Monday, April 12, 2010

Interview with Niveditha Subramaniam

After her internship with Tulika, The Amazing Miss Niveditha Subramaniam joined Chandamama.

She is the author of the Tulika books- Jalebi Curls and the Thumb Thumb book - 9 to 1! She has recently contributed to the Water Stories from Tulika.

We also know her as the illustrator of the Forgot Fish series. She does a wonderfully witty series called the Amazing Miss Shinnies and Interval in Chandamama.

How long have you been writing? and illustrating? Which do you prefer of the two?

I have always been a serious doodler and during my internship with Tulika, I got an opportunity to write as well as draw. I can't say I prefer one over the other, though I would say writing comes more naturally, whereas artwork is something I consciously need to work on a lot more to make it right.

Since you are both a writer and illustrator how is it when you collaborate with someone else?
I enjoy working with other people, both strangers and people I know. With the first, there is the happy anticipation of seeing visuals for a story you've written or with another person, like Sowmya, for instance, with whom I work on the graphic comic 'Interval' in Chandamama, conversation and interaction just create magic.

How and when did you decide this is what you want to do...What excites you.... inspires you? Any role models? Why?
I think picture books are the greatest things in the world. I guess I actively knew that I wanted to write and draw them when I came to college but I think it has a lot to do with my childhood, too. I had pop-ups and Russian picture stories as a child and poured over them in some corner of the house and these images have a way of lingering in your mind and memory and coming back years later!

The challenge of telling a great story in ten lines excites me. Big pictures excite me.

A lot of people's work excites me - from Quentin Blake, Brett Helquist, Bill Watterson, Marjane Satrapi, Craig Thompson, Charles Schulz, Pulak Biswas, Manjula Padmanabhan, Ashok Rajagopalan...too many to list, really! I think I am inspired by each of these artists' individuality, distinctness and strong sense of form.

How do you develop/refine the story?
With the help of a good editor. Otherwise, you get stuck in your own head and can't really move forward. I think it depends on the brief, of course, but basically when I have a idea in mind, I write it down in whatever form it comes to me at that point. Sometimes, these aren't even in full sentences but I start anyway, and then go on working on it at different points in time, until I am happy. The first draft of Jalebi Curls, which I did for Tulika, was completed in less than half an hour. But I had to rewrite it at least three times, before it was crisp. That's the challenge of doing a picture story - to make every word count.

How do you go about illustrating? Does one need formal training? If yes,what?
Formal training helps, for sure. But more than anything, I think one needs to have a sense of fun, an eye that is open to seeing and looking at things. Technically perfect drawings are often devoid of personality - because the artist has not able to bring their own way of seeing into their artwork whereas others with a few simple strokes of their pen are able to communicate a lot. I think one has to be open to all kinds of art to be able to enjoy drawing and creating.

How do you weave humor into a story? Can it be an acquired skill?
Humour works best, when it's inspired by day to day things that happen to you or people that you know.When it's real, there can be intelligent and original ways of expressing it, otherwise it can often appear contrived or overdone. I am not sure if it can be acquired, perhaps to a certain extent. But it is not just about having a funny bone, it needs a sharp eye and a sharper ear.:)

How is children's writing different from writing for adults? Has it changed over the years and how?
I think a lot of publishers are paying attention to early readers and writers and artists are increasingly more sensitive to children's issues be it education or gender discrimination, which is terrific.

We at Saffron tree had a series on Art Appreciation and exploration for kids- age 3- 15 yrs?What are your views on this?
I think it's really important to be exposed early on to different kinds of art. It helps you develop your own style and also makes you visually alive. This is good to know.

Is there a lot of opportunity for amateur writers/ illustrators now ?What advice would you give to aspiring writers/ artists?
India is the place to be. I think there's opportunity everywhere. There are a lot of people who think that writing for children is the easiest thing in the world. But children's writing is not writing for adults simplified. With such a notion, you can get nowhere. Respect your audience and understand them.


Shankari said...

The last line is so true! Writing for kids is not "adult writing" simplified.

sathish said...

"Technically perfect drawings are often devoid of personality"
- Well, that is the reason why my illustrations are not perfect!! :). I have now got a reason to use when some one points out something wrong in my drawings!! I currently use the excuse of '-Ish' (as in the book Ish)!!!

"I think picture books are the greatest things in the world."
-Totally agree.

Thanks artnavy and niveditha for the interesting interview.

Choxbox said...

Totally agree with the last couple of lines. IMO putting across an idea minus clutter is not at all simple.
And so when a child reader is captivated it must feel very rewarding :)

Thanks Art and Niveditha.

Sowmya Rajendran said...

Woot, Niveditha Subramanis :) Proud of you!!

@Art- You managed to nail the most elusive writer after JD Salinger...congrats :P

ranjani.sathish said...

Niveditha, it was great to read your views !! Thank you :-)

Art navy, thanks for this interview !

Vibha said...

I enjoy reading the interviews and what goes on in artist's/writer's mind.
Liked Niveditha's views.

Unknown said...

I found myself smiling and nodding in agreement to almost everything said by Niveditha. Especially what she said at the end about respecting the audience. How true!
And of course, India is the place to be for writers and illustrators! :))

Artnavy said...

Glad some of you enjoyed this

Thanks Nivie
It is so inspiring to see such young talent!!
Hope you make a mark with your photos too

LOL at Sowmya's observation

Praba Ram said...

Thanks, Art & Niveditha for a neat dose of inspiration to aspiring writers/illustrators.

Couldn't agree more on the views about writing, humor, art.. Very eloquently put.

Artnavy said...

Hey Praba

U r inspiring yourself !!

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