A hilarious depiction of the balancing act done in overfull refrigerators.(Photo: Instagra/aliciasouza)
A hilarious depiction of the balancing act done in overfull refrigerators.(Photo: Instagra/aliciasouza)

Comic Con: Artists tell you what you need to know about illustrating comics

Relentless hours and the long creative process, illustrators and webcomic artists speak of what it takes to turn successful in their line of work.
By Yoshita Rao | Mumbai
UPDATED ON DEC 06, 2019 07:22 PM IST

It was Mark Twain, who once said, “Find what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” From doodling on scrap pieces of paper and the backs of menus to creating a world of comics that many flock to and even find inspiration from — the job of a comic illustrator checks off all the boxes when it comes to a ‘cool’ job. But what about the long hours, finances and being your own boss? These artists have a message for aspiring illustrators that might not paint such a rosy picture.

Alicia Souza

Bengaluru-based artist, Alicia Souza, calls herself a happiness illustrator. Drawing professionally for under a decade, Alicia “never thought it would ever” become a career for her. After struggling for a year, the 33-year-old realised she could take this up professionally. “I knew I wanted to illustrate by the end of university, but I realised that it was going to be a career only slowly as things started working out,” she says. Her work being story-based, Alicia says she likes to think of a cool storyline before beginning to illustrate.

Drawing autobiographical cartoons about her life and her “two fur-balls” (Charlie, an Indie stray and Henry-oats, a hamster), Alicia says, “You don’t find your niche of what to draw by scouting for people to like your work. You do your work, and people who like it will find you.” adding, “if you work the market, one can find several streams to make an income.”

Alicia’s message for aspiring artists: Keep drawing. Keep telling stories. Enjoy the process.

Bhagya Babu

Another Bangalorean artist, Bhagya Babu quit her regular 9-to-5 job to pursue her passion. She prides herself on having depicted the “Mallu life”. Her comics, titled Awkwerrrd, revolve around being caught while eating things off the floor to devious plans to move to a foreign country. Her advice to aspiring artist is, “Figure out what it is you really want to convey to your audience and bring your own spin to it. And set deadlines for yourself, and plan a month out in advance.” Without arguing over technology being a bane or a boon, Bhagya says she has been lucky to not have too many bad experiences with plagiarism. “If a company/individual is using your artwork for commercial purposes, it’s best to take the legal route. If it’s plagiarised for content, I send them a private message urging them to take it down,” says the 27-year-old.

Bhagya wants to tell aspiring artists: Keep practicing and be original. Meeting fellow comic artists and seeing the work they are doing can be inspiring. Comic Con is also a great platform to showcase or sell your artwork and get immediate feedback from your audience.

Shubham Khurana

Trying to emulate the rat race culture in corporate careers, Shubham Khurana, a full-time, Mumbai-based, corporate professional, started Corporat Comics on Instagram. “My Instagram handle was earlier called Comic Pencil where I’d put out relatable slice-of-life comics. But being a corporate rat myself, I was looking for a medium to talk about the peculiarities of a working professional’s life,” says the 32-year-old.

Working over the weekend to keep his passion alive, Shubham says he wants to “create comics in another genre which could be even wider in appeal — a satire on the socio-economic and political state of the country”. On the infringing of his comics Shubham does nothing other than “cringing a little”. He says, “I put my Instagram handle in the corner of every single frame I put out, but I learnt it the hard way when one of my comics reached me back in a WhatsApp friends group without any credits.” Shubham laughs while stating, “The Mumbai chapter of Comic Con India will be the perfect opportunity to connect with my audience as the city is home to a huge corporate population.”

Shubham’s message for aspiring artists: Stop thinking and start creating. A lot of artists start with the objective of gaining followers and becoming an influencer, which I’d say is the wrong approach as they end up compromising on the quality of their content. It is extremely easy to find your tribe, however niche your content is.

Sailesh Gopalan

Pointing out the hypocrisies and idiosyncrasies in Indian society, this artist decided to pursue illustration and animation right after high school. Calling Eiichiro Oda, author and artist of the Japanese manga One Piece, his “biggest comic inspiration”, Sailesh Gopalan says that making webcomics was a “by-product of trying out various forms of illustrations and storytelling”.

Speaking about the name for his comic illustrations, Sailesh says, “Brown is a colour we Indians associate with, and the paper-bag-over-the-head trope in cartoons resonated well with the theme I was going for, which led to the name Brown Paperbag.”

But when asked about how lucrative the field is, the 23-year-old says there is “no such thing as a salary for independent comic artists”. Sailesh adds, “Especially not for webcomic artists. The aim on social media and the internet is to gather a large audience by providing free-to-read content, and then directing their attention to merchandise or prints or books for sales.”

Sailesh wants to tell aspiring artists: What or how or when you make something comes later. The first challenge is whether you make something at all. Don’t let your own inhibitions and fears stop you. Put your work out there, and learn from the responses and the feedbacks.

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