AnimationXpress’s Ishpreet chandock had a conversation with Priya Kuriyan – Animation Filmmaker and Illustrator about her illustrations, educational films and more…
Can you give us a brief about your work?
After having worked for 2 years in Mumbai, for a company that made animated commercials, I moved to Delhi to work on animated educational films for the Sesame street project. I began illustrating while I was in design school , doing a course in animation film making. My first real illustration project was for Tulika books – a children’s publisher based in Chennai.Subsequently I went on to illustrate for other publishers like Scholastic, Penguin and Hachette. I still live in Delhi and work as an independent animator and illustrator
How did you start your career as an illustrator?
My first ‘break’ would be when I had approached Tulika books, a publisher based in Chennai. At that point, I was still a student at design school . They were kind enough to look at my work and give me a chance to work with them . I continued taking on illustration projects after that . Even though with a full time job it was not possible to take on many projects, I did manage to garner a body of work that would enable me to acquire new projects once I decided to freelance .
What projects have you worked so far?
The first animation project I did was a short film for the children’s film society of India . I then worked at the ‘Famous house of Animation’ in Mumbai , where I worked with a team of very talented animators and got the opportunity to be closely involved in a number of animated ad films for clients like spice telecom, Diamond trading co-operation (DTC), Levi’s, Sony PIX TV etc. I’ve also directed short educational films for the Sesame street show in India (Galli Galli Sim Sim) .Apart from that,I’ve worked on social communication films made for NACO (National Aids control organization ) and have worked on promos for discovery networks . My last animation project was a 30 sec promo for Discovery (Tamil ) celebrating the Tamil New Year. Most of my illustration work has been for children’s books . I started with a series of books for Tulika books ,now known as the ‘Baby Bahadur series’ (Bahadur being the name of a baby elephant around which the stories are based) I’ve done a number of books after that but my favourite projects have been the fried frog – a book of nonsense verse written by Sampurna Chattarji ,Whispers in the classroom voices on the field and anthology of school stories published by wisdom tree,When Ali became Bajrangbali published by Tulika publishers and also the 2012 calendar for Pratham books.
You have directed educational films for the Sesame Street show (Galli Galli Sim Sim), Tell us about your experience?
Galli Galli season was produced by Miditech , and I worked with the animation team on its second season. It was a great experience as the films for sesame street had a very
specific audience. Also, it was challenging to make films that were educational but at the same time non didactic and entertaining. Though it was sometimes frustrating when storyboards got rejected by the main offices that were headquartered in New York for not being child friendly enough , it was a huge learning experience .
You have worked on various TV commercials as well?Tell us about your experience in the ad world?
My first job was with the ‘Famous house of animation’ where animated ad films were made . It was really good to start ones career in an environment that was so challenging , since it involved a lot of team and the there were very tight deadlines that we had to meet . One really learns how to manage time and resources whilst working on ad films . Another big challenge was being able to communicate a story or an idea in 30 seconds or 40sec of air time . There is also a lot of interaction with people from other areas of film making , like musicians , editors , sound engineers, voice over artists who’s co-ordinated effort is what makes a good ad . I was lucky to be able to work in a an office with other professionals who were excellent at their work and I think I owe a lot to that experience.
Have you done any specific course related to this field?
I went to NID ( Ahmedabad ) and did a four year course in Animation film design . The four years I spent there changed my life completely..both personally and professionally. For the first time I was exposed to so many wonderful books , films and also there were
chances to interact with some great teachers from all over the world. It was wonderful to be around so many students who were just like me. The exposure helped me realize how important it was to try and understand, and be concerned for the people for whom you are creating things. Each day was a new learning experience and I owe a lot to the
time spent there. I think formal education in a good design school really broadens your mind and exposes you to so many things at a young age.
Do you also teach this art to people?How has been your experience?
