Nitesh Mohanty is a Mumbai based Graphic Designer and co-founder of The Root.
Did you attend school for fine art or design?
I studied fine arts in Sir J.J. School of Arts & did my post graduation from NID.
Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
I wonder what is “growing up”…? I’m still curious like a child, looking, learning, growing & hope that this process never ends. But If I look back at my childhood, I was drawn towards comics ~ Mandrake, Phantom, Flash Gordon, Bahadur… also Amar Chitra Katha. I didn’t know who were the illustrators & the amazing storytellers, but as I grew, I got aware of the greatness of Uncle Pai, Abid, Lee Falk, Edgar Rice Burroughs… Then of course there was the Belgian cartoonist Hergé, who gave me the greatest joy through the adventures of Tintin. These were the mavericks who welcomed me into their world filling my life with joy & awe.
Who was the most influential personality on your career in Illustrations?
Fortunately, there isn’t one single personality, but a whole lot of authors, film makers, great artists, photographers, illustrators, graffiti makers, graphic novelists & many more who continue to shape my ways of seeing & creating. I look in different directions in search of inspiration & influences… I admire the work of many… I’ll try & list few. Satyajit Ray, Raza, Mario Miranda, Josef Koudelka, Steve McCurry, Banksy, Ai Weiwei, Egon Schiele, JR, Neil Gaiman, Reza Abedini, Richard Hamilton, Robert Rauschenberg, Shepard Fairey, Dave McKean, Mati Klarwein, Terrence Malick, Keith Haring, Peter Beard, Anton-Corbijn, Man Ray, David Carson, Ashley Wood, David Hockney, Raghu Rai, Wong Kar Wai, Pramod Pati, Pablo Bartholomew, Frida Kahlo, Nick Bantock, Shirin Neshat, Prabhudda Dasgupta, Chip Kidd, René Mederos, Joe Sacco, Sebastiao Salgado, Francis Bacon, Jean Michel Basquiat, Robert McGinnis, Sergio Toppi…The List is endless… Growing everyday.
Are many advertising agencies getting illustrations made these days? Do you work more with agencies or publishers?
Yes, that seems to be the trend. A whole lot of talented illustrators are being commissioned by agencies to give face to their campaigns. Each campaign has a distinct demand, and every illustrator comes with a certain style to be able to visualize & fit the need. For reasons beyond me, I haven’t ever worked with any agency instead have been dealing with publishers directly. I have worked with a whole lot of them from Penguin, Harper Collings, Hachette, Picador, Rupa, Bloomsbury…
Was there any time when you wanted to quit Illustrations?
Never… I slip in & out of my roles of being a graphic designer, illustrator, fine artist & someone who loves photography… This keeps my creatively varied… I try my best to ensure that monotony doesn’t seep in.
Have you considered turning your illustrations into toys?
No… Not yet. Maybe… someday… Since I’m a print oriented person. I see & imagine things in 2D…
Any other Indian Illustrators who you admire?
In the recent lot, I love the work of Prashant Miranda, Prabha Mallya, Samia Singh, Sameer Kulavoor, Lokesh Karekar, Dhruvi Acharya, Maheswari Janarthanan… I also look up to the amazing work of graphic journalists Orijit Sen, Vishwajyoti Ghosh & Amruta Patil…
I’m often drawn towards lesser known illustrators who lend their artistic creations to regional book covers. Some amazing work has been happening in West Bengal, which hardly gets featured or mentioned. In my travels, I make sure to visit local book shops ~ only to stumble upon some very inspiring & eclectic body of art work.
I’m fascinated by the work of artist, Ganesh Payne ~ whose art is illustrative in nature; his paintings have a dream like narrative. One can find & discover many things within; his work has always an enchanting set of journeys, interpretations & discoveries… I also have great regard & respect for Satyajit Ray, his illustrations, sketches, poster art ~ still evoke a very modern sense of imagination. His art is still fresh, almost timeless just like his cinema.
What made you decide to become a freelance illustrator? When did you start freelancing?
As I told earlier, I’m a graphic designer first… the role of an illustrator came to me accidentally while designing book jackets & I picked it up seamlessly. Not having studied graphics or illustration, gives me an intuitive & untrained, way of visualizing & immersing myself in the process & practice. I’ve been freelancing since a decade.
Do you have any favorite fellow illustrators or resources relating to your fields?
I’ve mentioned them above…Where resources are concerned; it’s an organic & seamless process of stumbling & journeying into other people’s art & illustration through their blogs… Pintrest gives you a wide variety of things to look into, I’ve come across some great work there…
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’ believe as creative individuals, one has to be open & absorb all forms of creative ideas, throw yourself into all kinds of creative engagements. Every art form is related to the other. Some of my biggest inspirations have come from cinema… World, Independent, Experimental, Art House…There is always something to unravel. One must Journey in different directions, you never know what you mind find. Be hungry; gather as much as your can ~ from books, poetry, theater, cinema, music, folk traditions… Look at life closely. The best art is happening on the street ~ people’s expression, the traffic, movement, the bustle of colors, the chaos of sounds, billboards, posters, signs… We are often searching for big, important things & in the process miss out the joy of discovering art, aesthetics, beauty & poetry in small invaluable things… One must train his/ her eye to be more patient, more observant. Keep a notebook ~ paint, scribble, doodle, sketch… Write; make notes, record what excites you, what interests you, what fascinates you… Shoot! Take pictures. Keep a soft board & pin all that you gather on it…
Only take up Illustration as a career if you Love your art… And will never get tired of it.
And the things that you Love doing might not always pay you well… that also brings us to another question ` What is “well” enough???
Tell us something of your personal projects?
I’m currently working on my first documentary film on the last few remaining single screen cinemas of Bombay’s Grant Road Area. It was initially a photo documentation which propelled me to gather the stories through the format of a film.
Tell us about ‘THE ROOT’
The Root is a platform initiated by me & my wife, Diya, to be able to propagate various cultural, social, political & environmental issues through a divers set of creative mediums & merchandise. We host book reading sessions, documentary cinema screening, heritage walks, art & photography forums all in pursuit of bringing various issues on a concerned canvas ~ which becomes a window to the world. We collaborate with like minded individuals & organizations to share stories that are engaging, inspiring & thought provoking.
The Root Merchandise comprises of eco-friendly products such as Organic Cotton T-shirts, Posters, Notebooks, Postcards etc
What is your dream project?
An illustrated travelogue of a road trip to the North East.
Who would you like to take out for dinner?
Saadat Hasn Manto… Listen to his Bombay Stories…. & come back to sketch them.
What’s on your iPod?
From Nusrat Fateh ali Khan, U2, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Gotan Project, RD Burman, Coltrane, Miles Davis, Pearl Jam, Tracy Chapman, Moby, Nirvana, Sting, Chemical Brothers, Pavarotti, Nyman, Girija Devi, Ravi Shankar, Farida Kahnum, Paban Das Baul, Gustavo Santaolalla… & a whole lot of World Music…
Mac or PC?