Sheena is a Bangalore based self-taught illustrator who is constantly inspired by life’s absurdities. She loves experimenting with new means to create things and has recently started art directing at a children’s book publisher.
Why are you an Illustrator?
Because I love drawing and expressing thoughts and ideas, even if they’re sometimes subconscious and vague.
Did you attend school for fine art or design?
I sort of fell into illustration, having no background in it. So, no. I’ve been constantly learning in my four years as a freelance illustrator.
You have a distinct style of illustration. How long did it take you to develop your style?
My style actually keeps changing and evolving. I get bored of drawing things the same way so I try to mix it up. I’m also led by the medium that I’m using to draw with. For example, if I’m using a thick brush and ink, the illustration will have a bolder, defined feel with strong lines. Or if it’s an ink pen, I draw thinner lines with more details. I like to go where the tools take me.
Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
Not particularly, I admired certain aspects of many people while growing up and would try and apply those in my life. There were several sources, the biggest were books, movies and of course, real life.
Who was the most influential personality on your career in Illustrations and design?
Again, influence and inspiration has come to me from so many people and places, it would be hard to pinpoint the exact origin.
What made you decide to become a freelance illustrator? When did you start freelancing? Do you do lettering for advertising?
In 2013, I’d just quit a full time corporate job in sales and marketing without a plan. All I knew is that I didn’t want to do it anymore. So I travelled by myself quite a bit that year and drew a lot and painted murals where I went. When I came back, I had something of a very, very basic portfolio to show for it. I’m very grateful to the friends who took a chance on me back then and offered me illustration and mural work. I started putting up my work online (thank you, social media) in 2014 and slowly, through that and word of mouth, I started getting more and more freelance work. I also started moving to completely hand drawn digital illustrations. I have done lettering for advertising in the past, but I work more with direct clients and publishers now.
Are many advertising agencies getting illustrations made these days? Do you work more with agencies or publishers?
Before the age of photography, everybody used illustration as a primary means of visual communication. Now, there’s a mix veering more towards photography but I think illustration is slowly reclaiming its space and that’s very heartening. I also feel like there’s tremendous scope for illustration where a photograph would be lacking. That’s why I love working on editorial illustrations with publishers. There’s a lot of space for illustrations to speak there.
Was there any time when you wanted to quit Illustrations/graphic design?
Never. The work is tremendously satisfying. Although, there have been times when I’ve wanted to supplement my income with other creative work.
Tell us how you got interested in lettering? What kind of clients do you get?
I love making words come to life visually, so it seemed like a natural progression. I do mostly illustration work for clients though.
Any other Indian Illustrators who you admire?
So, so many. I especially love the original work of Prabha Mallya, Archana Sreenivasan, Rajiv Eipe and Priya Kurian. Also, illustrators whose work I grew up loving, like Pulak Biswas, Atanu Roy and Jayanto Banerjee.
Do you have any favorite fellow illustrators/designers or resources relating to your fields?
The internet has been a great place to find so many talented people working hard on their craft. I usually go to Behance or Instagram for inspiration, but sometimes just Google will do it.
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?
There aren’t that many full time illustration jobs, so most illustrators work freelance. I think it’s important to consider everything that goes with it. Like passion levels, financial security, clients, choosing work you enjoy, payments, socialisation and many more. I’m still in the process of figuring things out (it’s a long one), but I definitely encourage people to take up illustration as a career.
Whats your dream project?
I would love to write and illustrate a book of ridiculous limericks.
Mac or PC?
I grew up with the PC but I recently shifted to the Mac and I love it.
Who would you like to take out for dinner?
Oh, Jemaine Clement and Brett McKenzie of comedy songwriter duo Flight of the Conchords. They’re an international treasure. We’d eat soup out of one mug.
What’s on your iPod?
I’ve never had an iPod, but i like listening to the music of Broken Social Scene and their off shoot bands, Fleet Foxes, Sufjan Stevens, St. Vincent, Talking Heads and many more that I can’t think of right now.
What’s your Twitter Handle?
I can’t handle twitter so I’m on Instagram as @sheenadeviahaha.