Rajiv Eipe makes magic with his illustrations for children. The illustrator of the book 'The Boy and the Drum' spoke to Pratham Books, on the eve of the big 'One Day, One Story' event being celebrated by over 2400 Pratham Books Champions.
Meet the man who sips coffee, goes bird-watching with his illustrator-wife Archana Sreenivasan, works madly on animation, and illustrates books for children whenever he needs a break. Yes, he also tries to take scary selfies when asked for a nice picture to put on our blog.
Mala Kumar: So Rajiv, how do you feel when you hear that over 2400 Pratham Books Champions are going to celebrate International Literacy Day, by conducting storytelling sessions around 'The Boy and the Drum', a book you illustrated?
Rajiv: It feels wonderful! In fact, the reason that I enjoy illustrating books for Pratham Books is your mission; the mission statement is so strong, who wouldn't be inspired!
M: Tell us a little about how you came to be an illustrator? Were you an artistic kid?
Rajiv: Well, yes, I have always liked to draw and colour. I think my mother Susan Eipe passed on some artistic genes too; she never made art her profession but she is very artistic, both in her work and her temperament. She encouraged me and my brother to make hand-made cards. By the time I finished school in Madras (now Chennai) and Bombay (now Mumbai) I was eagerly looking forward to stop studying and getting full-time into art. But I had to put in two more years of studies before joining J J School of Arts. And then I spent another two years studying animation at National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad. Now I work as an animator, and when I need a break, I illustrate books for children. These are the most enjoyable breaks!
M: Even when you have editors breathing down your neck and giving you impossible deadlines?
Rajiv: Oh, I really enjoy illustrating books for children. And my editors have all been good. I think I've illustrated eight picture books. Working on the three books for Pratham Books was absolutely fun.
(M: No, I did not have to arm-twist him into saying this!)
M: Animation is tough work, isn't it? Most kids who dream about becoming animation artists run away once they see that it involves so much work, and so much repetition. What keeps you going?
Rajiv: Animation is like magic! I thought it was magic when I first knew it, and it continues to be magic for me. I can't get over the magic of still images giving the impression of motion – the illusion of movement, just love it!
M: So if your work is magic, you're the guy with the magic wand! You've worked for MTV and cartoon channels. How different is that work?
Rajiv: Actually, I worked for MTV for a year, and I think I was the calmest and most reasonably-dressed guy there :) The work was extremely challenging, and we pushed ourselves to give something new every time! MTV uses animation mostly to package new shows, and it was very exciting to work on these ads. While the pace was killing, I realize when I look back that that period was the best for my portfolio.
M: Your wife Archana is an illustrator too. How is it to have an in-house... competitor? Critic? Co-worker? Collaborator?
Rajiv: Ah! We're totally different when it comes to our working styles. Archana is a perfectionist, and I feel she is very hard on herself. She is a very objective critic. So it is good to have her opinion on my work. She is extremely meticulous. We haven't done much collaborative work.
When there is a shortage of time, I use technology whenever necessary for colouring images. Yes, I do find it more romantic to illustrate by hand, but technology has many uses too. Finally, we illustrate only to make the story come alive for the child. Illustrator tools on the computer do tend to make one less careful, but they also free you up to try new, broad, bold strokes, so to speak.
M: You were one of our Illustrator Gurus for the #6FrameStoryChallenge. What did you think of the contest?
Rajiv: I'm so glad I got to do this! It was wonderful to see the work of so many illustrators, and also to see my illustrations come to life in a published book! (Singing in the Rain) I am really impressed with the whole CC-BY philosophy. Not many people put out their work under the Creative Commons licenses, and I think it is a truly exciting phenomenon.
M: Ahem...what are you going to be doing on September 5, 2015?
Rajiv: I'm going to bring a rattle! And make a lot of noise with Umesh, at the One Day, One Story event at Rangoli! Hope you'll get me some pakodas and coffee!
M: Yes, yes, of course, Boy-with-the-magic-wand!Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.