Tag Archives: Debasmita Dasgupta

9 Tuesday, July 2013

An artist’s tale: ‘Every positive story can create another’

Smita Dasgupta
Smita Dasgupta

Debasmita Dasgupta, who goes by Smita, has been drawing all of her life. These days, the 33-year-old, who was born and raised in India, lives in Singapore, where she works as a development communications manager. But art is still a huge part of her life. She’s illustrated several children’s books and recently launched an illustrated series called “mY FaTHer,” where she uses her skills as an artist to tell the stories of fathers who defend the rights of their children –- including those who stand against child marriage.

Smita was kind enough to take a break from her busy life and tell us a little about her work: her creative process, what inspires her and ultimately, the impact she hopes her art will have.

Smita2 Malala
— Debasmita 2013

Where were you born and raised? Can you tell us a little bit about your family (parents, siblings, etc.)?

I was born and raised in Kolkata, India, in a middle-class family. Being the only child, I had a very close bond with my parents, especially my father. “Life is all about knowing oneself and respecting others,” he would tell me. This ideal became the cornerstone of my philosophy.

Where do you live now and how long have you been living there?

I have been living and working in Singapore for the past three years.

When did you start drawing and why?

Drawing started as a hobby as soon as I learnt to hold a pencil and crayons. I was (still am) an avid reader of comic books. My mind would soak up all the details in their illustrations. As I grew up, I turned this love into a passion, illustrating for myself and for close friends. During my college years, I came across many artists, painters whose work influenced me a lot. And even though I studied science as a major, I never ceased to illustrate, sometimes even at the cost of my studies. I could doodle tirelessly for hours. It was only in 2008 that I decided to turn this passion into a profession when I got a chance to publish my first children’s picture book, “The Friday Fair” (2010) with KATHA. There was no turning back afterwards. I had taken the plunge into a vast ocean where every wave is a new inspiration. And the discoveries are endless.

Do you earn your living creating art? Or do you work in a separate field and pursue your art on the side?

I have a full-time career as a development communications manager — a job I am highly passionate about. But it doesn’t get my spirits soaring as illustrating does. I continue to illustrate for my personal ventures — those meaningful outlets I have created to share my art with the rest of the world. I also take up illustration assignments for non-profits, particularly with organizations working on women and child rights.

Have your illustrations always had a family focus? Where do you draw your inspirations from?

My illustrations always focus on positive relationships. Relationships are as abundant as the nature around us. They can be human-to-human or human-to-nature or human-to-animal or animal-to-animal. I have explored them all in my illustrations, a young girl making lifelong friends with a Gulmohar tree, or two giraffes enjoying an evening together.

I draw inspirations from my memories. They are often very accurate, yet fuzzy enough to offer new meanings and alterations. Sometimes works from other illustrators inspire me, not just through their art but their ideologies as expressed through their life. I enjoy poetry — it is my soul-food. A good poem evokes a strong memory and I find myself drawing the next moment. Actors, filmmakers, dancers and musicians are my other inspirations. Art in all its multitudes inspires me.

What kinds of media do you use in creating your illustrations (pencil, pen, paint, computer graphics software, etc.)? How long does it generally take you to go from idea to finished product?

All my illustrations are hand-drawn and digitally colored, with very few exceptions. I use pencil and pen to draw on paper and I scan the image to color it. My artistic style is child centric. Every image has a strong presence of child/children. There is a lot of emphasis on the expression of the eyes as I feel eyes are the most expressive part of our bodies.

Once I like an idea, the concept building does not take much time. I start my work with a clear concept in my mind, otherwise I cannot convince myself to draw at all. I leave very little invention to my hands; they are my tool to bring my inner vision to reality. Once the sketch is ready, the production time for coloring depends on the content at hand. It can vary anything from a few hours to a few days.

-- Debasmita 2013
— Debasmita 2013

You have a series that focuses on relationships between fathers and their daughters. When did you start working on that series? Where did the idea for those illustrations come from?

It all started from a TED Talk by an Afghani woman, Shabana Basij-Rasikh. She shared the story of how her father helped her to continue with her studies against all odds during the Taliban regime. She quoted her father, “We will let nothing stop your education, even if we have to sell our blood for it.”

I was completely bowled over by Shabana’s story. It reminded me of my own father’s ironclad adherence to his ideals. I thought, there must be many other fathers, in different corners of the world, who fearlessly stand for the rights of their children. Why aren’t enough people talking about these stories? There should be a way to showcase and share such untold stories. Every positive story can create another.

Then the question arose — how do I communicate such stories? I didn’t have to look any further than my study table. My answer was right in front, shining in all glory and truth. My illustrations. The idea came like a bolt of lightning, but it changed me forever. Within a week, I started the “mY FaTHer” illustrated series dedicated to fathers who fight for child rights.

Every child-related issue needs the direct involvement of children. We need to hear from them with a very open mind and heart to faithfully address such issues. That’s why fathers and daughters are equal owners of “mY FaTHer” illustrations. The picture stories are not just about how fathers stand for their children but also about how the children imagine them to stand for them.

Currently “mY FaTHer” illustrations is an online initiative in the form of a Facebook page, through which I am trying to reach out to as many people as possible.

I would encourage all the readers to join the page and help me spread the word.

Can you tell us a little about your relationship with your own father? How important is a father in the life of his daughter?

My father is my ideal. He is a self-made man of strong principles. He is strong where many men are soft and soft where many are strong. We have no barrier, no secrets, and although we argue over many things, his eyes pop up when listening to my opinions. He is a deep listener, trying to engage with people, and always telling them to follow their heart. He wanted me to follow the truth, but to find it first.

Obviously our organization is focused on ending child marriage. What role do you think fathers can play in bringing an end to that practice?

Strong patriarchal societies are the breeding ground of child marriages. Societies are painfully tolerant towards any violation of the rights of a girl child, simply because it serves a longstanding custom. We have to gather the courage to look beyond customs. How else did we progress from stone age to information age, if not by challenging the customs? We often criticize the men, particularly the fathers, who force their daughters to marry prematurely. But this merely shifts the blame, while the problem remains intact.

Yes, we need to criticize their actions, but I feel only criticism won’t help to better the situation. Most of the time you commit a wrong thinking it is right until you see a peer/fellow doing something different despite living under similar socio-economic conditions. And I think that’s where “mY FaTHer” illustrations stand. It gives you the courage to brave the odds by knowing the stories of others like you. As a father, you can get motivated when you come to know about someone else in your own shoes right in your neighborhood who is fighting against child marriage. His action can trigger a positive chain reaction in you. And “mY FaTHer” illustrations is trying to keep that positive effect alive.

What sort of response have you gotten from people who have seen those pictures? Was it the response you expected?

I am very grateful to all those individuals and organizations who are supporting “mY FaTHer” illustrations. My one-woman initiative is only 2.5 months old and it has already received more than 350 followers on Facebook as well as support and appreciation from more than 10 international organizations. With every “like” on my Facebook page, and every word of appreciation I get in my inbox, I feel more driven towards the cause. These single drops of inspiration mean an ocean full of positive waves that keep me moving on.

-- Debasmita 2013
— Debasmita 2013

What is your ultimate goal as an artist? Where do you think your work can have the greatest impact?

Creating good art is a journey: It starts with me and ends with us. My ultimate goal as an artist is to create art that can drain out your negative energies and help you take positive actions in life. My style is simplistic but the messages are layered. It’s exactly how I see my life, simple yet folded with meanings.

Blog Link: http://debasmitaillustrations.wordpress.com/

 

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