Between the lines
Illustrator Priya Kuriyan, who recently collaborated with Shashi Tharoor, about her love for doodling, working on children’s books, and what illustration means as a career choice
BENGALURU: It’s a whole new level of calmness that illustrator Priya Kuriyan exudes. But behind this coy and soft-spoken person is an imaginative and sought-after illustrator, whose recent work was for Shashi Tharoor and Joseph Zacharias’ The Less You Preach The More You Learn.
“The book has a lot of aphorisms, so the illustrations had to be indicative of those,” says Kuriyan, who has also worked with Sahitya Akademi winner Manu Pillai on his book The Courtesan, the Mahatma & the Italian Brahmin: Tales from Indian History.
“I have done a lot of book covers. It is just that many books for adults don’t have illustrations in them since a lot of publishers think that books with illustrations are meant for a younger audience. Manu’s book was different, it was for youngsters. That’s why the team thought of trying out something new,” says Kuriyan.
Apart from books for adults, Kuriyan is mostly known for her works for children’s books.
“I have been working in the children’s book section for longer. It comes more naturally to me now. I understand that space better and I feel you can be much more imaginative when it comes to children’s literature; to me, that is an advantage,” explains Kuriyan, adding that out of all her works, Ammachi’s Glasses still holds a special place.
“It had no words. The story was told entirely through visuals and it was the first time I was doing a book of my own without a writer,” adds Kuriyan, who is currently working on a comic anthology for children. Along with that, she is also doing two picture books for different publications.
At a time when digital art is considered more financially viable for artistes, Kuriyan still prefers to go analog.
“Comics require a lot more work than picture books. Very often, the timelines are really short. In the comic space, I have started working on an iPad where I still draw; for picture books, I always prefer going analog. There is something about digital art that makes it feel less vulnerable. Something about it looks frozen. Also, when you are drawing in analog style, you are making mistakes. Those imperfections make the art unique,” says Kuriyan, who started her career in the field of animation.
But for those starting out as an illustrator, Kuriyan suggests keeping a day job, especially for those planning to get into children’s books. “Build your portfolio while you have something consistent. Keep practicing. Talent is overrated, after a point, consistency matters,” she says.