Bengaluru-based illustrator Vidya Gopal identifies as an “intense window seat person”; her art is infused with the gold she’s gained from years of people watching, and it is immensely relatable and enjoyable for it. An engineer with an MBA by education, she quit her day job six years ago to take on illustrating full time.
Graphic narratives being her forte, Gopal enjoys making any form of art where drawings and stories come together. Her published work features editorial illustrations, children’s books and comics. In the past few years, the artist has also co-founded a collective (www.yadayadacollective.org) that aspires to make the daily business of creative freelancing in India easier.
At the moment, Gopal is working on self-publishing a series of illustrations titled Goddesses of Small Things, while also expanding into long form and non-fiction comics.
In an interview with Lounge, the artist opens up about her creative journey, drawing inspiration from RK Laxman’s cartoons and being migratory as an artist.
Describe your current workspace to us.
My table faces a huge chikoo tree outside. It is an old six-foot-long dining table that we had at home when I was growing up. I am quite a maximalist, so I have on it my paints, brushes, pens, pencils, a couple of sketch pads, my work journal, devices, a couple of mannequins, and some untouched stationery I aspire to use. The table has scratches and ink blobs on it, but it has served me well.
Has it always been this way? Or has it evolved over the years?
The position of the table has shifted over the years, but content-wise, it has been the same. Maybe there are more art supplies now. What you see today is a slightly more organised version though.
How would you define your daily relationship with this space?
Depending on the nature of deadlines or commitments looming ahead, I show up there at different times. Sometimes really early in the morning, other times around 9 am, I settle down with a mug of hot water or green tea and start my day. It feels like my little bubble: a wave of calm passes over the moment I settle down there.
Having said that, I am migratory. When I am ideating, I prefer sitting on a couch, or to step out somewhere. If I am painting, at times, I like to spread out on the floor. At times when I want to escape the lonely freelancer life, I go and sit at cafés or co-working spaces and enjoy listening in to some of the chatter around me.
Tell us about some of the eureka moments you have had and major works that you have done from here.
I’ve created most of my Inktober series (a lot of splatters of Indian inks are testimony) and comics sitting there. I remember the table even featured in a little comic I once made. I painted for the first couple of exhibitions I took part in out of there. I am a self-taught illustrator, and the desk has seen me nervously take on my first children’s book illustration commission. It has also seen me evolve and turn around editorial illustrations with tight timelines with far more confidence than what I started out with.
If you were to trade in this place for another, what would it be?
I am quite happy with it as it is. If anything, I’d like even more windows and trees around and a couch adjacent to a shelf with all my art books.
What's the one thing that has always been at your workspace over the years? Why?
There is this wooden pen holder with my name on it that I got when I graduated. It's been there forever. I’ve seen some sort of a name plate on my mum’s office table growing up, maybe that’s why I kept it, though it’s not a very conscious decision.
The first artist whose work you followed closely/sometimes imitated. What about them appealed to you?
RK Laxman’s cartoons. I’ve seen them all my life and have always been amazed at how brilliantly and playfully he captures the simplest of human gestures. His lines are so alive. I haven’t actively tried imitating him though, but I do aspire to be able to draw people with at least some part of that energy.
What was the first medium/tool you used in the early years of practice? How has that evolved now?
Watercolours were the first medium I used, over the years I’ve used ink as well. A lot of my commissioned work now however has become digital. This year though I hope to use more traditional media.
Indumathy Sukanya is an artist and independent journalist based in Bengaluru
Creative Corner is a series about writers, artists, musicians, founders and other creative individuals and their relationships with their workspaces.