ISSN: 20520204
First published in 2014
2 issues per volume
Volume 4 Issue 2
Cover Date: November 2017
The art of being Indian
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Authors:  Anitha Balachandran 
DOI: 10.1386/jill.4.2.211_1

illustration,folk art,India,identity,collaboration,publishing

The arena of children’s publishing in India sees the convergence of at least two ‘traditions’ or streams of illustration art. The first is the product of artists and illustrators who emerge from urban art colleges with an appreciation of naturalistic drawing and realism. Historically, this tradition grew under colonial institutions with the advent of printing technologies and matured alongside the growth of literature for children. Translating itinerant conventions into the Indian subcontinent, illustration for children continues to be significantly inspired by European and American influences. More recently, children’s illustration in India has seen the migration of a number of folk art styles from often rural and ritual settings to the pages of picturebooks. Distinct from the urban illustrator, the creators of these artworks are schooled in a formal aestheticism that remains largely independent of realist conventions. These indigenous styles of representation now occupy a distinct space in the postcolonial field of children’s publishing as more folk artists turn illustrators. As a practitioner with formal art college training, I begin with a brief description of my background as an illustrator and an introduction to children’s publishing in India from this perspective. I then turn to vernacular idioms and trace historical currents that contextualize a transformation of these practices from collective ritual arts to vehicles of individual self-expression. Finally, I explore the emergence of a few practitioners in children’s publishing, and examine books and works of folk art illustration. My article sets out to explore the following questions: how are these image-making practices seen and read by audiences? As bearers of indigenous ways of depicting and seeing their worlds, do folk artists somehow represent a more authentically ‘Indian’ voice? And what of the interaction between these two currents of illustration in India? What dialogues and hybrid practices lie ahead?
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