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Akshara Ashok: A workspace that keeps the inner child alive

The artist behind @happyfluffcomics talks about finding comfort and stimulation in her messy workspace filled with colourful lists and tchotchkes

Illustrator Akshara Ashok.
Illustrator Akshara Ashok. (Courtesy Akshara Ashok)

At first glance, illustrator Akshara Ashok’s Instagram page is colourful and cutesy. Her posts comprise cuddly little people and anthropomorphic animals that draw several ‘aww’s from her followers. But often, there is an element of realism and social relevance to her posts. An architect by education, the 25-year-old likes to break taboos using humour and “educate people without attacking them”. So she uses comics and animations to share information and insight on topics such as body positivity, mental health, menstruation, bullying, sex-ed, etc.

A freelance artist, Ashok is currently experimenting with short animations and different art styles, while also starting work on a children’s book inspired by a story her grandmother told her. In an interview with Lounge, she talks about her love for her colourful post-its, ceramic collectibles and the comfort of working from home.

Describe your current workspace to us.

I have a tiny work corner in my house with a desk and all the essentials. The wall is usually covered with to-do lists and I have a bunch of little ceramic collectibles on my desk. I’m not an organised person so my work space is usually very messy, but I find it comforting.

Has it always been this way? Or has it evolved over the years?

I recently moved from Chennai to Bangalore, so my work space has changed. But I have tried to maintain the old structure. I have a set pattern of how I arrange my desk and its components. I have also retained the black board on which I write down things to remember and the wall of colourful to-do lists.

How would you define your daily relationship with this space?

I work from home because I’m a freelancer and I think it’s where I’m most comfortable. My daily routine comprises me starting my day with a cup of tea at my desk, checking for emails and responding to them, and figuring out what to do for the day. Once that’s done, I feel my desk and get comfortable at a spot either at or around my workspace and start illustrating on my iPad. Since I can carry it around, my spot keeps changing.

Now that I’ve spent so much time working like this, I don’t know how I’d react if I had to work amongst other people.

Also read: Chef Auroni Mookerjee's workspace is both the bazaar and the kitchen

Tell us about some of the eureka moments you have had and major works that you have done from here.

I usually don’t have eureka moments, I often think that any task I have is impossible to achieve but then I always surprise myself with the outcome. I think some of the biggest things I’ve done in the last year are giving my TEDx talk and attending Comic Con, both remotely! It was challenging to give a TED talk from my humble room: the biggest challenge was setting things up alone, recording and streaming by myself. During Comic Con, I had some help. My whole workspace turned into a mini store filled with my merchandise. It was a tiresome job to sort the stuff out, but it all ended well.

If you were to trade in this place for another, what would it be?

I can honestly work from anywhere I feel comfortable, since most of my work is done on an iPad. A lot of the time, I work from the comfort of my bed. But if I had the option, I would love to move to the countryside someday. I’m an introvert and I like the quiet. A small studio with a lot of daylight and a dog would be my dream space.

What's the one thing that has always been at your workspace over the years? Why?

It may seem silly, but I get very attached to tiny ceramic collectables. There’s always something of that nature on my desk. Something that keeps my inner child alive. A ceramic piggy has been on my desk for a few years now. And definitely, there’s always the photo of my pug, Yoshi.

Also read: When a writer has the guiding voices of other writers

The first artist whose work you followed closely/sometimes imitated. What about them appealed to you?

I think all artists have a similar pattern when it comes to their workspace. A desk with their equipment and a wall full of art. I think it’s something we all have in common. But work wise, I think the first person I was inspired by is Sarah Anderson who’s known for Sarah’s Scribbles. I have wondered how she came up with her ideas and created the art she did. Slowly, it became my career as well.

What was the first medium/tool you used in the early years of practice? How has that evolved now?

I started with a simple pen and paper, and when I got into digital art, I used my phone in the early years because I was a college student who couldn’t afford an iPad. I didn’t want to invest until I knew I could make something out of this. So for years, I drew on my iPhone 6 with a broken screen. I didn’t even have a stylus, I used my finger. I seriously don’t know how I pulled through because now I wouldn’t have half the patience. So, I’m proud of that phase. Now, I work on an iPad and my laptop.

Indumathy Sukanya is a Bengaluru-based writer and artist.

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