I got tagged today by a friend for a question about who is writing books for South Asians in the UK. And we all tagged people we knew and then I realised, it was good to create a list we can all share.
As the aunt of mixed-raced kids whose cultures are meshed in and we feed them quite a lot of both Indian and British stories, it’s important for our children to see stories that are about them too.
So I’ve started a list here. If you have more people to add to this, please first check if they’re part of South Asian heritage and if they are British either by residency or by nationality. If so, do message me on twitter at @csoundar and I’ll add them to this list.
Also I’ve indicated ages the authors have books in. If you’re one of the listed authors and you want to change it, do let me know. This is just an indication for parents and teachers/ librarians. Authors are always experimenting and writing new things.
Poonam Mistry is a freelance illustrator living in the UK and graduated in 2010 with a degree in Graphic Design and Illustration at the University of Hertfordshire.
Her style incorporates her love of nature and her Indian roots and explores the relationships between pattern, shapes and colour. Poonam’s upbringing and childhood have heavily influenced her work, in particular being surrounded by Indian fabrics, paintings and ornaments. She loves folklore tales and stories of Hindu Gods and Goddesses and these have been a rich source of inspiration in a number of her illustrations.
Poonam creates her beautifully intricate images by hand using fine liners and then digitally alters them.
Poonam and I have worked together on two books and I wanted to ask her some questions on everyone’s behalf. So here is my interview with Poonam.
This is your first illustrated book. How is it different from creating your own artwork?
It wasn’t so different actually. I think this was because I tried not to approach the project as a children’s book. I didn’t want to ‘dumb’ down the images just because it was aimed for children. With ‘You’re Safe With Me’ I wanted the artwork to feel more like art/wallpaper rather than your standard children’s book and the pages to reflect the metaphors and imagery conveyed in the text rather than just illustrating the actual narrative. The illustrations were made to appeal to both children and adults. The story is so beautiful it was important for me to focus on that and really get that across. I think it was a case of trying something new too. The great thing about working with Lantana was the creative freedom they gave me for this book. It was such a natural enjoyable process so it was like working on my own personal work.
There were just a few things I had to take into consideration unlike my own art. I think the 3 biggest differences were size, the amount of pattern I used and of course time. With my own art I have no deadlines or guidelines really. I allow myself the freedom to let the art take its own direction and natural course which is exciting because sometimes I haven’t even sketched out or planned what the final art will look like. With ‘You’re Safe With Me’ the rough sketches are similar to the final pieces. I can go quite crazy with the amount of pattern I draw in my own work. I don’t think that’s a bad thing but with this book I tried to get the balance right.
What is your process for interpreting the text into spreads?
First of all I read the text multiple times so that I knew the story well. I then went through each spread and highlighted anything that I thought visually summed up the key elements of the text. I sketched out multiple ideas for each spread in pencil and then narrowed these down for 2/3 ideas for each page highlighting my favourite ones.
Alice Curry then picked the ones she thought worked well. I sketched these out neatly in pencil and drew over them adding details and patterns on thick cartridge paper using black ink pens. I scanned these in onto the computer and added colour and the final details on PhotoShop. My process is a mix of hand drawn elements and digital work. Ideally I would love to do all my work by hand but it is time consuming and would take months.
Does your art follow a traditional folk art pattern?
Not necessarily. I love folk art. It is a huge source of inspiration for me but I am fascinated by many types of decorative arts celebrated across the world. I use a lot of dots in my work, which is taken for Aboriginal art. I also adore African masks and totems, Scandinavian art and design and ceramic tiles. It’s a combination of lots of things really.
Mostly I take inspiration from Indian folk art. It is stunning and something that has had a huge influence on my style. Kalamkari textiles are the biggest influence in my work and the patterns I use. I would love to try this process one day or have my work applied to this. So much craftsmanship and skill goes into this and I am just in awe of it.
What do you like drawing best? What do you find challenging?
I love drawing birds and rabbits. They feature a lot in my work, especially my personal work. Animals in general are fascinating to draw, especially strange unknown ones. I loved drawing the pangolin for ‘You’re Safe With Me’. It was something I had never heard of before and it was fun to try and translate it into my style.
I confess my strength has never been people. I remember once drawing my Dad and he asked me after I had finished it if he had a big nose. I think that completely put me off! Strangely I find Hindu Gods and Goddesses easy to draw in my style. Recently I have introduced human figures into my work and surprisingly I feel I have found a way of drawing them that doesn’t scare me. It’s quite exciting now. I have always been so comfortable drawing animals but I feel that drawing people and adding them into my patterned landscapes has added a new dimension to my work. It could be something seen more in my illustrations in the future.
You’re Snug with Me, the second book in this series is out on November and is available to pre-order now. Please find out more here.