Updated: May 22
American Oscar-winning illustrator, animator, film director, and producer Gene Deitch died last week. He directed many episodes of Tom and Jerry and also a few episodes of Popeye the Sailor. His work proves that illustrations have always been and will continue to be an interesting and engaging medium of visual communication – it educates children, strengthens bonds between adults, entertains, conveys a varied set of ideas, and so on. Illustrations are in your office, on the streets, on the T.V., on your clothes, on those walls and virtual posters – they are omnipresent. And the ongoing pandemic is testimony to the fact that when in isolation during a crisis, it’s ‘art’ and ‘artists’ who come to the rescue, make living bearable and provide a playground for emotional exploration.
We caught up with Divya Bhatia - this lovely and talented illustrator, who goes by the Instagram handle ‘youknowhertoo’, to understand what her work entails, the challenges she faces as an artist, and the informative ‘golden’ titbits she intends to pass on to her fellow illustrator friends.
What’s the most exciting thing about being an illustrator?
I love the fact that I get to work from home, at my own time, and at my own pace. The fun part is that you are working for somebody but you still have the power to be independent, that’s how a commercial artist functions.
Doesn’t it get boring when you don’t get to collaborate and work alongside a team, or in a creative place/studio that’s brimming with ideas?
I have always preferred working solo and have never missed the whole office environment – the whole shebang. I prefer working in isolation. For me, the whole process of going to the office and commuting is a bit too taxing (laughs).
Is it essential for an illustrator to develop a specific style so that the world out there is able to strike a chord with you?
I think it’s more about being honest with yourself, understanding what you are good at. I was never aware of what my style is, it all started by fluke. I was really bad at drawing caricatures and handling watercolors, but making portraits was always my area of expertise. Understanding human faces have always been my forte. It all started from there, fine-tuning and modifying and having fun with my version of portraits -which now finally reflects in most of my work.
Being an artist is a lot of discipline, don’t you agree?
My personal motto is to finish my work on time, period! If I have promised my client that the work will be completed by a certain date, then it has to be done, it doesn’t matter if I have sleepless nights thereafter. I tend to procrastinate but that’s my personal struggle, I don’t let that affect my commitments. And I also believe that one creates their own kind of discipline, there’s no set formula as such.
An artist who inspires you…
Alicia Souza – she has created such a fabulous benchmark for artists like me.
How do you think an aspiring artist can find a sweet spot between earning money and satisfying one’s own personal creative desires?
I think artists should not overpromise, we should mostly take up things that we have the potential to deliver. I personally take up work that I relate to, that matters to me, the kind of work that lets me be. It’s difficult to work with clients who keep questioning my creative process as if their vision is the only thing that matters – it’s a collaboration at the end of the day. Hence, assertiveness helps find a sweet spot I guess, the money will always tend to come and go.
Your work is very people-centric, what kind of planning needs to be done before you dive deep into making an illustration for a client?
The clients are the custodians of the work that I do, they have to be involved in every step in a constructive way. A lot of communication takes place before I dive into creating a wedding card, a pictorial narrative, or any artistic material. I am doing this because a real photo can’t depict multiple elements, it’s the job of an illustrator to create that kind of art. I listen to my client’s story very patiently – from start to beginning, and that helps me in creating memorabilia that’s going to stay with them for a very long time.
What do you prefer – illustrating on the computer or the good old fashioned pen and paper?
I always keep going back to the traditional drawing board – the good old pencil, even though the undoing part is much better digitally. The flow and the imagination that a pen and paper evokes works really well for me.
Your ‘go-to’ philosophy as an artist?
Whenever I feel burnt out or when I feel blocked or when I am simply out of work and feel at a complete loss of control, I prefer going back to the basics. Going back to what I know the best instead of aspiring for lofty goals helps me focus. I keep doing things I am naturally good at, without any agendas, and just sit and spend time with my art.
How do you deal with fussy clients?
First and foremost, I take an advance, and I am usually a little detached and maintain my boundaries. Intuitively I have learned to identify clients over the years - someone who’s just being silly and someone who thinks that there is real room for improvement. I have limited resources and knowledge about how the client looks and I don’t know most of them personally, so there are bound to be idea clashes sometimes. But my work has also taught me that you can’t make everybody happy at the end of the day.
Lastly, one dominant quality every illustrator must possess
Seeing things differently, being observant, and being perceptive.
You can find Divya’s happy cartoons, elegant wedding cards and her super positive self at the below-given links: www.instagram.com/youknowhertoo www.behance.net/divyabhatia www.facebook.com/youknowhertoo
Check out some of her work...