How do illustrators train? What happens during the course of a contact week at the Riyaaz Academy for Illustrators? This photo essay takes a sneak peek into the various aspects of the course.
Students of the pilot batch of Riyaaz Academy for Illustrators explore different forms of illustrations during a contact session. The one-year certificate course was launched by Parag in partnership with Eklavya, Bhopal and illustrator Atanu Roy in 2015. Children learn to read pictures much before they learn to read text. Therefore, richly illustrated picture books play an important role in engaging children in the process of reading. The course aims to refine the perception, professional skills and intellect of students and young professionals interested in illustration, especially picture book illustration.
A student immersed in illustrating a text assigned to her. The dual mode program has eight days of contact sessions every month and home assignments. The contact sessions are rigorous and long. Students are encouraged to read the text, visualise and conceptualise illustrations that reflect the different layers of the text, bring out the background of various characters, add richness and detail that moves the story forward, fight stereotypes and be socially inclusive in their approach. There is focus on the discourse around children’s literature, reflecting multiple perspectives, balance of theory and practice and engagement with the industry.
Snigdha Banerjee, a student of the first batch, practices sketching on a girl during one of the field trips that Riyaaz provides for the students. It is immersive experiences such as these that motivated Snigdha to join Riyaaz. “Riyaaz provides an immersive experience for art students to closely understand and internalize the approach to quality illustrations,” says Snigdha, who has completed a program at National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. “The sketching trips push you to observe life around you and use those observations and experiences when you are illustrating. These are also forums for discussion, critiquing and growing collaboratively,” she says.
Faculty Atanu Roy demonstrates to a student. The faculty of Riyaaz comprises experienced illustrators who are open, approachable and hands on. According to students, one of the key strengths of the course is its faculty. Over the course of a year students get the opportunity to listen to different guest faculty from various fields including photography, theatre, dance, music and sculpture thus enriching student perspectives. Contact sessions are also hosted by other institutions such as NCERT, New Delhi where students attend workshops and do professional work for NCERT.
Two of the illustrations that students completed during a workshop at NCERT for a collection of poems that is under production. Since the very first contact session, students are encouraged to work on professional assignments. All students of Riyaaz have completed professional assignments for children’s magazines such as Chakmak, Pluto and Firki and also published books for Pratham Books, Room to Read, Agha Khan Foundation and others. Working on professional assignments enables young illustrators to understand the requirements of the publisher, work through an iterative process and deliver under tight deadlines, thus giving them an experience of the professional environment. Riyaaz hopes to add a new breed of illustrators to the Indian children’s literature sector that are able to engage children through their work, trigger their creativity, reflect and push beyond definitions of children’s literature.