I do take workshops for children once in a while . It really helps when one interacts with the audience that one mostly works to please. One remains up to date on what kids these days are really interested in. Also, I think it helps to interact with kids from different social
strata.Children are a constant source of inspiration and I realize that the best ideas come up when kids talk to you and when you watch them interacting with one another. Also,children are really uninhibited when they want to express themselves so it’s always great fun to be around them and get their opinion on various aspects of their life.
Tell us about ‘Whispers in the Classroom’ Voices on the Field?
Whispers in the Classroon voices on the field is an anthology of school stories with contributions from various eminent childrens book authors. It’s been edited by Richa Jha and I have illustrated. Also, for the first time , I’ve also attempted a short piece of graphic writing based on my experience of school. The illustrations are all in black and white.
When did you start working on it and when did you complete it?
I started work on the book around 2 years back and it took me close to 2 months to complete it .After that the entire editorial process took a little while and it wasn’t until January 2012 that the book was out in bookstores.
How was your experience on the book?
It was great fun reading all these stories that one can actually relate to . Writing like this makes you think about your own school life and takes you down memory lane. Also, one tends to think of friends you had as a child and a little bit of that creeps into the
How close are the illustrations to your school life?
I would think the illustrations are pretty close to my own school life since , as I mentioned before, I have definitely gleaned aspects of my childhood to make those illustrations. I’ve actually been to lots of
schools in India, and therefore have met many quirky characters. They might not have been exactly as I’ve depicted them , but they were all definitely inspirations. For example, In most schools there would be that one really old teacher with spectacles and sleeveless blouses. The picture I’ve made might have been an amalgamation of all those teachers.
Tell us about your work for Natural Justice?
South Africa based Natural Justice is a non-profit organization,that aims to facilitate the effective participation of Indigenous peoples and local communities in the development and implementation of laws and policies that relate to the conservation and customary uses of biodiversity and the protection of associated cultural heritage. They are a group of very young lawyers who have worked with local communities in various remote parts of the world. They often have to create manuals that they can pass on to people who work on the ground with them and interact with these local communities. The illustrations I did for them were used in a similar manual and were aimed at presenting all the information in an interesting manner. Actually it is quite humbling working for people like them as the
work they do is so pertinent especially in today’s world. It was wonderful to contribute to a cause such as theirs and inspite of never having met me in person, they completely trusted me on whatever I was doing.
Who has been your inspiration for your work?
I love the wok of Quentin Blake. I have always loved Mario Miranda’s work.Tim Burton’s concept drawings for all his films are a treat to go through. I also love the work of graphic novelists like Niel Gaimen and Marjane Satrapi. I absolutely adore the work of Piet Grobler. Also, with the help of the internet, there is so much more exposure to what is going on around the world. It is really amazing how many talented contemporary artists there are in obscure corners of the world whose work I have stumbled upon work trawling the web . Its wonderful that one can actually access the work of these artists and actually personally get in touch with them through their blogs . I recently happened to meet Atanu Roy a very senior Indian illustrator. Apart from the fabulous work that he shared with us , it was wonderful to see the his passion and complete dedication to the art . I also have a niece who is a wonderful source of inspiration. She’s really funny and sometimes says very grown up things when it comes to my work.
Your body of work has a lot of variety in terms of its subject for instance you have a lot of work for children books and comics, also you have done illustrations for an adult book cover?Is it a conscious move on your part?
Since my first book was a children’s book , most people thought I do only that sort of work .After a point I myself wanted to know if I could do something else apart from that . So, in some ways, yes, it was a conscious move to try out something new .
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on two children’s books for Scholastic. One by the author Uma Krishnaswami and the other a compilation of Nonsense verse. Both books have black and white illustrations, but they are done in different styles.
Any recent work which made you look up and notice?
I saw some illustration work done by Bombay Duck Designs which was fantastic. I really like the way their work is so varied. There is an illustrator called Prabha Mallaya who has a very distinct style of her own . I noticed her work a couple of months back and loved it.
What are your future plans?
At this point I would like to attempt a little more of writing and come out with picture books for kids that have been written as well as illustrated by me. I must say ..I’m not the one for many plans. I take each day as it comes by.
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