Dhwani Shah is an insanely talented artist and illustrator and has a flair for creating vivid characters. A graduate of J.J. Institute of Applied, Art, Mumbai and the prestigious National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, Dhwani’s work is simple, yet poignant at it’s best.
HG: Tell us about yourself.
My parents have greatly encouraged my creative pursuits, except for a short phase during junior college when they started dreaming of me as a Chartered Accountant. Fortunately, I had my way and went off to Sir J.J. Institute of Applied Art in Mumbai to take my ‘hobby’ more seriously.
I graduated from JJ in 2009 with a specialization in Typography and I can say that most of the good stuff I learnt can be credited to myprofessors- Prajakata Parvatikar and Vinay Saynekar. There, I also met many ‘BAAP’ illustrators, and was, later, fortunate enough to intern with one of them- Lokesh Karekar.
I had realised early on that I was not cut out for Advertising, and wanted to understand design better, so I signed up for a Post Graduation in Graphic Design at National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, which was another great experience. As one of my friends used to joke, studying at NID was like having an ‘unlimited Gujju Thali.’ There was so much to learn from everybody! After working with Aparna Ranjan, founder of the The Design Brew, for my final Diploma project, I convocated in December last year.
HG: Can you tell us a little about your inspiration over the years?
As a kid, I was quite fascinated to see ‘Bhaiyya’ paint. He was my mom’s neighbour and studying Fine Art. I remember feeling amused to know that there could be a school where ‘drawing’ was the only subject.
Lokesh Karekar, in many ways, opened up the world of illustration for me. He has an undeniable influence on my style and love for image making. Vinod Sreedhar, another wonderful friend of mine, who is a social entrepreneur, has, over the years, helped me become more confident as a creative person. More recently, I am quite inspired by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings and Jessica Hirsche for their enthusiastic pursuit of side projects and also by Deshna Mehta, founder of Mumbai based studio ‘Anugraha’. Her philosophy and approach to work is quite humbling.
And, of course, the Internet exposes you to incredible artists, every single day and they are just too many to mention.
HG: Could you tell us more about the thought process behind the artwork you made for Homegrown?
This artwork was recycled from a not so recent doodle of mine. Like most of my illustrations,it began with a face. I am always doodling people. I consciously remind myself to draw other stuff, but I don’t really try hard enough. Anyway, once I have an interesting face, I just randomly doodle around it and occasionally an interesting story starts to emerge. When I approach a drawing with a plan, there is too much pressure to capture that image in your head correctly and it begins to feel like a chore. The end result then, is more often than not, disappointing. Not knowing where the pen will lead you, on the other hand, is much more fun.
HG: Can you name a few artists, local as well as international, that have inspired you?
Yes, there are so, so many. Some of them, I am lucky to have know personally, the rest- Internet Zindabad. These are a few from top of my head-
Lokesh Karekar, Sameer Kulavoor, Guim Tió, Prabha Mallya, Nilofer Suleman - everything they draw is ogle worthy;
Anne Edmond, Marjane Satrapi, Guy Delisle, Art Spiegelman, Yumi Sakugawa, Craig Thompson,
Joann Sfar- for their brilliant comics and graphic narratives;
Hemant Anant Jain- his doodles and writings on his blog ‘Munna on the run’got me thinking about a lot of things.
HG: If you could work on one project in collaboration with the Indian Government and have complete creative freedom, what would it be?
I would really love to propose redesigning of the curriculum for EVS and Moral science. What I had during my school years was, sorry to say, a load of crap. I don’t see myself leading it though, I have lots to learn myself, but I will be glad to be one of the enthusiastic members of the core team.
HG: What do you have planned for the future?
I recently quit my day job to freelance and travel. The plan is to ‘figure it out along the way.’ Besides that, I hope to maintain a steady stream of small side projects and collaborations with friends with as much enthusiasm with which I think them up.
HG: Can you tell us a little about three of your best designs?
1. Ongoing Doodle Collab with RamyaI am collaborating with my friend Ramya on a small doodle experiment. She likes to describe it as tic tac toe, but with art.She draws, I draw, she draws again, I draw some more, but we share constantly, and let it influence each other, let our art slip in glimpses of other’s work, but seen from a fresh pair of eyes, constantly make something new from something old. We have been coming up with the most random of stuff, but it is helping me discover new places as an illustrator and am really hoping it will lead to something greater.
2. Mithi River Project-A one page comic aimed at spreading awareness about the much abused river in Mumbai.
It was my first academic project at NID where I began to learn ‘how to not fixate on the final deliverable, but engage in a systematic process of research and analysis to arrive at an appropriate solution.’ It was also my first attempt at designing a comic. The process was often very confusing but overall, it was worthwhile learning experience.
3. Illustrated memories of Ladakh.Much to the horror of some of my photographer friends, I abandoned my camera during my trip to Ladakh. At the end of each day, however, I would doodle a page or two recounting our experiences while travelling. A lot of stuff are inside jokes and may not make much sense to others, but amongst us, it was a source of great fun. Definitely not my best work, but one of the most memorable.
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Quick question round
HG: An artwork you wished you did?
I think I am in Friend-Love with you by YumiSakugawa
HG: An art project you wish you were a part of?
Where you are by Visual Editions
HG: Your favourite munchies?
Amul cheese cubes
Paint or wacom bamboo?