Sona & Jacob
Who or what have been some of your major artistic influences?
The supremely talented Hergé who drew Tintin, the wonderfully quirky Albert Uderzo – the creator of Asterix, the legendary Jack Davis of Mad Comics, sublime Andre Le Blanc – the artist behind “The Picture Bible” and Dennis Jones – the creator of eclectic artwork. As you can see, I have been moved by artists who are humorous, quirky and true to their art.
Which books from your own childhood really stand out?
Commando comics, stacks of Marvel and DC comics, a much loved illustrated Bible picture book…
Who or what has been your greatest mentor?
My art is a confluence of so many styles and artists. While there have been major artistic influences like Hergé, Uderzo and Jack Davis, I also owe a lot to the Mort Drucker, Sergio Aragonés and Bruce Timm, too.
What piece of software or hardware could you not live without and why?
Adobe Illustrator – I use it for the razor-sharp clean lines that it delivers as well as the scalability of artwork that I can achieve.
Adobe Photoshop – For the versatility that it provides with the umpteen number of brushes and filters.
Due to these two as well as my trusted tablet and stylus, I have completely moved away from a paper based process to a 100% digital illustration process.
How many times do you tend to draw a character until you are happy with it?
While creating a character, I tend to take a couple of approaches. Even when I do draw more than a couple of options, I invariably boil it down to a couple that I am confident are the most suited for that brief. I then go with one of the two shortlisted options and work on it in layers with a very light pencil brush. I can then intuitively come across the character that I am most happy with and one which fits the bill perfectly.
Do you offer more than one style, if so – talk us through the different approaches and the audience you are targeting for each.
I create illustrations in over 20 different “styles”. The key features that differentiate my styles are whether the illustrations are realistic, semi-realistic, stylized, cartoony, whimsical… I can also create variations using colouring techniques – flat, 3D, water color, painterly… I also create variations with the use of outlines - with or without outlines. I can finish the latter to have a more 3D feel, too. Sometimes interesting variations can be brought in using textures and shading techniques – like stippling and hatching.
How long does it take on average for you to finish a spread, from initial sketch to final colour?
For an illustration for a children’s picture book – where the scene has about 3 characters and background details and elements – it takes me about 2-3 hours to go from a thumbnail to a fair pencil and about 2 hours to ink, colour and shade.
What do you hope children take away from your drawings?
Since I was heavily influenced by the art in children’s books and comics, I make it a point to create art that children can relate to. I like to pack my illustrations with details and nuances that children can keep coming back to, exploring and discovering all the little bits and pieces that they might have missed at first glance. Also, I feel strongly that children’s illustrations should be funny. I always try to build in the humorous elements into my illustrations – through ancillary characters, through out of place elements, through background details and most importantly through the expressions of characters – which is something that I am known for and am passionate about.
What do you do in your spare time?
I like to spend most of my spare time with my son and nieces. I am also very committed to working out in my fully-equipped home gym. I enjoy taking time-outs for personal prayer. I take a walk in the evenings and love to watch and read funny stuff.
Take us behind the scenes and describe your studio / workspace.
My studio is a large and well-ventilated room which I share with my writer and a couple of artists from my team. On my table there’s a workstation laptop which is kitted out with an additional large-screen monitor. I use a drawing tablet with a stylus as well as a wireless keypad for all the controls.
My trusty notebook serves as a daily planner. And I have a couple of hard drives which have the backup of my most recent projects. I keep archiving the hard drives as they get filled.
What would you say is a distinguishing feature of your artwork?
I have been told that the distinguishing feature of my artwork is the expressions on the faces of all the characters that I draw. Due to my early and extensive work for the greeting card industry, I do indeed lay a lot of stress on facial and body expressions. Besides this I focus on anatomy, line of action and try to add a lot of dynamism to all my illustrations.
Who is your favourite children’s book character and why?
One of the first characters that comes to mind from my earliest recollections is Richie Rich. He is born into a wealthy family but has absolutely no airs. He is super cute and the tag line says it all – The poor little rich kid. Another vintage character that I love is Sad Sack – a total misfit who finds himself in the army. Though he himself never laughs or smiles, whatever he does or says as the reader in splits.
Some other favourites are Captain Haddock, Thomson & Thompson and Professor Calculus, too.
Outline your dream project.
My dream project would most certainly be an action packed series of comic books. Or a series of children’s books featuring outrageously funny situations involving wacky characters. I would immensely enjoy working on either of these two genres.
Have you visited any schools to speak or hold workshops?
I have visited schools to judge art competitions. I have also put together an entire art program for beginner illustrators that I hope to take to schools shortly.