A Conversation with Illustrator Sonaksha Iyengar

The Interviews series on this blog invites young people in non-conventional fields of study and work to answer a few questions about their journey. This month, we have invited Sonaksha Iyengar, artist and freelance illustrator, to talk about what inspires her and keeps her going.

What is it like to be an illustrator in a world that constantly pushes young people to become engineers, bankers, and doctors?

Thinking about the world pushing young people to become engineers, bankers and doctors reminds me of school. When I was writing my 10th grade exams, so many people asked me what I wanted to do. I was one of those kids who painted on utensils and wrote on walls so I always wanted to jump into the world of art. But when I told people, they were horrified. Questions about job prospects, money and education popped up. Of course the typical - she probably chose arts because she failed everything else came along too. Honestly, after 12th grade I just realised that you have to sift through this noise to get to some magical people and thoughts. 

Describe your art journey. How did it begin?

This is a hard one because I can't think of one place or moment where it started. But I think even as a child I would very instinctively think in visuals - whether it was writing an essay or creating a game to play with friends from the apartment. I remember spending hours on the computer with Paint before I even knew about the ocean of possibilities in art.

What work have you done recently? What are you currently working on?

I've been working as a freelance illustrator for a few months now and it has been a lovely journey so far. It's exciting to learn something new everyday. Recently I've been working on a few book covers for mass market and academic books. When I'm not doing freelance projects, I fill my sketchbooks till I'm tired. So I've been doing #drawingaday/#365daysofart where I post a drawing/artwork everyday on Instagram/Facebook. I've also been working on developing a little store and concepts for picture books which you'll see soon. 

A pet project I've been doing for two years now is the postcard project where I design some postcards every few months and post it to anyone who requests for it or I randomly choose people on Instagram. It's just a little way to fill the world with art and snail mail.

How do you describe your art style? What inspires you?

I don't particularly know if I can describe my style or if I even have a style. I think I'm right at the beginning and there's so much to explore and do that I don't want to feel restricted by a style. However, I do enjoy working with typography, elements of the ocean, space and plants. Last year I spent a lot of time combining my poetry/writing and drawings. This year I'm also trying to break out of that.

I spend a few hours everyday consciously not drawing or writing but looking, listening, observing, smelling. I think it's really important to find different ways to connect to the world outside our heads and it's also a lovely way to be inspired. So whether it's listening to podcasts, curated playlists, visiting a bookstore and browsing, sitting at a café and eavesdropping on loud conversations, talking to friends, watching films, visiting art galleries, attending panel discussions and so on. Every week I try to do at least a few activities which don't involve me drawing or writing.

Do you title your art/illustrations? If yes, does the title come before or after the art/illustration?

Mostly, no. Most of my work has little captions because I upload them on Instagram with a few words either reminding me of the thought, feeling or inspiration that goes with it but I wouldn't call them titles. And even if they were, it's always after the illustration.

What advice would you give to young illustrators like yourself out there?

Make everyday. It's the most relaxing exercise, especially before or after long days at work, and a magical way to constantly learn new things.

Find Sonaksha Iyengar elsewhere: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

All art/illustrations/pictures belong to Sonaksha Iyengar. 

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