These Indian children’s book illustrators are some of the best in the field. If you appreciate and observe illustrations now and then, while reading books, then you know that illustrations tell a story. Read further to know more details.
Benefits of Illustrations in children’s books
Illustrations do not just beautify books, they have several details and each detail conveys something. Picture book illustrations are great tools to convey stories and build connections with literacy. Young children just beginning to discover the world around them, are highly intrigued by illustrations.
If you let them, children will spend quiet time observing illustrations minutely. They pick up details of the text by looking at the visuals. This way they learn a lot about various concepts, people, livings beings, emotions, and lifestyles. They get a context for much of the learning they do.
Picture talk between parent/teacher and the child helps develop listening skills, communication, visual thinking and facilitates engagement with literacy.
Illustrations break the monotony of text, have an emotional impact, add humour in books and motivate the readers to continue reading. Images are an extension of the author’s narrative and are an excellent medium for storytelling. People of all age groups have a pleasant reading experience when a book has illustrations or images.
Contemporary Indian Illustrators of Children’s books
Drawing illustrations manually or digitally is an artistic skill. Illustrations are required for storytelling in fiction and in non-fiction too because every communication is essentially storytelling. New-age book illustrators in India are doing great work in children’s books.
1) Suddhasattwa Basu
Illustrator/author Suddhasattwa Basu has illustrated for “Target” children’s magazine, National Book Trust titles, several children’s books and an animated series for television as well. Most of his illustrations are watercolour paintings that catch the nuances of the subject in various shades and characters.
56 children’s books are adorned with Suddhasattwa Basu’s beautiful illustrations. He was born in 1956 in present-day Bangladesh. Later he shifted, along with his mother, to Chandannagar in West Bengal. Chandannagar was a French colony so art was part of the local culture.
His mother was artistic too and Suddhasattwa picked up interest in arts from her. Additionally, in Chandannagar, he joined Sunday drawing classes. Moving on to Fine Arts, he learnt to paint and sketch at the Government Art College in Kolkata.
Books written and illustrated by Suddhasatwa Basu
- The Song Of The Scarecrow
- Whatever You Give
- Ravan Remedy
Illustrated by Suddhasattwa Basu
and many other books.
- Chitra Katha Award in 2003 for his book “The Song of a Scarecrow”
- Lifetime Achievement for illustrations in children’s books by Association of Writers and Illustrators for children (AWIC) in 2009. This award was presented to him by former President of India Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
- Special Mention in Biennale of Illustrations of Slovak Republic recognised by UNESCO.
2) Priya Kurian
One of the leading contemporary children’s book illustrators of India in the 21st century, Priya Kurian has also written stories for children.Priya Kurian was born in Kochi in 1981, she studied design at NID, Ahmedabad.
Also read: Best picture books for reading aloud to kids.
Now based in Bengaluru, she has illustrated comic books, picture books, chapter books, animation and collaborates with authors on multiple projects. Kurian’s illustrations are funny yet quirky even as she depicts the personality of the characters. Her illustrations are completely in sync with the drama and dilemma of the characters in the story.
Priya Kurian won the Big Little Book Award 2019 for her illustrations in children’s books even as the jury appreciated Priya’s rare ability to get inside a child’s mind.
Her illustrations have an immersive depth and personality so you could spend time observing various nuances in the illustrations. Priya has illustrated extensively in the picture book genre and worked with the leading publishers of children’s books in India.
Books written and illustrated by Priya Kurian
And several other books.
3) Lavanya Kartik
She is one of the leading and favourite children’s book illustrators, Lavanya Kartik’s work is enjoyed and gleefully observed by juvenile readers. Based in Mumbai, Lavanya Kartik is multi-talented as she writes poems and fiction books while making illustrations too.
Lavanya Kartik’s illustrations are fun, humorous and hold your attention. If you observe her illustration some time longer, your mood is sure to be uplifted with amusement. So the next time you get your hands on a picture book or a chapter book, you might check the illustrator of the book.
If it’s a Lavanya Kartik book, then I promise, you will be more excited to read the book.
Books illustrated by illustrator/author Lavanya Kartik
and many other titles.
Lavanya Kartik’s book “Ninja Nani” won the Peekabook Children’s Choice Award in 2019.
