An ardent people-observer, Taarika John finds inspirations and brings fascinating art from ordinary and mundane places. But, how does she do it?
Growing up, certain programs and processes have been pre-installed in our minds such as associating ‘art’ with pieces of work showcased in museums or galleries. Well, I think the greatest pleasure or witnessing the true elements of this abstract world is in all of the forms, narratives that we witness on a daily basis; things don’t always need to be extra complex or too functional to be considered a form of art. Stumbling upon the artworks of both Bombay and New York-based visual artist and illustrator – Taarika John makes you certain how alluring interpretations can be of one’s daily life and local culture. Being passionate about storytelling and depicting tales of people, she finds elements of interest in the ordinary and translating them into beautiful creatives.
A compulsive reader and lover of filter coffee, a reminiscent Taarika tells, “Growing up, I was always drawing, writing and making things – elaborate birthday cards for friends and family, portraits, short stories, illustrated books about anything and everything that interested me. But somehow, it never struck me that this was something I could pursue as a career.” Graduating as a Graphic Designer, she never stopped drawing and working as a freelance illustrator – advertising, digital media, and events. A design approach that has been personal and continually evolving, she describes herself as a fine observer of happenings around “I think I’ve always been a bit of a people-watcher. It allows me to feel like I’m getting a glimpse into their lives, I find it endlessly fascinating, and it makes me feel more connected to the world in a way. I’ve been journaling and recording my observations since I was a child, but as I started pursuing art more seriously, I’ve also become more disciplined with my process.”
She also carries a little notebook with her everywhere. “I have a tiny notebook that fits in my pocket, and I carry almost everywhere I go. It’s handy and allows me to quickly record things as I see them. On a rare occasion when I don’t have access to my tiny notebook, I resort to using the notes app on my phone.” Taarika added.
Processes & Behind The Scenes
Having lived in two of the busiest cities in the world, the lifestyle and city culture has been a deep impact on her and the work she creates. She loved every detail and moment spent in Bombay, that helped her to garner and develop diverse narratives and characters. She also added, “I love the fast pace of life, the diversity of people, the strange way they offer you both anonymity and community, the exhilarating feeling that anything is possible. What I love about both cities are the intensity and raw emotion, I feed off the city’s energy and find it incredibly inspiring.” Taarika started pursuing her MFA last year. Explaining her art as a very personal process, she loves to incorporate little details in her work that are inspired by things she likes or enjoys – a painting by a favourite artist on the wall or her favourite books on the shelves. She shares, “I think I have phases when it comes to colour palettes, and then use them in pretty much everything I’m making during that time.”
With the art that we are surrounded by, it keeps influencing us always, whether we realise it or not. The changing art around makes her curious, which defines her groundbreaking design language – detailed character narrations. Her best friend – her sketchbook contains her thoughts and observations, random folklores, description of things she has seen or experienced, almost pretty much everything. “My personal work originates from my sketchbooks. They start out as hasty drawings of people and places, transcripts of conversations overheard, or a story someone once told me. This habit of recording anything and everything has resulted in a continually growing database of inspiration for me to draw from.” Taarika adds.
Raw & Real Narratives
Taarika’s daily life themed illustrations derived from real-world observations has kept me at awe many times. It’s beautiful how she has carved the essence and beauty of earthlings around in fine illustrations. Her past collaborations include socially responsible projects that highlight the migrant crisis across the globe, uplifting the LGBTQ community – mostly that evokes needed conversations. She refers to the United Nations’ #StandUp4Migrants campaign for International Migrants Day, one of her most inspiring projects till date. They created a series of animated films, each one telling the personal migration story of different people from all over the world. “My work usually comes from a personal space, things I care about, interested in or thinking about, the experiences I’ve had or observed. So usually, when I create something inspired by a cause, community, or society, I have something to say about it, and drawing is the easiest way for me to communicate. And of course, I’m always happy to partner with organizations working towards causes that I believe in. I am both grateful and humbled to have the opportunity to bring their stories to life and attempt to do justice to them.”, says the talented artist.
A curiosity to get a peep in the dwellings of everyday lives, Taarika’s sketchbook is a place of character narration, representation and at times, a depiction of creative hardships. She opens up, “I spend a lot of time dwelling over my concepts and ideas, switching between self-praise and crippling self-doubt, studying references, making many notes and thumbnails sketches, and absolutely tormenting myself. Eventually, I make peace with myself and start working on the final piece, which is the most enjoyable and meditative part of the entire creative process for me.”
Pressed Passions in Pandemic:
Without even realizing it, we find ourselves immersed in the power of art most of the time. As we live through this pandemic and the various social, personal, cultural issues hovering in our lives, none can deny the creative fear, anxiety that comes with it uninvited. It has been hard for most of us, but extinguishing that creative fire in our belly is never the solution. Speaking of her creative block during these hard days, she shares, “Being quarantined for the last few months and moving out of our studio posed some immediate and undeniable challenges to my work process. We suddenly were confined to working out of our cramped bedroom spaces and lost easy access to things we usually take for granted, like printers, scanners, light-tables, and lab spaces. More than the logistical issues, which can be worked around to some extent with a little creativity, I find it increasingly difficult to stay focused and motivated. The pandemic has definitely brought on a bit of a creative slump, and to be honest, most days, I feel absolutely uninspired and devoid of any desire to create. But for every series of bad days, there are always subsequent good days. I find myself getting more used to the ‘new normal’ and recently have been able to draw inspiration directly from this quarantine experience.”
Taarika has been using this time to experiment and focus on her future works. Her upcoming projects include writing and illustrating a short novel that is scheduled to be completed by the fall. There are a couple of personal projects, the artist is working on – some short comics and zines; an editorial piece for NatGeo Traveller and an illustrated poster for Faraz Ansari’s new film Sheer Qorma.
Art is everywhere, influencing us on a daily basis, whether we realize it or not. The power to create something significant and remarkable is always a great learning experience and helps in one’s immense personal growth. Taarika concludes, “I believe that as long as the art is making us feel something, it’s playing a relevant role in our lives. I think the importance of art in our lives is undeniable. In these times of uncertainty and fear, we are all looking to literature and poetry, movies, art, and culture for solace, entertainment, and distraction.”