Case study of a self-initiated illustration project
2014: A Sense of Loss
The year marked several events in the calendar - moving into a new house, a new life, losing close friends to distance and a growing curiosity about nature within my surrounding. The latter was made possible by the inertia of the previous ones.
On one of my explorations of the new neighbourhood, I bumped into inspiring folks at Phytology- a local community gardening project.
While reading more about urban wild spaces, I came across this quote by Vladimir Nabokov:
Most of the dandelions had changed from suns into moons
Those words encompassed so many things I was experiencing at that time. I wanted to make an illustration project that best explored the meaning of the quote. On the surface it is a metaphor of how yellow dandelions of the summer turn white as autumn approaches. In my case, it also means how relationships change. Here, the factor becomes distance. When far away, you still feel the faint warmth of your friendships which obviously don’t have the same thermal impact as being around them.
Making postcards would not solve that problem. There’s the instant gratification of Skype, Facetime and countless ways to ‘poke’ your friends from a distance. But there’s time invested in the craft of making one, an often misunderstood unit of measurement.
I used glitter as it best combines the nature of the dandelion and Nabokov’s quote about the sun. It is sparkly, shiny and easily transferrable. I wanted the texture of the dandelion in the illustration to have the same quality as the flower.
The quote was hidden in the flowers and sent by post. The glitter eventually erodes away from the surface of the paper just as a dandelion would when you blow on it.
I tried exploring with hidden characters in the foliage:
And collaborating with writers. Here, my friend Ben V. writes to his late grandfather George:
George had emigrated to Britain in the 1950s but returned to India several years later leaving behind a newly made mixed-race family. This collaboration was a way for Ben to reconnect with his Indian born grandfather.
2015: A Sense of Belonging
That summer, an unused car park behind our house was turned into a bustling community garden project. A lot of people from the neighbourhood showed up to make this happen.
Within three months, those makeshift containers were brimming with tomatoes, parsley, peppers and courgettes.
Unlike last year, I was no longer standing at the sidelines- watching. I always thought gardening as esoteric, you need a special someone blessed with that knowledge and empathy. I couldn’t imagine myself growing a basil from a tiny sapling to a full grown plant, but it happened and I couldn’t believe my eyes!
2016: A Sense of Loss and Belonging
I will sound heartless for saying this, but thank you for passing away David Bowie.
His death brought my attention to science fiction- which was another esoteric world for me. I always thought science fiction was for the First World- a galaxy far far away from an Indian girl whose only connection to Star Wars, Matrix, Superman was a hand me down synopsis of Indian mythologies.
The Mars mission by ISRO that cost less than the budget of Gravity suddenly made the outer space tangible. Then there was the collective thrill of discovering the heart of Pluto. Between several tabs of David Bowie there was one tab confirming tickets to the screening of the Martian and one of astronomer Corazon crying hysterically at the death of her space garden. It’s sad no one could hear her in space.
My first attempt was a basic vertical garden with ferns. I loved the experience of collecting used soda bottles from the rubbish, painting them and finding the right ferns to fit my north facing window. Next stage is assembling a hydroponic garden. I will document it in a future post.
Selection into Postcard Collective’s Winter exchange 2016 was going to be the first time my dandelions were going to non-friends. Or future-friends!
The idea of a postcard travelling miles to reach someone in today’s age is the same as a rocket ship blasting into outer space. You don’t know exactly when it will reach them (unless you’ve tracked it) and you don’t know when their response will reach you.
Space Flowers. They grow in space. They’re trapped energy beams from the Big Bang. They’re not stars. They’re like a trapped, frozen, screenshot.
Thank you David Bowie for making science fiction weirdly accessible for me.
What started as an initial freakout about losing touch with friends has over the past few years given me a way to channel that creatively. I am excited to see where it goes in the future.
*Gratitude to Anjora, Kanitta, Emily, Ana, Gabby, Sorcha, Bryan & Oisin: Always x