4) Rajiv Eipe
Illustrator Rajiv Eipe’s sketches have so much personality that they are an extension of the author’s narrative. His illustrations are quirky, addictive, detailed and fun. Any reluctant young reader just needs to get their hands on a book illustrated by Rajiv Eipe and I am sure the child will read that book joyfully.
Children’s books are meant to be well illustrated and a fun reading experience with a good message. Rajiv Eipe makes sure his illustration projects make the children’s books so much more appealing to young readers.Rajiv Eipe won the Big Little Book Award 2020. He also manages an animation studio in Bengaluru, named Plankton Collective, along with two other designer friends.
Books illustrated by Rajiv Eipe,
Ammachi’s Amazing Machines (free with Audible trial)
And many others.
5) Lavanya Naidu
This illustrator’s whose work has many layers, think of a 3-D picture. Lavanya Naidu has worked with top companies like Google, Amazon, WWF, Cartoon Network, Ted X, and many leading Indian publishers. She is an Indian but now living/working in Melbourne, Australia. Having studied at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, Lavanya’s illustrations and animation are captivating.
So you will find in them a bit of humour, depth, energy, movement, a range of human emotions, suspense, wonder, empathy and inspiration. If you observe Lavanya Naidu’s style of communication, they are illustrative stories and let you fire your creative imagination.
As a result, your mood gets uplifted as you feel amused and positive about living. All that children need are Lavanya Naidu’s illustrations and the author’s narrative to make them happy.
Books with Lavanya Naidu’s illustrations,
and many others.
6) Krishna Bala Shenoy
This talented, contemporary, young illustrator uses the digital medium for creating illustrations yet they are unbelievably lifelike and expressive. His work ranges from creating realistic portraits to wacky illustrations that convey the mood of the story.
He graduated from Shrishti School of Art and Design in Bangalore and tasted praise early in his career when his animation video tribute on director Steven Spielberg got him an appreciation email from the director’s assistant. Krishna Bala Shenoy’s Instagram page is wonderfully embellished with his artwork for his fans to appreciate.
Carousel images of his work in progress, give a glimpse into the process of his ongoing work.
Books illustrated by Krishna Bala Shenoy
and many others.
Indian Children’s Book Illustrators: A retrospective look
7) Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury: author-illustrator
The Indian illustrator/author was born in a remote village of present-day Bangladesh and lived in Kolkata, West Bengal between 1863 to 1915. Upendrakishor Ray Chowdhury was ahead of his time.
Born in British India, Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury had multiple interests like printing, publishing, writings stories, illustrating, playing music (violin and pakhawaj) and running business ventures. Popular Bengali children’s magazine, “Sandesh” was started by Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury. He wrote children’s stories in Bengali and drew illustrations for his storybooks while also publishing and printing books in his printing press.
Books illustrated by Upendrakishor Ray Chowdhury,
- Goopy Gayne Bagha Byne
- Tuntunir Boi
- Chheleder Ramayan
These were both written and illustrated by Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury. English translations of his iconic work are available for young readers. His son (children’s fiction author) Sukumar Ray and (filmmaker) grandson Satyajit Ray carried on the family tradition of writing and illustrating.
8) Satyajit Ray illustrator, author and film-maker
His famous persona needs no introduction, yet many outside West Bengal may not know that Satyajit Ray had a family-owned publishing house and printing press. The Ray family also published a children’s magazine named “Sandesh”. Satyajit Ray lived between 1921 to 1992.
“Pather Panchali”, the first Bengali movie directed by him brought home tremendous national and international recognition. His father Sukumar Ray and grandfather Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhuri were also authors and illustrators.
Most of us have known Satyajit Ray as a filmmaker, but did you know Satyajit Ray also authored books and drew about 1500 illustrations? Satyajit Ray had formal education in graphic designing at Tagore’s Shantiniketan, where he learnt to paint and sketch.
At the beginning of his career, Satyajit Ray worked as an art director and illustrator before he became a well-known filmmaker. Just as his on-screen characters depict depth and emotions, Satyajit Ray’s illustrations also reflect human feelings with ease. His illustrations adorn book jackets, logos, books, magazines, movie posters, and advertisements.
His artistic design bent of mind developed a signature style of calligraphy and even designed costumes for his characters. Satyajit Ray’s illustrations show his deep intuitive awareness of nature and human character.
