It's actually a clan of adults who are doodling away to spark a child's imagination. Illustrators of children's books in India may not be festooned with the kind of recognition as word slingers, but their talent is nothing that can be ignored. How do these artists manage to tell stories sans words; that too to children? M Kathiravan has recently demonstrated this by bringing to life a charming cute cricket maniac called Anirudh in the children's story Cricketmatics.
Hailing from a background in animation where he has to draw a movement frame by frame, the sketches came easy to him, he confesses. After which he added colour on the computer with a software called Paint. The time-frame it took him to finish the book was about 15-20 days.
While this is Kathiravan's first whole book, Nina Sadnani, a professor at IIT, Bombay has been working on children's books since the early 90s, mostly with Tulika as her publisher.
In her book My Mother's Sari she has mixed photographs of real saris with paintings/drawings of little children playing with it. In her recent work Home, she has scanned different bricks and then developed them on the computer, she says.Unlike Kathiravan and Sadnani, artist Indrapramit Roy likes conjuring visuals the old school way - painting by hand. Roy explains that his book the The Very Hungry Lion has illustrations inspired by the Warli style of tribal art on handmade paper from Pondicherry, while a few other books follow a Greek style.
"You have to simplify a story. While you have to say more than the text, you still have to leave room for the imagination. Do less to get more," she continues. Kathiravan nods that an illustrator must never say what the writer is already saying. Anita Roy of Young Zubaan Publishing house tackles the question: "The illustrations must spark the imagination of a child. They must express different kinds of emotions and the narrative should let the child imagine."
Asked about the quality that an illustrator for children's books needs to possess, the clique responds identically: Their answer composing of traits such as patience, imagination and continuous reinvention of style.
The most important skill is not to be condescending towards children and to have a good sense of humour. It is also very important to feel for the needs of each age group and create a style. A lot of background work for the right references to be visually accurate and use of detail and action to grab the child's attention is essential. A child is more interested in the content and not your name or fame."