“I’m an artist and illustrator who works across multiple mediums, both 2D and 3D. I would describe my work as colourful, whimsical and highly imaginative with a strong focus on storytelling. I draw and paint to tell stories, and enjoy transporting viewers of my art into a world of whimsy and playfulness. I also have a deep love for tactile art and objects, and the other side of my creative work lives in this realm – creating murals, sculptures and crafty objects. “
Deepti Sunder is an award-winning illustrator, muralist, sculptor and educator based in New York City, originally from Bombay, India. She works across both digital and traditional media. Whether crafting giant animals and plants out of papier-mâché, making whimsical clay sculptures or creating illustrations to bring a story to life, Deepti finds great happiness in using her hands to create. She has received the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for the children’s book Bonkers!, and appeared on Viceland’s The Untitled Action Bronson Show as a featured artist. As she continues to share her art with audiences across the world, she hopes to help viewers connect with the childlike wonder and enchantment within themselves.
Why are you an illustrator?
As a child, I spent most of my time making art or reading. Illustration is kind of my way of combining both those passions, since the core of all of my artistic work is driven by storytelling.
Did you attend school for fine art or design?
I did my undergraduate studies in architecture (from Manipal School of Architecture & Planning), but then veered away from it. I set off on a bit of an exploratory phase after graduation, and sort of stumbled into illustration. It felt like something I would enjoy doing and be good at. Since then, I have gotten my MFA in Illustration from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, where I am currently based.
You have a distinct style of illustration. How long did it take you to develop your style?
I feel like it’s a constant evolution. However, it’s more so in the last couple of years that I have found themes, symbols and throughlines that it feels like I will keep revisiting and exploring in my work. I now have more of a vision and clarity towards what kind of art I want to make as an artist.
Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
My mom has been a huge influence in my life in general. She is responsible for my love for reading and my love for art and craft as well as so many other things.
Who was the most influential personality in your career in Illustrations?
I would say Alicia Souza was a huge inspiration in the beginning stages of my career. Her work excited me and it was through her work that I discovered illustration as a career.
What made you decide to become a freelance illustrator? When did you start freelancing? Do you illustrate for advertising?
I began freelancing in 2012 after getting some initial experience in illustration, and have done it on and off ever since.
Are many advertising agencies getting illustrations made these days? Do you work more with agencies or publishers?
I have worked more with publishers than advertising agencies, so I don’t know that I am the best person to answer that. There is definitely interest on both sides towards illustration though, and I would love to work with both.
Was there any time when you wanted to quit Illustrations?
I have definitely gone through my share of struggles, but I have never wanted to quit being an artist.
Have you considered turning your illustrations into toys?
I would love for that to happen! Seeing my work converted into physical objects on any scale would be a dream, whether toys or larger sculptural manifestations or surface design.
Any other Indian Illustrators who you admire?
I am obsessed with Pearl D’Souza’s work! Her linework is beautiful, and the products she makes for her shop are constantly inspiring. There’s so many other Indian artists I admire too. Some that come to mind are Rajiv Eipe, Srishti Guptaroy, Maheswari Janarthanan, Kalyani Ganapathy, Alicia Souza and Reshu Singh.
Do you have any favorite fellow illustrators or resources relating to your fields?
Current favourite illustrators for me would be Emma Carlisle, Pearl D’Souza, Molly Egan, Leigh Ellexson, Lindsay Stripling. In terms of resources, Becky Simpson’s Destination Illustration course has been super helpful for me.
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’d say it helps to have parts of your creative practice that are just for you. To play and have fun and explore your own creativity outside of projects for clients. I would also say that it helps greatly to find creative community.
What’s your dream project?
I would really love to see my sculptures produced as larger than life versions that people can walk among, sort of like an imaginative world brought to life for people to physically explore. That would be the ultimate dream project.
Mac or PC?
I don’t think I necessarily have a preference? I’m pretty comfortable switching back and forth between both, really.
Who would you like to take out for dinner?
I find illustrator Emma Carlisle’s creative journey, artwork and material exploration super inspiring. I’d love to be able to grab dinner with her.
What’s on your iPod? Spotify?
A real mix of things. Lots of Bollywood, but also alternative rock, folk, indie, French and Afro pop music.
What’s your Twitter Handle? Instagram?
I’m not on Twitter, but you can find me on Instagram as @deeptisunder