Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 7, 2021

Illustrator Saturday – Chaaya Prabhat

Chaaya Prabhat is a graphic designer, illustrator and lettering artist. After completing her M.A in Graphic Design from Savannah College of Art and Design, she is now working independently in Chennai, India. She has worked with several clients such as Snapchat, Facebook, Google and The Obama Foundation. She has previously received awards for her portfolio and projects from Behance and Adobe.

CHAAYA’S PROCESS:

I’ve chosen to show my process for the children’s book anthology covers I worked on for Hachette India.

Step 1: (100_Greatest_Childrens_Books_Young_Children_v2.png) (50_Greatest_Childrens_Books_Older_Children_Sketch_1.png) These are the rough sketches that I submitted to the art director/editor based on the brief that I was given. The idea was to show snippets of different stories from this book anthology on the cover. Prior to this, I usually do sketch out little thumbnails on my sketchbook as well, but I don’t have pictures of those – they’re quite unintelligible to anyone other than me in any case! The ones here are the more “refined” sketches.

Step 2: (100_Greatest_Childrens_Books_Young_Children_Colour_Schemes.png) I usually work on several colour roughs for a book cover before funnelling them down to few I like, and I submit those to the art director/editor for them to pick. In this case, they went with the one on the bottom right.

Step 3: (100_Greatest_Stories_Young_Children.png) (50_Greatest_Stories_Older_Children.png) This is where I would refine the illustration for the front cover in final art form. There are usually some minor changes made to the art after this as well, but at this point it’s close to the final art on the cover.

Step 4: I would then create the spine and back cover for the book based on the art on the front cover – using bits of the elements from the front to decorate the back and the spine. I especially loved the amount of space I had for the spines of these covers, it gave me a lot of room to experiment!

Below is the final cover wrap for the book, following which it’s sent to the printers.

HERE IS MY INTERVIEW WITH CHAAYA:

How long have you been illustrating?

I have been drawing for as long as I can remember – since I was a child, it was one of the only things that I was interested in. I’ve been illustrating professionally since 2017, so about 4 years now!

What and when was the first piece of art you created for money?

There was a set of children’s English learning books that my sister and I illustrated together a very long time ago in 2011 – these were simple, black and white illustrations that were used to aid the stories and exercises in the books. These illustrations were probably the first “commissioned” pieces I worked on.

Where you born in India?

I was born in Chennai in the state of Tamil Nadu in India.

How did you decide to attend Savannah College of Art to study graphic design?

I’d decided to apply to a bunch of colleges for design and illustration programs in 2013 – of these, SCAD looked exciting to me particularly because they had multiple campuses in cities around the world, and also because they offered a good design programme.

Did SCAD offer any children’s illustration classes and did you take any?

Although I did my degree on Graphic Design in SCAD, I was lucky enough to have mentors who recognized that my work would suit children’s illustration and who pushed me in that direction. So even though our projects were design projects, I was allowed to interpret and take the briefs we were given in the direction of children’s illustration.

Was it always your plan to move to India after graduating?

I don’t think I had a “plan” at all when I graduated – I was lucky enough to get a job in Hong Kong, and I stuck with it for a year – and although it was a lot of fun and living in Hong Kong was excit-ing, within a year I felt that I could try to work independently. It made more sense to start my free-lance career in India, without visa restrictions.

Did do graphic design work while attending SCAD?

Most of the work I did at SCAD was graphic design work, but I took my projects in a heavily illus-tration-oriented direction. 8. What did you do for the Obama Foundation? Here is a link to an article that mentions all the work I did for the Obama Foundation:

https://www.obama.org/chaaya-prabhat/ (Kathy: I am bound by NDA for the Obama Foundation project and I’m not allowed to talk about it in any way other than linking the article from their official website – just their rules!)

How did they discover your work?

(Same as above – link to the article)

Did you spend any time in the United States after graduating and moving to India?

I did spend a quarter in SCAD Atlanta in 2015 before coming back to Hong Kong to graduate.

Do you feel SCAD helped you develop your style?

Certainly – I hadn’t developed a “style” before joining SCAD, and the sheer number of projects I worked on while at SCAD forced me to develop a style in a natural way.

What sparked your interest in illustrating children’s books?

I’ve always found books for children very fascinating – they are a lot more challenging and reward-ing when compared to books of adults.

Was What Are These For? published in 2014 your first published book?

What Are These For? was one of the first children’s books I ever worked on, for Pratham Books in India. My style of illustration has come a long way since – my work looked quite different back then, but it was still a great experience working on it.

How did you get the contract to illustrate Bracelets for Bina’s Brothers that came out a few months ago from Charlesbridge books?

Christy Ewers brought me my first major US-based children’s book project which was Bracelets for Bina’s Brothers from Charlesbridge Publishing.

How did you and Christy at The Cat Agency connect?

When I started freelancing, I’d found her email online and emailed her my portfolio to ask for feedback – she was nice enough to respond with genuine, very helpful comments that really helped me refine my portfolio. Since then, we’ve been emailing back-and-forth and eventually I ended up signing with her full-time.

Did Christy get you all the contracts for books coming out next year?

I’m working on a couple of exciting books that came through Christy next year, and a few other UK based ones as well.

How many books have you illustrated? Currently I’ve illustrated about 15 books in total, some of which haven’t come out yet – and a number of book covers as well.

How did you connect with Mindya Ferris to illustrate her book Alphabet Kerfuffle: A Vocabu-lary Adventure from A to Z that came out June 2021?

