Thanks to technology, one can find artwork that highlights socio-political issues, cartoons that bring forth joys of daily life, drawings and sketches that humorously critique pop culture elements – something for everybody, including those artistically uninitiated, at one’s fingertips.
Amongst the clique of artists who are voicing their thoughts on social media through illustrations and doodles, and showing how art can be a serious career, are a few amazing women.
From doodling to illustrating social issues
Mounica Tata of @doodleodrama fame did not have the slightest inkling that a career in illustration would become her calling. But when classroom doodles slowly turned into comic strips, the artist in Mounica started getting recognised at college. She recalls, “In 2015, I started sharing my art on social media and people started reaching out to me for personal projects like wedding invitations, posters, and the likes. The big break came when a startup in Bangalore asked me to design social media posts for them.”
As her artworks continued to attract praise, Mounica (31) quit her job and became a freelancer.
Mounica’s artwork includes snippets from her daily life and encompasses issues like mental health, menstruation taboos, and the toxicity of patriarchal beliefs.
She says, “I am very organic and impulsive with my art. It could be a story from my childhood, or it could be something that riles me up, like patriarchy and our understanding of feminism. Whatever evokes my emotions, I immediately want to put it on paper and talk about it. I recently made a comic on a bunch of rats walking under the hot sun to draw a parallel with the incident where a group of migrants were sprayed with disinfectants in UP.”
Mounica has also encountered her fair share of cyber hatred. “I had once put up a post on marital rape. I received a barrage of threats and abuses that were so brutal that I actually considered taking it down,” she recounts.
Despite the vilification, Mounica has never shied away from expressing her political opinions; and that has come at a price. She says, “A few days ago, I lost a project because of my political views. I was in the final stage of negotiating with a brand when I got a mail stating that while they respect me as an individual, they would not want to engage with me as a brand.”
‘You cannot let them win’
Tanika Godbole of @missfitcomics agrees that cyber hatred is a weapon for bullies to silence those who have a voice, especially women.
Tanika says, “You cannot let them win. I have been trolled viciously for my opinions and it is scary; but no one has ever said that I am not funny so I take that as a compliment.”
Tanika, 30, is a journalist by profession and had started her Instagram page as a means to get rid of the bad aftertaste of a failed relationship. She says, “The humour quotient was never lacking in me; but when I would try to make jokes in person, it wouldn’t be as impactful as a comic on the same joke. I had reached a stage where I was done with people not taking me seriously. This was my way of making people think and laugh, without even having to be in the same room as them and without filters or self-editing.”
With a follower count of nearly 11,000 on Instagram, Tanika’s comic strips include satirical takes on issues of gender, mental health, and politics. She adds that although she has been able to monetise the page, she has only done projects she personally believes in.
“Since the comic is a hobby for me, I have the freedom to pick and choose whatever works for me. I don’t care if people like it. I just want to keep doing it because it makes me happy.”
The popularity of ‘irrelevant art’
When Anusha Raichur of @nushaxxillustrates decided to take a short break from her career, it led to a rekindling of her love for art.
After a year at CNBC as a journalist, she quit and moved back home to Bangalore as she had been away from home for six years.
“I started drawing and painting to unwind and I was also posting my artwork on my private account on Instagram. Upon my brother’s insistence, I learnt Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator,” Anusha tells MAKERS India.
Little did Anusha know that her hobby project would pave a new path for her. She narrates, “I have done a series of artworks on the LGBT community. I am a bisexual and at that time, I hadn’t really come out and I was having a hard time accepting my own sexuality. The series was like a litmus test for me to see how people, including my closest friends, responded to the subject of queer rights. The series went viral and the response was overwhelming.”
She goes on to add, “I sketch the most random things – things that I saw during sex or a small sketch on masturbation. There are a lot of artists who create art on relevant issues, I make a lot of art on irrelevant issues and people appreciate that.”
Anusha now works at Dream A Dream as a graphic designer-illustrator. The organisation helps underprivileged children from vulnerable backgrounds deal with adversity through creative arts and football.
When high fashion sketches meet humour
Fashion designer-turned-illustrator, Srishti Gupta Roy (28) of @srillustrator sketches out typical millennial problems and adulting struggles. She says, “I am a fairly privileged millennial girl who had liberal parents and grew up in a metro city. My artwork takes potshots at typical first world problems like your house help playing truant or learning how to cook, and I have no qualms about it. There should be an outlet to rant exclusively about first-world problems.”
According to Srishti, her 15,000 followers on social media can relate to her art because they have lived that life. “About 76 percent of my audience comprises women from cities like Delhi, Bengaluru, and Mumbai,” she adds.
Srishti has carved a niche for herself by pioneering ‘high fashion memes.’ She explains, “I studied fashion illustration at NIFT and developed a liking for it. It involves making stylised sketches of models with long torsos and legs to conceptualise garment designs. I felt that it would be cool to combine high fashion sketches with humour and make meme-style artworks.”
Notably, one of her illustrations focuses on the hassles of paying monthly bills - titled ‘Ae Bill Hai Mushkil.’
As she started getting a steady flow of freelance assignments, Srishti quit her job last year. “I am still trying to find my footing so that I can have regular clients. The ongoing pandemic has made things tough – it is difficult to get clients and opportunities are drying up,” she tells MAKERS India.
While workflow continues to be a pain point, Srishti calls herself lucky for having been spared of the perils of cyber-bullying. She says, “Since I haven’t done much of political art, I am yet to experience trolling online. As I am growing older, I am becoming more politically aware. I feel that I can take a stand on certain issues when I am more informed, and maybe I will start doing political posts in a year or two.”
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta and Athira Nair)