A lion reading to a little boy, a heartfelt thank you note to a safety pin, and a biscuit right before being dunked into a steaming cup of tea — Baljinder Kaur’s illustrations are amusing stories speckled with whimsical elements. A theme in keeping with the aesthetics of children’s storybooks, her works of art are a window into her life. You could spend hours scrolling down Kaur’s Instagram page and get lost in the fantastical world she creates through her illustrations. Kaur’s illustrations are also a strong reflection of her faith and her identity as a young Sikh.
Kaur’s earliest memory of creating art dates back to 20 years ago when she was a waist-high eight year old. “It’s not so much a want. I need to, just as I need to eat, sleep, rest and communicate. It keeps me somewhat healthy and sane,” says Kaur when asked about her drive to create art, she goes on to talk about her inspiration. “This breath I’ve been blessed with, the yearning to make it worthwhile is what inspires me,” says Kaur. The 28-year-old illustrator from Wolverhampton, England, finds herself, more often than not, drawing inspiration from her day-to-day experiences — elderly Punjabi women deep in conversation while waiting at the bus stop, a mother walking her son to school, and a glutton’s fingers inching towards a plateful of jalebis are some examples of the daily happenings that Kaur likes to pictorially record.
In contrast to such realistic illustrations are Kaur’s sudden bursts of fantasy on her Instagram page — “Rare and fantastical creatures from the enchanted forests of Blahzon. Great efforts are currently being made for them to gradually be recorded and archived onto this speck of the interweb. A huge thank you to Master Imagination and Miss wonder for funding this project so generously,” she writes about her series titled ‘Fantastical Creatures’.
What stands out from her considerable body of work is her illustrations documenting the elderly. Grandchildren nestled in with their grandparents for bedtime stories, a grey-haired woman stirring a humongous pot of food, and a grumpy old lady perched on a sofa deeply engrossed in reading are a few examples of the same. What stuck with me is an illustration of an elderly bespectacled gentleman with a beard white as snow, observing the tiny sheep floating around his beard, its caption reads “The origin of clouds, cotton-buds and sheep. According to Baba, everything was born of and evolved from beard-fluff. “There’s a little beard-fluff in all of us”. He said. “It’s what makes our hearts so soft and wise”.” “I find them beautiful. Whilst most are living in super-paced modes, the elderly gracefully hover around, almost like ghosts, continuing with their own richly textured lives, often unnoticed,” says Kaur when asked about her fascination with documenting the elderly. “I don’t have a relationship with any of my grandparents. That’s perhaps one of the reasons I’m inspired to document that particular relationship amongst others,” she adds.
Turban clad children in fancy dress costumes, observations made at gurdwaras and long flowing beards of elderly Sikh men, Kaur’s Sikh identity is a common thread that runs across most of her creations. Kaur’s affinity to her faith is reflected in the characters she brings to life through her illustrations.
Kaur’s ability to play with words and tell stories through her art is what makes her works of art unique. All of Kaur’s creations are like puzzle pieces that come together to paint a picture of Kaur’s life, beliefs and rather witty take on life. Her unusual take on daily happenings and her vivid imagination that culminates into the inception of alternate magical universes are what make her an illustrator to keep an out for.
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