Sketching stories

Amrita Prasad
Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Artist Mihir Joglekar expresses the joy he felt on illustrating Ruskin Bond’s memoir, Looking for the Rainbow

On his 83rd birthday (May 19), author Ruskin Bond released a memoir, Looking for the Rainbow: My Years with Daddy. In the book brought out by Penguin Random House India, Bond reminisces about his early years spent with his army man dad and the simple lives that they led.

The black and white sketches by Mihir Joglekar evocatively capture the bond between the author and his father, thus making the book a fine balance of visuals and text. For the Pune-based artist, it was a dream come true to illustrate for Bond’s book. The 29-year-old has also illustrated for Bond’s previous book titled Cricket for the Crocodile. Joglekar has also illustrated two books written by Chef Vikas Khanna —  The Magic Rolling Pin and The Milk Moustache.

We converse with Joglekar to know how he created the old world charm in Looking for the Rainbow. 

Ruskin Bond is one of India’s most celebrated authors. How does it feel to illustrate for his books? 
Ruskin Bond’s name is synonymous with nostalgic childhood memories. When Penguin books approached me to illustrate for Cricket for the Crocodile, I was elated. As an ardent admirer of nature and its mesmerising beauty, it was exciting to depict Ruskin Bond’s simple yet carefully mastered words, through illustrations. 

He is an author who transports you to an exquisite India; he effortlessly crafts folk tales with his innate sense of humour and witty perspective on life. Having the opportunity to be the illustrator of his book is nothing less than an honour. His latest book Looking for the Rainbow is his life story. It is even more special since it is the first edition and being a part of it is a dream come true for me. 

What kind of research did you do, to give form to this story?  
The artist needs to build the author’s world, visually, with utmost sincerity. At the same time the ‘emotions’ in the story also need to be expressed through the illustrations. Ruskin writes, in one of the chapters, that his father told him, ‘Paddle your own canoe’. This is a very important line in the book. I felt that the illustration mostly needed to be about Ruskin and how he dealt with his life. 

I felt it was a window for me to mix imagination with reality to convey the meaning subtly. I showed Ruskin canoeing, amidst flying books (his companions) moving through abstract clouds hinting that he is gently making his way through blinding, troublesome times, into the light, on his own. 

Figuring out how to best convey the feelings was a big part of the preparation. Apart from that, I went through a lot of photographs of British India, which is the time frame for the stort. I even read some of Ruskin’s interviews to get to know more about him. It took me about 20 days to make all the 50 illustrations in the book.

What did you enjoy the most about illustrating this book?
Looking for the Rainbow is a mixture of so many emotions. There’s joy, excitement, humour and a pinch of poignance. Creating illustrations that depict so many different layers in a story, gave me immense joy. As I kept reading the manuscript, page after page, planning my illustrations, it was hard not to get lost in the story. 

Right from lizards and snakes to tea and toast, postage stamps to trains and canoes to  vivid characters — it was amazing to make every illustration. Out of all the wonderful stories, Ruskin has written, this one is very special. 

How different is it to illustrate for a book from that of advertisements and storyboards?
Any book requires a build-up of the world, the story is taking place in. The characters and environment may change as the story progresses. So all the illustrations need to be planned. I also try to keep the illustrations at specific intervals so that the book has a nice balance of text and visuals.

As far as advertising is concerned, one mostly does one illustration to convey the message of the campaign to the target audience. Illustrations for concept art and storyboards, on the other hand, are mostly made to determine the look and feel of a scene, the environment or the character.

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