"Art and Illustration Are Not Valued Much in Our Country" - Sefi George

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1. Tell us more about your background and journey.

I have always been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. My academic background is in Anthropology and sociology, I have an MA (Hons) in sociology, and I teach these subjects at a design school. While I loved my subject, I always found a way to connect it with art and illustration. 

Many of my assignments were submitted as comics instead of essays. After a year of teaching in colleges, I wanted to get out of that grind and do something more creative. So I joined a part-time course in Illustration, and I'm working on my own picturebooks right now.

2. When did you decide you wanted to be a painter/illustrator?

I always wanted to have an artistic career, but I wasn't (and still am not) too sure if it's financially sustainable. But after experiencing the excruciatingly tiring and competitive field of academics, I'd prefer having a career that makes me happy instead of rich!

3. Is it a financially stable career?

Hopefully, in future it will be! As of now, it's difficult to sustain just as an illustrator, because art and illustration are not valued much in our country. It's seen as a 'hobby' that doesn't require much payment. Illustrators, especially the younger ones, are often made to sell their work for 'exposure', which ultimately is bad for the entire industry.

4. Who is your favourite illustrator and why?

My favourite illustrators are Priya Kuriyan, Allen Shaw, Taposhi Ghoshal, Gaia Bordiccia, and Lorna Scobie. I wouldn't like to choose just one of them, because they all have inspired my work in different ways.

Some of them have taught me at the illustration course, while the others have taught me through their online posts and their books. I really like the imaginative style they have in their artwork, and the elements they add to it that makes it their own unique style.

5. Where do you get inspired to create art?

I maintain a sketchbook, where I doodle, paint, sketch, and even stick, anything that inspires me. The best way to get inspiration is to learn to observe. Think of the world in terms of composition, colours, perspective, and storytelling, and you'll have an endless array of inspiration!

6. What does your typical day look like?

I don't think there's a 'typical' schedule in any creative career. That's the beauty of it. Some days it's fixed with deadlines and projects to do, while on some days you're free to explore your own thing. I'm much more productive in the morning than at night, so I try to wake up early to make the most of it. 

Since I also teach part time in a design school, I have to take lectures occasionally, and there's a different schedule for those days. Everyday, I make it a habit to paint or sketch atleast for a few minutes, so that I don't get out of sync!

7. What piece of advice would you like to give to future aspiring illustrators?

It's very, very, very useful to have a critique group. Find a bunch of like-minded friends, who are interested in illustration and are willing to share their honest opinions. A friend/family member who keeps praising your work will not help you progress at all!

Instead, a peer group where you can share your work and have it analysed, will not only give you a better perspective into your artwork, but will also be a social group in a largely isolated freelance career.

8. Which is your favourite book and why?

If I had to choose one book, it would be the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. Not only was it delightfully humorous and entertaining, but it was also very thought-provoking too. It questions a lot of social constructs that humans have taken for granted and gives us a great insight into lateral thinking. It really helped me look at the world in a different way.

Interview by - Suhani Mangleek

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