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Can you tell us what you do?

An eye for detail, a sense of colour and a quirky sense of humour are what’s taking Priya, an independent animation filmmaker and illustrator, places. The 35-year-old artist, who lets her imagination interact with words, has created several page turners for various Indian publishers and is currently illustrating some stories by Ruskin Bond.

How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and interesting career?

But then, Priya always knew that a life in art was what she wanted to pursue. A fan of the works of Atanu Roy, Jayanto Baneerjee and Mario Miranda to name a few, it was their images that inspired Priya to take readers on an visual journey through her imaginative world using clear, soft lines and vibrant colours, herself.

Says Delhi-based Priya, who hails from Kochi: “As my father, Jacob Kuriyan, was in the army, my family and I shifted often from town to town. Drawing was the one constant in my life. Besides, I was never academically inclined. If I weren’t in the field of art, I would have become a teacher, I think.”

After  having worked for 2 years in Mumbai, for a company that made animated commercials, I moved to Delhi  to work on animated educational films for the Sesame street project. I began illustrating while I was in design school , doing a course in animation film making. My first real illustration project was for Tulika books – a children’s publisher based in Chennai.Subsequently I went on to illustrate for other publishers like Scholastic, Penguin and Hachette. I still live in Delhi and work as an independent animator and illustrator

You have worked on various TV commercials as well?Tell us about your experience in the ad world?

My first job was with the ‘Famous house of animation’ where animated ad films were made . It was really good to start ones career in an environment that was so challenging , since it involved a lot of team and the there were very tight deadlines that we had to meet . One really learns how to manage time and resources whilst working on ad films . Another big challenge was being able to communicate a story or an idea in 30 seconds or 40sec of air time . There is also a lot of interaction with people from other areas of film making , like musicians , editors , sound engineers, voice over artists who’s co-ordinated effort is what makes a good ad . I was lucky to be able to work in a an office with other professionals who were excellent at their work  and  I think I owe a lot to that experience.

What did you study and what was your career path?

A graduate of National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, Priya made her entry into the world of illustrations through Tulika Books.

I went  to NID ( Ahmedabad ) and did a four year course in Animation film design . The four years I spent there changed my life completely..both personally and professionally. For the first time I was exposed to so many wonderful books , films and also there were
chances to interact with some great teachers from all over the world. It was wonderful to be around so many students who were just like me. The exposure helped me realize how important it was to try and understand, and be concerned for the people for whom you are creating things. Each day was a new learning experience and I owe a lot to the
time spent there. I think formal education in a good design school really broadens your mind and exposes you to so many things at a young age.

My first ‘break’ would be when I had approached Tulika books, a publisher based in Chennai. At that point, I was still a student at design school . They were kind enough to look at my work and give me a chance to work with them . I continued taking on illustration projects after that . Even though with a full time job it was not possible to take on many projects, I did manage to garner a body of work that would enable  me to acquire new projects once I

“I sent Tulika a portfolio of my work while at NID. They liked it and asked if I could illustrate Radhika Chadha’s I’m So Sleepy. The book is about an elephant who forgets how to sleep.”

The book was well received, the illustrations enriching the reading experience. She went on to illustrate a series of books with the same character. “It was called The Baby Bahadur series,” says Priya, who started freelancing as an illustrator after working with an animation production house and with Sesame Street, India. “I decided to freelance as I couldn’t pursue my love for illustrations seriously while I was employed,” says Priya.

What projects have you worked so far?
The first animation project I did was a short film for the children’s film society of India . I then worked at the ‘Famous house of Animation’ in Mumbai , where I worked with a team of very talented animators and got the opportunity to be closely involved in a number of animated ad films for clients like spice telecom, Diamond trading co-operation (DTC), Levi’s, Sony PIX TV etc. I’ve also directed short educational films for the Sesame street show in India (Galli Galli Sim Sim) .Apart from that,I’ve worked on social communication films made for NACO (National Aids control organization ) and have worked on promos for discovery networks . My last animation project was a 30 sec promo for Discovery (Tamil ) celebrating the Tamil New Year. Most of my illustration work has been for children’s books . I started with a series of books for Tulika books ,now known as the ‘Baby Bahadur series’ (Bahadur being the name of a baby elephant around which the stories are based) I’ve done a number of books after that but my favourite projects have been the fried frog – a book of nonsense verse written by Sampurna Chattarji ,Whispers in the classroom voices on the field and anthology of school stories published by wisdom tree,When Ali became Bajrangbali published by Tulika publishers and also the 2012 calendar for Pratham books.

What do you love about your work?

Although she illustrates book covers and designs the covers of various magazines, Priya finds picture books a real visual treat and enjoys working on them. “Becoming a children’s book illustrator was never a conscious decision; it just happened. Children are smart and are quick to catch on if there are any inconsistencies between the text and pictures. And so, I make sure I read the whole book before I start picturing the text.”

She also avoids stereotyping her characters. “In Natasha Sharma’s Princess Easy Pleasy, I consciously made the wife taller than the husband. I also introduced different skin colours. Picture books help eliminate stereotypes and increase the child’s chances of growing into open-minded adults. I try to add a touch of humour to my pictures and enjoy making drawings that include subtle layers of information. This I feel makes a child want to revisit the story,” says Priya, who enjoys experimenting with different kinds of treatments and media.