KOCHI: Home to a broad species of migratory birds and aquatic fauna, the Vembanad Lake in Alappuzha is considered to be one of the most important and sensitive ecological zones in the state. However, due to climate change and rampant urbanisation, the wetlands bordering Vembanad are under serious threat. In an attempt to create awareness among children regarding the unique ecosystem of the lake and the significance of environmental conservation, architect-cum-artist Alok Dinesh has illustrated a book on wetland preservation being compiled by the Community Environmental Resource Center of Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE), an Alappuzha-based organisation involved in biodiversity protection and sustainable interventions.
Alok started doing illustrations for the Vembanad wetland education programme a year ago after having discussions with ATREE about the kind of story arc they wanted for the book. “We thought of introducing a girl who comes back to Alappuzha after completing her studies abroad,” says Alok, who has so far created about 60 illustrations for the book and is working on adding a few more.
Alok took to sketching while pursuing his bachelor’s degree in architecture the from College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram about 10 years ago. “I was interested in urban sketching, so whenever I travelled, I would doodle facades of buildings in a sketchbook. As an architecture student, the structure and design of buildings always fascinated me. After a while, I started doing character sketches,” adds Alok.
But it was two years ago after starting an architecture and design firm called ‘Art Unlimited Multimedia’ along with his friends that Alok decided to venture further into illustration. He has thus far illustrated for the cover of United Nations Development Programme handbook on safe construction practices with special emphasis on floods and for the festival inventory in Kerala Tourism Website (A collaboration with Great India Tourism Planners and Consultants International).
Alok says that he does illustrations based on the context and subject of his commissions. “For the Vembanad series, the character has been sketched in a way that the beauty of the place is portrayed through her,” says the illustrator. Besides making illustrations, Alok has also conducted an outdoor sketch-and-walk workshop exploring the streets of East Fort, Thiruvananthapuram, as part of the Zonal Nasa Convention last year.