Shroff’s work is figurative and occasionally surreal – utilising bright colours and humour with darker undertones. Androgynous bird characters and humans enact fantasy scenes, mostly in mundane and domestic landscapes. Her work explores a range of themes including birth, pregnancy, relationships, sexual identity and gender.
Janine Shroff was born in Bombay, India in 1983. She works predominantly using mixed media, acrylic and ballpoint-pens on heavy-weight paper. Her early influences were miniature paintings and late 80’s comic books like MAD magazine. She completed an M.A. with distinction at Central St. Martins College, London in 2007, following a B.A. at Camberwell College of Art. She was short-listed for the Mercury Art Prize in 2007 and has exhibited in group-shows in London at the Maritime Museum in Greenwich & The Mall Galleries at the ICA. She has also previously collaborated with Visual Disobedience, a Mumbai based art collective. Shroff is currently working on a new set of personal works as well as collaborating with Kadak, a collective of 7 south-asian artists. She currently lives and works in London.
Why are you an Illustrator?
I’m an illustrator because I enjoy drawing, painting and being creative. It’s more than just a profession, it’s a need to make things if not daily, then at least constantly and consistently. And attempt to improve along the way.
Did you attend school for fine art or design?
I attended Camberwell College of the Arts for a B.A in Illustration & did an M.A in Communication Design Central St. Martins in London.
Both courses straddled the line between fine art, design & illustration.
You have a distinct style of illustration. How long did it take you to develop your style?
I don’t think I ever thought about developing a style. I always wanted to draw & paint effortlessly, like Van Gogh or even the artists who make fast caricatures but I just am not capable of it. Part of my style is just how I draw. It’s what came most naturally, within the context of various influences and my skill level.
Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
I didn’t have specific role models but I loved Amar Chitra Katha and collected them from ruddiwalas over the years.
My parents also have book sets of various famous European painters: Gauguin, Rembrandt etc, which I would repeatedly go through.
Some other influences were MAD magazine, and I loved the various illustration styles & the humor in one magazine.
So my models were an odd mix of Indian, European & American
Who was the most influential personality on your career in Illustrations?
I think my tutors and my fellow illustrators during my M.A course were the most influential in shaping my approach to work. Both constructively critical & supportive, it made a big difference in my work before and after that course. My earlier drawings were limited to monochrome and one medium (ballpen) and I was repeatedly challenged to change that, which helped changed my work a lot – It went from black and white A4 paper to larger full colour paintings in the space of 1.5 years.
What made you decide to become a freelance illustrator? When did you start freelancing? Do you illustrate for advertising?
I freelance on the side, but I am not a full time freelancer. In fact I would find full-time freelancing very stressful. It requires a lot of hustling, looking for jobs and admin. I kind of hate all 3 of those things. Sometimes I illustrate for advertising but not often. (It depends when someone asks me) I’m not with any illustration agency at present.
Tell us something about your design work…
My design work is currently only for my day job. It’s very different from my illustration, much more minimal and clean. I do mostly branding, websites & apps.
Are many advertising agencies getting illustrations made these days?
I think there may be a growing trend to use more illustration of late which is heartening.
I would work with anyone who would hire me, and much more importantly, pay me.
Do you work more with agencies or publishers?
So far it has been very mixed, sometimes agencies, sometimes individuals, sometimes publications.
Was there any time when you wanted to quit Illustrations?
No never, although I did take a year off one year because I was tired and stressed from looking for a work visa. Sometimes you just need a break.
Have you considered turning your illustrations into toys?
I have considered it! But I haven’t really thought about it further than that. I find admin and logistics very tedious. I want my life to have less admin and more creative time.
Perhaps ceramics would be easier as I could make them myself.
Any other Indian Illustrators who you admire?
Loads! My fellow Kadak Collective members are all very inspirational, helpful and incredibly talented. Aindri Chakraborty, Kaveri Gopalakrishnan, Akhila Krishnan, Pavithra Dikshit, Mira Malhotra, Aarthi Parthasarathy & Garima Gupta. I also love Majula wadia, Rajni Perera & Amruta Patil’s works.
Do you have any favorite fellow illustrators or resources relating to your fields?
The ones I mentioned above. I also love outsider art.
For resources, pinterest, instagram for inspiration and online video tutorials for tips are very helpful.
I admire digital painters and I want to develope my digital skill more. It really helps when doing an illustration commission to colour digitally as edits can be made a lot more easily.
You have such a wide experience as a top working professional. What advice do you have for aspiring creative professionals? Would you advise them to take on Illustration as a career option? Is it paying well enough?
I have moderate experience I would say. I would personally advise anyone doing illustration to hang on to a day job. At least for a while. Illustration can pay well sometimes, but not always and certainly not in the beginning. As most people know freelancing is really tough even when you’ve been doing it a long time. My day job helps me pay bills and turn down work I’m not that interested in, or it pays me to do my own work which can be very freeing. And the job in itself is very satisfying. It’s different but I enjoy it.
What’s your dream project?
A bursary for a year or maybe 2, so I can work on my personal project full time culminating in a solo installation / exhibition. Thats my current dream.
Mac or PC?
Mac although I’m VERY angry about the lack of usb ports and fixed RAM in the newer models
Who would you like to take out for dinner?
Tough question. Impossible to anwer. Maybe Maria Bamford or Tina Fey or Tilda Swinton or all 3 people from ‘My dad wrote a porno’ (podcast). They seem like a fun bunch
What’s on your iPod?
Agnes Obel, Alt-J, Goyte, Fink and a lot of random covers.
Whats your Twitter Handle?
Don’t really go on twitter.
I’m more an instagram person – its @scritchproductions
Janine can be contacted via her website here.