KOCHI: Mumbai-based illustrator Taarika John always travels with a sketchbook and a pen in hand. Over the years, the Malayali artist has compiled illustrations of hundreds of men and women from across various cities whom she met in the course of her travels. The artist says she loves observing people.
“I don’t personally talk or interact with the people I find interesting and draw. But somehow I get drawn to the expression in their eyes or the activity they are involved in. My most personal drawing was of a stranger in the train who reminded me a lot of my mother. She was a working woman as my mother and had the same mannerisms. She was constantly on the phone and inquiring about her family members,” she said.
The illustrations of people and life in progress will be exhibited at the David Hall in Fort Kochi, from October 16-21 and is a personal collection of people she has met -- on trains, airports and taxis.
“I have been drawing and doodling ever since I was a child. My focus was always in that direction,” she said. In all her works, none of her subjects is looking at Taarika.
“Most of the time, my subjects don’t know that I am drawing them. I do it subtly because I don’t want to disturb them. Most of the time, people other than the subject notice that I am drawing and they give me curious looks and some even ask questions. I draw the sketch and even add colours to the work during the limited time I get,” she said.
Sometimes, if she does not carry a sketch pen, she writes down the description and details of the person -- the place she saw them, their activity and the people they were with. “Sometimes I take photos. I stay true to the expressions and facial features of my subject. But the story is mine and I draw them to my liking,” she said.Her drawings have always been associated with her memories. “I draw people to just remind myself of the situation or the place I had been in the past. It’s more for my personal collection,” she said.
Her past projects
Most recently, Taarika worked with a film and media firm to bring out an animated film on the migrant crisis across the globe. The firm was working hand in hand with the Human Rights Commission in Delhi and had made use of the illustrations by Taarika.
“There were 15 different stories from several countries across the globe. Since it was a sensitive issue and involved a lot of violent issues, the filmmakers did not want to use images and hence depended on my illustrations. It was a great exposure for me as I was able to study, learn and draw about various ethnicities,” she said.Taarika is happy that there are many job opportunities that are growing in Kerala for women illustrators. “This field is a niche but I am glad it is finding a space in Kerala too,” she said.