Contemporary artists are taking roads less traveled to voice their opinion through their craft. They are addressing sensitive issues including, body image, mestruation awareness, feminism, among others, with their imagination and creativity. In the same light, shines the bright and prodigal star, Tanya Kotnala, a fashion designer who took to visual illustration to depict India in its glorious diversity. In an exclusive interview, Tanya takes us through her project Bhuli, exploring new mediums of art, and more. Edited excerpts…
How did you get started in art? What made you choose illustration as a career?
I was into drawing even before I knew it. As a child I used to draw letters to my grandparents, I just never stopped drawing even for a day ever since I can remember. By profession, I am a fashion designer, but I am truly an artist to the core and extremely passionate about illustrations, fashion, and textile.
Where do you seek creative inspiration from? Do you have a muse?
As a kid I was fortunate enough to travel a lot. Travelling gives me a lot of perspective; I love to maintain sketchbooks of all my explorations. I love to illustrate about people and diverse cultures. Other than that I’ve always found designing for a purpose immensely inspiring and motivating. I don’t think that I’ve ever had a muse, but maybe I never got to find it. I’ll keep searching.
How would you describe your style of visual art?
A few years back someone quoted my art style as “Tim Burton meets Madhubani”; I like that description a lot. Also, at the same time, I would love my style to evolve and keep growing. I don’t really want to give it a definition, just want to enjoy the process.
Who is your favourite artist? Do you have a mentor?
Mario Miranda and Edward Gorey are my absolute favourite artists. I am a self-learned artist when it comes to guidance; I just listen to my heart.
Sky is the limit, when it comes to an artist’s imagination. What was the thought behind the inception of the platform, Bhuli?
On returning to my hometown, Uttarakhand, I couldn’t help but notice the untapped rich art and craft and culture of the town. I thought it had a lot of potentials. Bhuli’s first illustration series gained a lot of traction online. It gave me a lot of clarity. From there on, behind every project, we have a deeply rooted social cause. After my cofounder and On returning to my hometown, Uttarakhand, I couldn’t help but notice the untapped rich art and craft and culture of the town. I thought it had a lot of potentials. Bhuli’s first illustration series gained a lot of traction online. It gave me a lot of clarity. From there on, behind every project, we have a deeply rooted social cause. After my cofounder and nutritionist, Tanya Singh joined; we became a platform for design and nutrition for social change.
The undying love for old customs and traditions is pretty much evident in your art. Tell us about your research process?
Our research processes are extremely tedious, because a lot of featured traditional knowledge is passed down through generations via verbal context. So, our research process involves a lot of book references and interviewing people. We try our best to keep the innocence of the subject intact while being highly innovative in the execution.
From depicting diverse culture, costumes, food recipes; your initiative is an ode to India. Please take us through your design process?
Post research, my work process starts with the collection of things related to the project, then there’s a brainstorming session about how I can combine two usual things to create something unusual or unique. Next is the art direction. For this, I tend to create a number of moods, style, and colour boards. The execution of both offline and online projects require a road map, marketing strategy, and a defined timeline for the distribution of the project-key to reach a wider audience.
Do you plan to explore new mediums for your art?
Yes, I absolutely love exploring different mediums. I am actually looking forward to working with illustrations and textiles now.
Tell us about the projects you have worked on besides your artworks?
Besides Bhuli, I work part-time with the Ministry of Textiles as an artisan trainer and designer. I recently contributed to documenting the textiles of the Tai Khamyang and Tai Turung community of weavers in Assam.
What are your views on contemporary artists and illustrators in India?
I think this is the age of artists. I love how contemporary Indian artists are using their art as a strong medium to voice their thoughts and opinions. From wildlife to body shaming to cultural diversity, artists are influencing and inspiring the mass (thanks to the internet) like never before.
What are you working on next?
I am in the process of planning and designing textile-based products for Bhuli. Other than that, there’s Bhuli’s limited edition calendar 2020 releasing soon.