Illustrator Rajiv Eipe on the power of images

Illustrator Rajiv Eipe on the art of telling stories without words

Rajiv Eipe’s first illustrations were for Geeta Dharmarajan’s Dinosaur-Long-As-127-Kids (Katha, 2010) telling the story of a one-of-its-kind Dino that loved taking children for rides. Since then, the illustrator has been bringing different characters to life. This year’s winner of Big Little Book Award 2020 in the illustrators category, Rajiv dedicates his award “to all the wonderful illustrators doing amazing and inspiring work in children’s books in India”.

Rajiv Eipe  | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

He adds, “It is inspiring to see organisations recognising and shining a light on people working in the children’s literature space. There is so much work happening right now that it is good to see it being encouraged.” Besides illustrating, Rajiv also runs Plankton Collective, a small animation studio in Bengaluru, with two friends from his design school.

Edited excerpts from an interview:

Tell us about your passion for art.

I started drawing at an early age. I didn’t know that one could make a career out of drawing pictures for books at that stage. One could either be a fancy artist displaying paintings in galleries, or paint signboards and hoardings. I must have discovered book illustration around the time when I was in Art College (J J School of Art, Mumbai).

Tell us the process/research that you follow before illustrating a children’s book?

It begins with rough drawings and style options after having read the manuscript to get a sense of who the characters are, what the final page of the book might look like, whether the illustration style matches the tone of a story. After discussions with the art director and editor, a clear direction emerges. That helps to make rough thumbnail layouts of the entire book, and to have a glimpse of the story’s flow. Then, I create final illustrations. The average timeline for a picture book is usually three months.

Rajiv Eipe’s illustration in the book ‘Pishi and Me’ by Timira Gupta | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

What are the challenges when creating illustrations for a children’s book and a comic book/graphic novel?

The challenge is to make a career in illustration financially viable. In terms of the actual work, the main challenge is to make sure the illustrations serve the story. You need to be able to maintain some level of consistency throughout the illustrations of a longish book, and make sure the illustration adds something to the story, and is not just a repetition of the text.

What are the skills that budding illustrators have to develop to sustain in the field?

Besides good drawing and composition skills, it helps to have some amount of patience and empathy. Also, a love for books and storytelling, an eye for detail, and a willingness to accept criticism and accommodate different ideas and viewpoints.

Considering the importance of visual storytelling in children’s books, do you feel illustrators are not given due credit?

I haven’t personally experienced this. I have found, in the children’s publishing industry, that illustrators are valued and respected as much as authors. But in general, people working in children’s literature aren’t given enough credit and importance for the incredible work they do.

How did you spend time during the pandemic?

I was very fortunate to be able to work from home through the many months of lockdown. While it was a slightly tight fit, with two humans and four animals in a small flat, we managed quite well, dividing our time between household and professional work.

What do you look forward to in 2021?

Travelling, meeting friends and family and not having to explain that I’m smiling behind a mask. To do good, meaningful and creatively satisfying work. And to sit beside an ocean.

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