Inktober Illustrations and Story-telling
Every year in October Facebook, Instagram gets flooded with ink illustrations and doodles. Thanks to Jake Parker, who started this initiative, millions of artists take up this challenge and bring back to life the joy of working with brush and ink. It is a good change from the digital media we are so hooked to! I myself started just two years back in 2016 and loved every bit of it. I used to ask my friends for the word/ theme of the day to keep a little surprise element in the challenge. Because of that I got to know the theme right at the beginning of the day and I focused on only the word of that day.
All over the digital space I saw abstract drawings, ‘artistic’ doodles, imaginary scenarios, typography based illustrations, characters from movies, comic books or some fantasy world.
I wanted to do something different. For inspiration, I looked for stories around me. Stories that were not just mine but were shared by many others. They were memories that many people could relate to. Fresh perspectives that opened up the possibilities of looking at a certain thing. These were illustrations picked up from real life.
Since every illustration has to be made in just one day, there is a fixed deadline to these works. The best approach to take in such cases is to draw something that comes from our hearts, that we are comfortable to think about and express in terms of visuals. This is beauty of Inktober. Throughout October, we get to know what these artists see, how they see it, what they think about.
Thus, what I drew was important because it would be reflections of ‘me’.
I saw this garbage picking lady in the morning as I was on the way to my office.
We all collect souvenirs, postage stamps, memories in our lives. I thought it would be interesting to show this angle of collection.
Incidentally, it was the eighth day of the Navratri festival which celebrated the goddess Durga. I felt like I saw one of her avatars as I looked at this lady doing a job so unconventional to support herself and her family.
This is the idol made out of rock of Vitthal/ Panduranga- an avatar of Lord Vishnu. The tradition of Idol worship has secured the fate of many such rocks. The lady offering the coconut, the man requesting the priest to take just one photo of the idol, the mild beginning of a quarrel between two women on the left-front… amidst this chaos and madness, the ‘Rock’, calm and patient, listens to all our woes with hands on his hips.
I found this story in the form of a memory my friend told me. When he was small, he hated participating in school gatherings. But participation is compulsory so his teacher made him a ‘Sun’ in a play. All he had to do was stand on stage! What I like most in this illustration is the little bee in the back-stage who is in a hurry to go onstage but has been stopped by her teacher.
I believe in the beauty of leaving clues to be discovered by the viewer. What is the fun in giving away the plot of a film? The audience need to spend time with it, understand it and then suddenly it will click! That joy of finding the meaning is as equal to the happiness of finding a hidden treasure. It is something one cherishes for a longer time.
On the left are two such illustrations that I won’t describe but leave for you to discover on your own.
The caption will guide you to understand the story in the drawing.
Have patience… because I’m sure that when you see it, it will put a smile across your face!
You can find the other inktober illustrations of 2016 here: https://www.behance.net/gallery/46899885/Inktober-Illustrations
Now, I’d like to take you one year ahead in 2017.
I am an avid reader of mythological stories. As a kid I have read almost all Amar Chitra Katha comics. I decided to base my Inktober illustrations of 2017 on such myths. It made me revisit my own memories and rack my brains for a story that was not very popular. The interesting part here is that, there can be a lot of words associated with a certain story but when the process is reversed and one sees the word first and then the story- the connection becomes more intense. It was a challenging quest to think of the connections which would amuse and surprise my viewers. I need not mention that I loved it.
Commodities are divided. But in Mahabharata, a living person was divided in a way one can never imagine. Draupadi was won by Arjuna alone. He came back home and shared the news with his mother saying, “Look what I’ve got”. Kunti, his mother was busy in work and without paying attention replied,“Whatever it is, divide it equally within yourselves!”, as was the custom between the Pandavas when they were in exile. Thus, Draupadi became the wife of all the five brothers.
The story is impacting in itself but it hits strongly when it comes under the title: divided. That is the perspective I wanted to shed light upon.
Manthara was the handmaiden of Kaikai. There cannot be an act more poisonous than what Manthara does to Kaikai. A deeper story says that looking at Rama getting crowned in Ayodhya, gods in the heaven panic and wonder who will kill Ravana if Ram sits on the throne. So, one of them takes control of Manthara to poison Kaikai’s mind and make Rama go to exile.
The event when the Gods and Demons teamed together for the greater good!
This particular illustration is about the story of Ekalavya, a low born boy who wanted to become an archer and he would have become the greatest had it not been Dronacharya’s cunning brains and Ekalavya’s devotion for his teacher. You can read the full story here but I would like to talk about the combination of this story with the word- shattered. Directly they do not relate but if you join one more word- dreams- with it, the combination is deadly. The act of giving fees to a teacher shatters all of the dreams Ekalavya has.
Krishna was a notorious kid and his stories are all famous which is why I decided to draw them in a fresh perspective. In ‘shy’ we see Krishna lying on a tree branch keeping the clothes out of reach of the gopis in the water. The bird’s eye view puts him in a powerful position and helpless condition of the gopi. Even so, the light rendering, flowing clothes and the expressions make it clear that the scenario is a lighthearted one and no harm is meant here. On the contrary, the image on the right portrays Krishna in a combat with the serpent- Kalia. The image has a black backdrop which depicts the black poisonous water Kalia was dwelling in. The several heads of the serpent are looking at Krishna in a ferocious manner. They’ve bound Krishna at all ends, there are bubbles in the water to show the force of this battle. Krishna himself has turned his back to the audience and is completely occupied with the fight.
This is the story of Bhishma’s birth. In the drawing we get to see why the story might be mysterious. The rendering in this image carries the weight of the mystery. Though the focus of this illustration is on Ganga (the female figure) drowning her son in the river, the expression on the king’s face steals the show. He is watching her stealthily and she is peacefully walking into the waters to do her duty.
While writing this article, I realized the key factors I try to include in my illustrations. Unpredictability, Originality, Semantic value and Context.
I don’t follow a checkbox while doodling or have any rule book that would enable me grade my drawings in the scale of the above factors. But when drawing from my heart these things come naturally to me.
Unpredictability surprises the viewer. It can come out of the indirect relation between the word and the visual or the hidden messages and stories that need to be uncovered with careful eye. As much as we grow up, we like surprises. I do my bit through my drawings and try to delight the audience.
Originality is something I always strive for. If the idea is original, it is special. And the chances of telling an original story are more when you are telling your own story, because we all have unique stories. In this wonderful world we are all privileged to be diverse. I believe in preserving this diversity by standing tall with our identity.
Semantic is the word I had known for long but I revisited it recently during my course work. It is associated with the meaning part of the visuals. A good form is pleasing to look at but if it means nothing to you, you might as well forget it in time. Whereas, visuals which have a rich content are not easy to forget. This is the reason we remember some films in detail whereas some we don’t. I try to make my illustrations rich in content and details that viewers would want to spend time looking at and while doing so, they will find more stories embedded carefully in layers.
Context, another word I’ve been using since ages but am beginning to understand through reading and learning at IDC. Having context essentially means to have a relation with the surrounding. In terms of stories it describes the connection their plot, characters need to have with the audience so that they can relate with the stories. Context is that factor without which one cannot understand regional jokes. My illustrations have an Indian context. They are set around me, my friends, relatives and the stories they tell can be related by most.
This process of finding such stories is so delightful that I don’t feel pressurized to do it. Along with being a good exercise it also acts as a way through which I connect with long lost. Every year it has become like a ritual that I plan to cherish with all my heart in future as well. It also feels great when friends who have been following my illustrations message me saying they are looking forward for this years’s series. And I reply back, “Same here!”.