Mindy Ferris contacted me through Behance in 2017 – it was one of the first projects I worked on when I started freelancing and it was a super fun book to work on — it’s taken a while but it’s finally out now.

It look like you did another paper back book with Mindya Ferris What Are These For? : A Vocabulary Adventure from A to Z that came out in June 2021. Which one took more time to illustrate?

The activity book was a supplemental to the picture book I worked on for Mindy Ferris – overall, the picture book took longer, the activity book mostly comprises templates that kids can use for ex-ercises.

I see you have a hardcover activity book coming out next year in April titled, Hide and Seek History: Ancient Egyptians by Jonny Marx. Is it harder to illustrate a lift-the-flaps book?

This one was actually out last October (2020) – it was one of my favourite projects! It’s certainly quite challenging to work on lift-the-flap books, but it’s equally rewarding. The most difficult job is figuring out the paper engineering and design of the whole book – which the art director I worked with, Emma Jennings, did a stunning job of!

Do you think Cousteau will be printed in English someday?

Cousteau was published by Vegueta Editions – they’re a Spanish publication, so I think their market is mostly Spanish. I’m not sure if it’ll be printed in English in the future, but I like that I’ve worked on a foreign language book!

Have you finished illustrating Bugs (A Day in the Life): What Do Bees, Ants, and Dragonflies Get up to All Day? that is coming out in March next year?

Yes, it’s coming out in March 2020 – along with Big Cats (A Day in the Life) – I’m super excited about this non-fictions series for kids – I learnt so much about cats and bugs while working on these books.

I notice you have a Kindle book, The Best Diwali Ever, coming out in September with Scholastic Picture Books. The illustrated cover looks fantastic. Do you think they will eventually print a hardcover of the book?

Thank you so much! It is coming out in hardcover and softcover as well in September – I think the kindle version is available for pre-order earlier than the others. I can’t wait for this one to come out!

Audible Cover

Have you done any other type of illustrating?

I do some traditional art, such as painting/sketching when I’m not illustrating for work “digitally”. Although I don’t get a lot of time these days, I’d love to do more of traditional art.

Do you have a studio in your house?

Currently, I’m moving places – so I don’t yet, I’m working out of our dining table. But I should soon have a bit of a work set-up at home – my “studio” is quite minimal, just my laptop, sketch-book, tablet and my notes. I don’t need much else!

How long have you been work full time as an illustrator?

I have been working full-time as an illustrator since October 2017.

Is working with a self-published author to illustrate their book something you would consider?

This is certainly something I’d love to do in the future – I’m trying to work on some ideas of my own and write my own stories. It’s really challenging so it will take a while, but I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

I know you will have many successes in your future, but what do you think is your biggest success so far?

I think I’m quite contented with just being able to sustain myself through illustration right now – this in itself is a “success” to me, and something I didn’t think I’d be able to ever do. I’m quite lucky to be able to do what I love for work every day.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I definitely love digital art, as can be seen from my portfolio – I love experimenting on my iPad on Procreate with different styles and textures.

Has that changed over time?

Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of digital art options so I used to play around only with traditional media – but over time the ease and forgiving nature of digital media is something I gravitate to more than the rest.

What type of Graphic Drawing Tablet do you use when illustrating?

I use a Wacom Intuos for daily illustration – one that I’ve had since 2015. A couple of years ago I bought myself an iPad, and that’s been an incredibly useful tool as well.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I definitely do – when I’m feeling too overwhelmed to start a project, or find a brief too intimidating, I like to “practice” a bit before starting. If feel there are several aspects of illustration that I need to refine and practice more of – such as drawing human figures. I try to spend a lot of time practicing.

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

Absolutely! I can’t begin any project without learning as much as possible about the subject matter – especially since I work on many non-fiction books these days, I like to make sure I know enough about what I’m drawing and I’m not misrepresenting anything.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

I don’t think I’d be able to do what I do without the Internet – I’m not good at networking in person, so the internet’s made it very easy for people like me to shout out our work on social media and get our work recognized.

Would you like to write and illustrate you own book someday?

I’d love to! Again, this something I’m working on in my free time – I have a few half-baked and un-refined ideas for books, and they’ll take a while to become fully developed concepts and stories – but I’m happy to take my time.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

Currently I’m really happy with what I have – I get to work with incredible art directors, publishers and brands that respect my style of illustration and challenge me. This in itself is a dream – I don’t think I could ask for much more!

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a couple of book covers and 5 (whew!) picture books simultaneously.

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I’m not sure – since I work mostly with digital art, I’d suggest buying brushes, textures, tutorials di-rectly from artists and illustrators in websites such as Gumroad – this way you get great digital art products and also get to support artists who make them directly!

Any words of wisdom for new illustrators?

Please remember to save multiple copies of your work always, and take lots of breaks to keep your ideas fresh!

Chaaya, thank you for joining us this week, taking the time to answer the interview questions, and showing us your process. It really helped us get to know you. You are a very talented illustrator, so please let us know about your future books and successes so we can celebrate with you. 

To see more of Chaaya’s work, you can visit her at:

Website: https://chaayaprabhat.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chaaya23/?hl=en

Behance: https://www.behance.net/Chaaya

Agency: https://catagencyinc.com/chaaya-prabhat

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Such vibrant colors! Truly beautiful work. Congrats!

    Like

  2. Beautiful work. Her colors are so rich! Thanks for a lovely post.

    Like


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