Please tell us about yourself
I am an Illustrator and Graphic Designer in Brooklyn, New York. I was born in Calcutta, India and studied Electrical Engineering in college. After working for a decade as an Engineer , I changed careers to find a job that was “more creative” and fulfilling. I went back to school in New York City to study and subsequently work as a graphic designer. Currently, I am pursuing Illustration full time out of my studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
I studied electrical engineering at Jadavpur University in Calcutta, India. Subsequently, i attended the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City to get my BFA in graphic design.
Your career path? How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and exciting career?
I took a slightly circuitous route to where I am now. After graduating from SVA, I worked for five years as a graphic designer. I freelanced for studios and magazines, including Dwell and Martha Stewart Living. While art directing for magazines, I would often commission illustrators and was occasionally asked to create simple vector-based illustrations and icons when the deadline or budget was limited. Having changed my profession midcareer, I wanted a certain degree of independence from working in an office, and I felt that illustration would afford this more than graphic design. I would never have had the courage to study illustration when I was working in IT, but I am glad I studied design instead. I listened to many hours of interviews with illustrators—through podcasts like Your Dreams My Nightmares and Creative Pep Talk—and scoured the internet for articles before I finally started freelancing in the fall of 2016.
Could you tell us something more about your background? Where are you from and what were you studying?
I grew up in India. I come from a large extended family of engineers and doctors, but many members of my family had creative pursuits outside their jobs aka hobbies. My first undergraduate degree is in Electrical engineering – and my Mom is the most artistically inclined in the family. While her father did not „permit“ (yes, that generation) her to study art (she studied physics), she is an amazing painter, singer and clothing designer. The only reason her fashion career didn’t take off was because she hated asking people to buy her work. I get it! My dad is also an electrical engineer – one who has written (professionally, now) and directed plays, novels and short stories.
You wrote me (in an email), that you’ve been designing professionally for something about 4 years. But what were you doing before the designing?
I started my career as a mechanical engineer at TELCO, India’s largest automobile manufacturer. Eventually I came to America and worked as a web developer, management consultant and systems analyst for various companies like Ernst & Young LLP, Monsanto and a small digital agency called Wirestone in Chicago, where the creative director influenced my decision to study graphic design. I literally went a 180 degrees career wise from where I started – engineering to design.
Why you’ve decided for the world of art and design? Was this always a joy and pleasure for you? Have you been a fan of art for a long time?
Yes. Performing art (theatre, music and film) was a huge part of growing up in Calcutta, India. I was exposed to artists like Rabindranath Tagore (writer), Satyajit Roy (graphic artist and film director), Sukumar Roy (cartoonist and illustrator) and many others. My mom would design built in furniture for our home and she exposed me to various furniture catalogs like Conrans which I think developed my love for interior design and architecture early on. I thought that’s what I would study so I could remodel my perfect home. Luckily living in America also influenced me, especially seeing beautifully styled cookbooks by Donna Hay and my husbands collection of Peter Saville designed album sleeves and a former colleague (Jason Kriegler) helped me see the connection to graphic design.
You are a multidiciplinary artist. In your portfolio, we can find the work of a graphic design, illustration, typography, photography and so on. Is this absolutely natural for you, work in all of these fields, or you had to study hard to become an full-fledged artist on a level, in which you are now?
I am in the stage of developing my craft and voice. As a professional graphic designer, we kind of need to be able to wear a lot of hats on the job. Illustration started on the job while freelancing for Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh. If I didn’t have that job, I don’t know if I would even try illustration. When I graduated, I had a portfolio of books and my dream job (still is) was that of Julia Hastings at Phaidon. Eventually working as a magazine designer, I researched and commissioned quite a bit of illustration work. I also illustrated on the job when deadlines or money was tight. For me, design and illustration are very related.
I think specialization has helped a lot of people in a very crowded creative field. I want to find a balance between being an extreme specialist and a jack of all trades. I would be bored if I did only one style of illustration for instance. The good thing about being specialized is you can be the go to person for a specific job and not just an additional set of hands on (any) job. I think ultimately I want to be hired for what makes me unique as a creator.
I know that you are living in a New York. Is it tough for you to make money for a living only as a designer? Which obstacles do you have to overcome (for example the competition, rivalry)?
All of the above, I think but I don’t dwell on it much. As a person who has freelanced and worked full time, freelance is more financially viable for me. (I did not work in advertising/agencies or places I imagine pay more money). Time between freelance projects working for others can become an opportunity to create a body of work that will ultimately define your career.
Tell us about some of your interesting projects
I recently had the honor of illustrating a Google Doodle for Holi, a spring festival in India. Because I was asked to approach the characters in the illustration with an abstract style, I was afforded the opportunity to experiment stylistically. I am very proud to have created an illustration about a festival I have many happy memories of celebrating as a child growing up in Calcutta. It was also a good way to demonstrate what I do for a living to my mother, who, like many of my relatives, has a very limited understanding of creative professions like design and illustration. Another benefit of this project was reconnecting with childhood friends in India I had not been in touch with for a long time; several of them reached out to me after the doodle was published. It was a great experience overall.
Most days, I work out of my home in Bushwick, Brooklyn. I also share a studio space in Red Hook, Brooklyn, with my husband, who is a photographer. One of the things I despise about working independently is that it is extremely isolating. I look forward to working out of my husband’s studio when he has a photoshoot since I can meet new people, like stylists and art directors.
When I first started drawing, I was all about the details. I wanted to draw in a way that was different from how I design, which is simply and minimally. But over the last year, I have come full circle, and I approach illustration like how I approach graphic design. My focus is often on the composition; while I draw a lot of things, I end up cropping existing compositions to find a stronger one inside them, almost like how editorial designers crop an existing picture in a layout to find the most interesting point of view.
While my work is bold and colorful, I don’t consider it to be “trendy.” I want to convey simplicity, but I also want an element of oomph and for the images to be iconic rather than super realistic. I like work that is classic and simple, and I hope to continually evolve in style and substance.
Can you share with us some of your current plans? What are you working on right now?
Currently I am working on editorial illustrations, planning an upcoming promotional brochure for a photographer, and designing invites and catalog for a fashion brand in New York.
I have designed the identity and collateral including note cards, ongoing promotional mailers, advertising, as well as documents such as invoices, quotes, and print-on-demand shipping/messenger label templates for New York based still life photographer, Greg Marino.