Freelance illustrator and cartoonist Mounica Tata enjoys creating illustrations that make people think
What took you from a commerce degree to a career in illustration?
I am a commerce graduate who went on to do a Master’s in Mass Communication. I’ve always enjoyed drawing and telling stories. Making comics looked like the perfect marriage between the two! A self-taught artist, I didn’t take any professional training in the field of art. I used my curiosity and passion to learn the ropes of the trade.
Describe your style.
I work primarily on digital art. My style is ever changing, ever evolving. I try and draw from memory and I usually go for ‘rounder’ styles. I am also fascinated by black and white and monochromes so I try and experiment a lot. I like keeping it simple and easy to consume.
What is your approach to storytelling?
All my stories come from everyday life drama. A lot of them stem from my own personal experiences. My work is essentially my observation on society and culture. I like consuming and creating pieces that prod people to think and introspect. I pick issues or topics that are relatable and familiar to all but are just never spoken of. I then try to break this down, understand my perspective on it, and then view it from a more holistic perspective.
Why did you quit a day job to become a freelance illustrator?
After my post-graduation I worked for three years in three different jobs – as an editor for a college magazine, a client executive, and content writer for social media marketing firms. During that time I was putting out illustration work online as a hobby and started receiving a lot of small projects (like wedding invites, customized personal commissions, etc). I realized that if I don’t give it a shot, I’ll never know. It wasn’t an overnight decision to quit and pursue dreams – nothing so dramatic. I thought over it, saved up, and made a plan. I started freelancing in 2016. I’m based in Bangalore and I’ve worked with brands like Intel, Netflix, Jockey, Himalaya, Nokia, and Dell.
Share your experience of working with brands.
Working with brands is fun yet challenging. It’s important to keep the brand guidelines, esthetics, brief and timelines in mind. Sometimes the creative freedom is limited and it becomes important to find a middle ground. A lot of agencies usually get in touch with freelancers; they act as the middle men. Keeping a clear communication helps. Working with brands and commissioned projects is a great way of learning and honing skills. Brand work also helps pay the bills!
Which projects did you really enjoy working on?
All the projects I’ve worked on till date are special in their own way, but I really enjoyed working on a card game for World Vision. I helped design an interactive card game aimed primarily at underprivileged kids, helping them to become more aware and empowering them with solutions to everyday problems like lack of toilets, child abuse, exam stress, sanitation and hygiene, etc. It was a challenge to convey such issues and provide solutions through visuals and make it interesting for the kids at the same time.
What challenges does freelancing bring?
Freelancing requires a lot of self motivation and discipline as you don’t have someone to report to or no one to hold you accountable. It can also get lonely and therefore you need to make sure you do what it takes for you to keep your sanity in check. Also, it involves donning many hats. I love drawing but there are days when I don’t get the time to draw at all because I am busy with meetings, calls, emails, drawing up drafts and invoices, doing events, or taxes etc. With time, I’ve learnt to focus and develop the entrepreneurial side of work. It’s important to find a balance between art for leisure/pleasure and for work. It’s also very important to switch off and know when to walk away from your work and take that break. Having a schedule helps. Pursuing other hobbies also works for me. And my dogs are the cherry on the cake!
How can social media influence women’s empowerment in India today?
Social media is a blessing in that sense. I witness so many women consuming the kind of content they resonate with, finding their representation online (this is not true for women alone but everyone on the gender spectrum). A lot of these accounts have become our ‘safe spaces’ to vent, to come out and share our stories. I feel like when we find our community, however small or big that might be, it gives us a sense of ‘we are not alone’. Whether it’s fighting body issues, mental health, or abuse, social media is definitely helping to start a dialogue, give space to the marginalized, break taboos, and in turn change or shift perspectives.
What’s coming up next?
I am working on a comic book with a fellow illustrator and friend, Sonaksha. I am also self-publishing a children’s book that I have written and illustrated. I am looking forward to working on more books and zines…telling more stories through different mediums!
This article was originally published in POOL 104.
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