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Portraying ‘slice of life’ through illustrations

Post by on Sunday, April 24, 2022

First slide

A woman draping a headscarf, holding a cup of nun-chai and listening to radio while resting near the window-the illustration portrays the scene of a Kashmiri household and the mood of an illustrator.

Depicting stories through comics and doodles, Ghazal Qadri is a Kashmiri illustrator whose vibrant and intricately designed illustrations have caught the eyes of many.  

From daily drama to unexpected events, not only she entertains but also enlightens through her creative content.

With the name Alif, she handles her Instagram page and her feed welcomes you to the Kashmiri culture and language. She celebrates everyday life, spotlights relatable issues and situations through her artsy work in a funny way.

Getting more creative with every stroke, her work involves placing her doodles in front of real-life background, making it livelier.

Ghazal has been portraying what she calls ‘slices of life’ through the illustrations, comics, doodles and stickers. On the suggestions of her well-wishers, she has recently launched her online store selling her merchandise with a Kashmiri twist. The collection has enamel pins, coffee mugs, postcards, bookmarks and the Kashmiri stickers on sale.

Offering a variety of motley products with catchy Kashmiri phrases like Gul Kaak Bookmark, Shoede Bookmark, Pyaale Toath, Jahan Deed Postcard etc., her collection is what everyone would find adorable.  

Ghazal had interest in drawing cartoons right from her school days. Due to the limited career options available for art enthusiasts in Kashmir, she with the baggage of passion, had to move outside to pursue her studies. 

After finishing her high schoolingin Kashmir, she went to Jaipur to pursue her higher secondary studies.In 2013, she joined Bachelor of Design in Fashion and Lifestyle Accessories Design from NIFT, Hyderabad and then worked at a design studio as illustrator for a few years. In 2020, she graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art with a Master’s degree in Illustration. Since then, she has been working as an independent illustrator represented by Pippins Properties Limited, a literary agency based in New York.

“The agency looks after my interests by promoting my portfolio of illustration work for comics, graphic novels, and children’s picture books to potential clients across the world,” she said.

She is already working on a picture book project on the request of the literary agency with a leading publisher and also independently handles her creative work including picture books, graphic novels, book illustration, editorial illustration, greeting cards, logos etc.

Some of the projects that she has successfully completed include the illustration work for Aditi Rao's Noon chai and a story - a picture book published by Tulika publications, India, Allie the Albino Squirrel by Emily McCoy published by Atmosphere publishers USA and Mascot design for Khyber Milk.

She has also made playful characters and illustrations for Writer-blogger Onaiza Drabu’s book for children OkusBokus. The book introduces Kashmiri lifestyle and culture to children through English alphabets.

Talking about the book, she said, “I was lured by the initiative aimed at promoting the Kashmiri culture and language; the first of its kind. I was ecstatic to illustrate the book. Okus Bokus was my first illustrated picture book.”

The same year she got a chance to participate in the collaborative illustration work for the calendar that celebrated the successful, yet forgotten, women of Kashmir. The calendar was a great success and received widespread appreciation.

For WhatsApp, one of the popular social networking applications, Ghazal also designed stickers with typical vernacular words and phrases.

The stickers/emojis consist of Kashmiri characters wearing traditional attires with the catchy proverbs and expressions.

“Whatsapp launched sticker sending/sharing features on phones. It was a God sent opportunity. I tailored Kashmir phrases to my illustrations in png/jpg format. The emojis are currently used by more than 2, 00,000 users. It is really overwhelming. I never thought anything like this would happen,” she said.

She also works as an Illustrator for Champak magazine and an online portal called Go Comics.She is also going to work with UNICEF on a comic series about female education in Kashmir, besides a story with Pratham books about the Spring Season in Kashmir.

A picture book project that she did with Funkaar International is also going to be out soon.She is currently working on two more picture books with two different US publishers and an Indian publisher.

“I am really excited about the ongoing projects. I am currently working on a children’s picture book that is my own story. I am really excited because it’s all about Kashmir,” she said.

Currently she is focused on building her brand in the form of her merchandise as well as collaborating with authors and working on her own stories for children’s books.  

Taking inspiration from everything and everyone she sees around, she tries to portray things that sometimes go unnoticed.

“My work depicts mainly my experiences in Kashmir besides other general observations in my life. I am happy that people like to engage in my simple slices of life,” she said.

Some of her favourite illustrators are Huda F, Gemma Corel, Alicia Souza, Mike Lowery, Priya Kurian, Oliver Jeffer, Jean Jullian and many many more.

“I think people are able to relate to some of my works and it cheers them up. I often get messages about how some of my artworks touches them emotionally,” she said.

While blessing the Instagram feed of the users, nowadays for artists, doodling has become a way of expressing their thoughts and creativity. 

She said, “I think the mundane incidents drawn therein strike a chord with social media users. Comics are attractive, funny, and engaging. As already said, I think people are able to relate to some of these works and it cheers them up.”

However, she believes that the opportunities for artists in Kashmir are still less as compared to the other parts of the world.

“Kashmiri artist fraternity has become huge and is highly talented, growing day by day. Though opportunities are less, artists these days have carved out their niche to showcase their work. Social media no doubt plays a key role.”

She feels that artists should be open to more collaborations and showcasing their work online. “That would be the easiest and best solution for artists to get noticed and be approached by different types of clients with opportunities,” she added.

Enjoying full support from her parents in choosing art as her career, she said, “I strongly believe that this is not possible without the constant support and encouragement of one’s family members or mentors.”

She further said that some children still face resentment from the side of their parents in choosing art as a career.

Asking about her future plans, she said, “I am not a planner but I am always really keen to illustrate and write books for children.”

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