really but what really catch my eye are things that are imaginative and brimming with imagery as well as things with a social or environmental context.
Right now I'm working on a project called 'Khoya' which is an experimental new-way of storytelling using technology. It’s about a little girl born into a dystopic land who slowly rediscovers the natural world and all its magic.
So yes, other projects that interest me relate to Mythology, Folklore, Fantasy, Love, Magical Realism and Storytelling, New places, Encounters, Animation, and the Natural world. Also, Art in the Social Sphere- Art and Activism. As well as taking Art out of a gallery and onto the streets, which is one of the reasons why the Bangalore Wallflower project happened. :)
The Bangalore Wallflower project is an attempt to make art more accessible. Not just in terms of its location. But also encouraging people who aren't necessarily artists curb their inhibitions and pick up their brushes and create community art. We work as much as possible with children in the community.
WatercolourWars/Artivism is an artists collective that was started similarly to bridge the gap between Activists in need of a Visual Identity and Artists who could provide them with that and more.

7. What is the most fascinating part of being an illustrator and most frustrating part?

The most fascinating part is that it becomes an extension of oneself. Every story I hear I see it play out in my mind's eye. The most frustrating part would be breaking through limitations of technique/skill to create something that evokes the image on has in one's mind.

8. What is your source of motivation? In your opinion - are the artists born or the skills can be acquired too?

My opinion is that everyone is an artist and it has nothing to do with skill. Just feel the freedom from inhibitions. I haven't had very much 'formal' training skill wise. And I don't think it would make a difference if I did.
I find more and more that people are afraid of drawing because they think themselves incapable of doing so. That's another reason why the Wallflower project was initiated so that children and adults could just paint in an extremely public space on a large surface without being afraid.
The source of inspiration and motivation for me is love for what I do. And all the absolute gorgeousness that surrounds me as I travel.

9. What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?

To just love and stop worrying about what they see and how to draw what they see and draw what they feel. :) as cliche as it might sound. Anything essential is invisible to the eye. Only with the heart one sees clearly.

10. Would you consider taking up interior decor projects such as wall art and murals for children's rooms?

Yes! Doing so as we speak.

{Image courtesy : Shilo's blog}
This interview crossposted on Saffron Tree

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