Children’s fiction books with illustrations by Satyajit Ray
- The Book Mine: Tales Of Pagla Dashu
- The Magic Moonlight Flower
- Another Dozen Stories
9) Mickey Patel
A prominent illustrator of India, Mickey Patel (1941-1994) had illustrated many children’s books. His illustrations with dotted lines adorn many storybooks of “Children’s Book Trust” and “National Book Trust” of India. These illustrations are quirky, eclectic and unlike any other Indian illustrations seen in those times.
Mickey Patel was born in 1941 in Karachi before India’s partition. His first illustration got published at the young age of fourteen when he tried to earn some money as a teenager. Cartooning and illustrating for children’s books was his passion yet his full-time job was working in advertising companies like Lintas.
Illustrated books of Mickey Patel
- The Story Of A Panther
- Stories From Bapu’s Life
- The Story Of The Road
10) Vaddadi Papaiah
If you had ever read “Chandamama” while growing up, then chances are you were mesmerized by the illustrations done by Vaddadi Papaiah for the cover page of the children’s magazine.
Chandamama was a prominent children’s magazine from July 1947 to March 2013 and was widely read by children of the time. Though the magazine “Chandamama” is not published anymore, Vaddadi Papaiah’s work is legendary and immortal. He was inspired by Raja Ravi Verma’s style of painting.
Vaddadi Papaiah (VaPa) was born in Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh (1921-1992). His father was a drawing teacher and VaPa learnt to sketch and paint at a very young age. Most of his work was inspired and based on Indian Hindu mythology. VaPa’s illustrations were admired by a massive number of readers in their growing up years.
11) Jagdish Joshi
Illustrators like Jagdish Joshi are revered and remembered even today for their contribution to the world of children’s book illustrations.
He lived between 1937 to 2016. Having studied Fine Arts in Kolkata at the Indian College of Arts and Draftsmanship, Jagdish Joshi made illustrations for children’s picture books, short stories and novels. He was employed with “Children’s Book Trust”, “Hindustan Times” and after 1987 he worked as an independent illustrator.
Top publishers like Pratham Books and Rupa Publications have published titles with Jagdish Joshi’s expressive illustrations. His work was recognised when he got nominated for the “Hans Christian Anderson Award” in 1998 for his contribution to the world of children’s literature and illustrations.
Children’s books illustrated by Jagdish Joshi
- “The Ramayana In Pictures”, Publisher Rupa Publications. It’s a fully illustrated book with coloured watercolour paintings by Jagdish Joshi and minimal text by Maya Dalal.
- “Goloo The Circle”
K. Shankar Pillai
He was a cartoonist, qualified as a lawyer, yet eventually contributed a great deal to the world of children’s books and illustrations in India. K. Shankar Pillai (1902-1989) was a visionary who set up the Children’s Book Trust of India in 1957.
The Children’s Book Trust (CBT) began publishing a variety of fiction and non-fiction books for juvenile readers. This jumpstarted children’s book publishing in India, making available colourfully illustrated and thoughtfully published books for Indian juvenile readers at the time.
He also started the famous “Shankar’s Painting Competition” for children, “Children’s World” a children’s monthly magazine and Shankar’s International Dolls Museum. “Shankar’s Weekly” magazine Shankar Pillai started for grownups interested in political cartoons. However, he had to shut down this magazine during the time of Emergency in 1975.
He drew cartoons for the major dailies of the time though he did not specifically draw cartoons for children’s books. So whenever there is a reference to illustrators and children’s books in India, I remember K. Shankar Pillai’s contribution to the world of children’s books and illustrations, even though his cartoons were political. Shankar Pillai started the Association of Writers and Illustrators for Children (AWIC), India.
Other talented and popular Indian Children’s book illustrators
- Suvidha Mistry
- Ram Waeerkar (Tinkle)
- Dilip Kadam (Amar Chitra Katha)
- Vasant Halbe (Shikari Shambu)
- Ashok Rajagopalan (Gajapati Kulapati)
In this article, we have read about some of the prominent Indian illustrators, current and retrospective. In a children’s book, images are of paramount importance to visualize the author’s message. Illustrators are very thoughtful of this requirement.
For the surprise element, Illustrators use a variety of drawing styles for each project of illustrating a children’s book. Reading beautiful, illustrated children’s books is the birthright of every child.
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