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The bittersweet moment of outgrowing your first workspace

Ahead of her move into a new studio space, Mounica Tata, the artist behind Doodleodrama, talks of how her workspace etches her identity

Artist Mounica Tata
Artist Mounica Tata

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Mounica Tata’s illustrations are all heart. Comic strips are her medium of choice and her panels range from chuckle-worthy jokes to poignant social commentary. Served with a dollop of wit and humour, the stories she weaves through her comics are deeply relatable while also being satisfyingly subversive.

Some of her bite-sized pieces on social media also offer a sneak-peek into her daily life at home, her relationship with her husband and the many shenanigans of their two dogs Sir Leo and Captain Ollie.

A self-taught artist, Tata has written and illustrated two children’s books, A Sunday With Amma and Getting Ellie Home (self-published), while also collaborating with brands such as Google India, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Dell and Intel.

In December 2021, Tata launched her own online store, Doodleodrama. Here, she sells stationery, sketchbooks, T-shirts and mugs. In a conversation with Lounge about her workspace, Tata talks about thriving in chaos, and how she’s come to accept outgrowing a much-loved workspace. Edited excerpts.

Tata reading a Maryjane Satrapi graphic novel, in one corner of her studio, with her dog by her side.  
Tata reading a Maryjane Satrapi graphic novel, in one corner of her studio, with her dog by her side.  

Describe your current workspace to us.

I work from home and I have a room dedicated to my studio space. It’s all-encompassing at the moment— it’s where I write and draw, it is also a storage/inventory space for my merchandise. The walls are covered in my drawings. I print them out and put them up to test them out. Lots of books, lots of plants—some of them dead. It’s very chaotic, but it works for me because I thrive in chaos. There is a method to my madness, though, I know exactly where everything is.

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

It has gotten more cluttered. Ever since my business started, the space has been covered in boxes, packing material, and supplies. I have a habit of making every space my own. I cannot live in a space that does not scream ‘me’. The wall, for instance, used to have just two posters in the beginning, now it is fully covered in drawings. The space has definitely grown and taken up a personality of its own. It stands out in the entire house.

How would you define your daily relationship with this space?

I wouldn’t know who I am outside of this space, although I do make it a point to go out somewhere and draw in a different environment every now and then. This room has become an extension of me over the years and we work very well together. Even if you were to blindfold me, I can tell you what is where. It’s like muscle memory.

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

In my early days as an artist, when I was only doing this part-time for fun, I borrowed a Wacom Bamboo from my friend’s sister—it was the first time I used a drawing tablet, I didn’t even know something like that existed. Till then I’d just used a mousepad on MS Paint, because I didn’t know there were better softwares for drawing either. Then after much research, deliberation and wondering if my art was worth such an expense, I invested in a Wacom Intuos Pro Medium in 2015, [a mid-level professional drawing tablet], which I use to this day. The display, however, has evolved from a beaten down old Dell laptop from my college days to an Apple iMac.

A view of Tata's current workspace
A view of Tata's current workspace

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

We moved to this place in 2015 and within four months, I put in my papers at my last job. This space has seen me grow as a freelance artist—this is where it all started! Everything happened here: right from starting a bank account for my business to registering ‘Doodleodrama’ as a brand, creating a logo and having it copyrighted. These were big moments for me. Besides that, there was my first ever project with a brand, the first time I did package designing and at one point I had a full-blown interview shot here with lights, hair and make-up and everything!

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

Plot twist — we are moving out in a couple of months! I love this space; but I have outgrown it. It feels like I am working from a godown with all the boxes lying around. We’re moving to a place with a bigger room where I can have a dedicated section for the business side of things, so the art space can be undisturbed. That is one thing I have missed in the past six months as my business took off—at the end of the day, I like myself as an artist more than a businesswoman, so I look forward to having a space when I can just make art again.

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

My drawing tablet. I haven’t upgraded it at all and it has been with me through the highs and lows of my career as an artist. It has seen some really bad work as well as my best.

I also have a handmade photo frame, which I made, with a black-and-white picture of me and my mom in our old house in Secunderabad. My mom is my biggest cheerleader. And I’m very fond of that house, which we haven’t visited in years. The picture reminds me of my formative years—and my mom. So it’s deeply sentimental to me and has always been on my desk.

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

I didn’t grow up reading a lot of comics, except perhaps Tinkle. My dad was in the army so there were a lot of train journeys with Tinkle in my childhood. But in my early years as an artist, I came across Zen Pencils by Gavin Aung Than on Facebook and my mind was blown! I had never come across someone who used comics to tell stories so beautifully. The way the art and the narration make you feel, there’s something magical about it. Right then, I felt this is what I want to do with my life. I have all his books and two huge Zen Pencils posters on my wall. Especially the poster that says ‘Imagination Unlocks the Universe’—it has been part of my wall since the very beginning and I’m definitely taking it to my new place.

Creative Corner is a series about writers, artists, musicians, founders and other creative individuals and their relationships with their workspaces

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