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Illustrator Interview: Poonam Mistry

We’re back with another interview, and this time it’s the brilliant illustrator, Poonam Mistry.

Poonam is a freelance illustrator living in the UK. She graduated in 2010 with a degree in Graphic Design and Illustration at the University of Hertfordshire.

Her style incorporates her love of nature and her Indian roots and explores the relationships between pattern, shapes and colour. Poonam’s upbringing and childhood have heavily influenced her work, in particular being surrounded by Indian fabrics, paintings and ornaments. She loves folklore tales and stories of Hindu Gods and Goddesses and these have been a rich source of inspiration in a number of her illustrations. Poonam creates her beautifully intricate images by hand using fine liners and then digitally alters them.

Poonam has illustrated three stunning picture books to date, authored by Chitra Soundar: You’re Safe With MeYou’re Snug With Me and You’re Strong With Me. She has one sole-authored picture book, How The Stars Came To Be, which was published in October this year, and features Poonam’s distinctive designs.

Poonam’s first picture book, You’re Safe With Me, was shortlisted for the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal at the CILIP Carnegie Awards this year, and earlier this month, it was announced that Poonam’s second picture book in the series, You’re Snug With Me, is up for the 2020 prize! Longlists are announced on 20th February and we have everything crossed.

What inspired you to illustrate?

I have always loved drawing. At first I thought about becoming a graphic designer. At the time there was a big shift into digital art and I was encouraged to “go with the trend”. At college, I wasn’t sure if this was really what I wanted to do because I loved working by hand and was interested in traditional art so I undertook an art and design foundation course just to have some time to figure out what was right for me.

During the course, a few friends and I went to visit an exhibition where they were showcasing the work of contemporary illustrators. Many of these still worked by hand or were print makers. I loved the work so much that after some research, I knew this was what I wanted to do. After studying my degree in illustration, and a few years of working in advertising and editorial design, I began illustrating children’s books and I love it!

What’s your favourite picture book?

It would have to be Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back. It’s really funny and I love the style of illustration in the book.

Where do most of your good ideas come from?

I love folklore tales and fairy tales so I guess my ideas come from these really. Indian stories and those featuring Hindu gods and goddesses heavily inspired my earlier work.

Where do you work?

At the moment I have a desk in my spare room where I do my creative work. It’s here that I also do paintings and prints.

What is your creative process?

After sketching ideas roughly with pencil, I usually draw these out on thicker paper with ink and fine liners around 1/3 larger than the final artwork. I scan these in and adjust the colours, as well as adding extra layers of patterns to complete it using PhotoShop. Often I have swatches of colours that I think work well together and I dip into these where I think they would work well in the artwork.

Where did you draw inspiration from for the art in How The Stars Came to Be?

I used the patterns I consistently use in my illustrations for the artwork for this book. Most of these are inspired by Indian folk art (in particular Madhubani art and Kalamkari textiles) as well as African patterns and Aboriginal art.

How do you relax after a day of creativity?

I like to watch films and go out for meals with my friends. It’s nice to spend time with people after being in front of a computer on your own for several hours!