With nature’s prolific charm catching our eye at all times, it’s difficult to not fall in love with the beauty of the cosmos; from the dew drops that sit on marigold clusters, to the intricacies of patterns in a honeycomb, the living world is a haven of unexplored artistic mastery. For botanical graphic designer and illustrator Alisha Dutt Islam, nature posed as the most ideal teacher, and she utilised its complex forms to build herself a career of the most unique kind. Dutt’s remarkable talent of eloquently penning down trees, birds and animals has entitled her to work with companies like Forest Essentials, Biotique and Amar Chitra Katha, to name a few.
“I’d never planned to be a botanical graphic designer, it just happened!”, Dutt had admitted during our interview with her. A graduate of Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, her fascination with natural forms stemmed during a sculpture course at the Madras Crocodile Bank, where she interacted with about 1500 reptiles over the span of mere 3 weeks. Perhaps the first stepping stone towards the success of her career was when she designed a memory-orientated botanical card game for her Graduation Project. The game, called ‘Wars of the Garden’, consisted of an illustrated set of flora and fauna of Bengaluru, and was aimed at helping the audience memorize their names. The project gained a lot of attention within her friend circle, who suggested setting up her card game at pop-ups in stores. She received immense recognition following this, and after setting up exhibitions in Calcutta, various projects began flooding in for her to work on.
Apart from being a part-time art teacher at Shri Shikshayatan School in Calcutta, Dutt has succeeded in creating a strong and diverse body of work. She has created a graphic novel inspired from Darwin’s theory of evolution, and has illustrated for authors like Pradip Krishen for his book ‘Abha Mahal Bagh : A garden of wild plants from the Thar Desert’, and Harini Nagendra and Seema Mundoli’s ‘Cities and Canopies’. Her illustrated prints have also graced the runway at the Lakme Fashion Week, as part of designer Nupur Kanoi’s collection.
One of Dutt’s highly appreciated project revolves around a very stigmatised subject in society - the act of love making. Aptly titled ‘Compliments after Sex’, the Instagram-based project illustrates the comments received by individuals on their bodies during intercourse. “This series is very near and dear to me; it’s personal”. Dutt disguised the human anatomy with various flora and fauna, in order to depict the nature of the comments made. From using a sea anemone to render female genitalia, to representing hygiene under folds of skin with fungi, Dutt ingeniously utilised her aesthetic to address an issue that was close to many, yet lacked a voice to be heard. The support she received was huge, and was widely responded to by women - “...they kept telling me, ‘I’ve realised I’m not the only one with these issues’. ”
Dutt’s constant association with plants and trees developed into an emotional bond of the strongest kind; in the midst of the city bustle, she was able to feel at peace. Her work sparks the inquisitiveness of her audiences, and compels them to appreciate the beauty that lies in nature’s creations. At a time when the ecosystem is at the center of various conversations, Dutt’s work helps invoke a narrative that is brimming with the perfect balance of information and design.
Check out more of her work here.
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