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Meet Cartoonist Shyam Shankar: Find out what inspires this self-taught Artist!

Shyam also conducts workshops for all ages in a bid to encourage the budding talent

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Illustration by Shyam Shankar. Image source: mljohnyml.blogspot.com
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  • Shankar moved to Chennai and started working at the age of 15 with a children’s magazine
  • He prefers manual drawing over digital methods of sketching
  • Soon he started illustrating for more than 120 magazines in numerous languages

As a child, you might have undergone several failed attempts at sketching. But have you ever wondered who blows life into the characters you see in a children’s magazine or in a film storyboard? Well, it is the artistic genius of talented cartoonists and illustrators.

Speaking to one such cartoonist, Shyam Shankar, The New Indian Express brought to the surface nuances of this highly-skilled profession.

Cartoonist Shyam Shankar Image Source: The New Indian Express
Cartoonist Shyam Shankar Image Source: The New Indian Express

Shankar, now 38, started off with sketching toons professionally when he was just 15. However, he recalls that even as a child he was quite passionate about drawings.

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He said, “By the time I was 12-year-old, the walls of my room were full of drawings and paintings stuck on them!”

He further said that his grandfather always encouraged his talent.

Shankar moved to Chennai after his class 10 and was immediately employed by a children’s magazine as a cartoonist. His talent soon got the wings it deserved as he started illustrating for more than 120 magazines, including ones in Telugu, Tamil and English.

Debunking a myth that a cartoonist’s job is mere to sketch, Shankar explained that it is not just drawing the character “but an entire situation must be visualised in one’s mind.”

He added, “You will be given the entire script but unless you observe the situations people live in, you cannot commit it to paper. For example, if you are told to draw the main characters —a fishing couple — you cannot draw it unless you have actually been to a fishing community and observed their life. What is expressed in one sentence in the script must be exactly portrayed in the illustration.”

Talking about the dearth of talent in the industry, Shankar pointed out that several budding artists fail to observe and hence are not able to develop their art.

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“My entire life has been like a single racehorse. There are very few peers in my field. I often tell the artists I meet to develop their talent and then I myself will introduce them to major magazines. What’s the use in having talent without competition,” he stated.

Shankar also frequently conducts workshops with Ramakrishnan (a known cartoonist), which are open to all ages and are aimed at nurturing the talent.

He also revealed that all his drawings and painting are manual as he doesn’t prefer digital methods that take away the authenticity and beauty of the artwork.

Shankar concluded by saying, “I don’t believe in visiting cards. My work is my visiting card!”

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  • Aparna Gupta

    He is absolutly right that bieng a cartoonist is not about sketching but also to visualise the whole situation through one sketch.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Cartoonists have been one of the USPs of various newspapers. Times of India had R.K Lakshman, DNA has Manjul, etc

Next Story

Mario Miranda: An Enigmatic Legend

A cartoonist or an illustrator? An artist!

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Mario Miranda was one of the most acknowledged artists of India. Wikimedia commons
Mario Miranda was one of the most acknowledged artists of India. Wikimedia commons

Mario Miranda, one of the most versatile artists that lived, had a diverse range of styled and command over different mediums. He used to avoid political cartooning, but as a social cartoonist, his role is unmatched.

‘He was an enigma’

He maintained diary from the age of 10. These diaries are the rarest source of visual chronicles of Portuguese Goa. They captured life in the changing times.

“Mumbai, seen through Mario Miranda’s eyes, is at one level cosmopolitan, symbolising the good things in life, and at another level, a nightmare with its acute space crunch and sundry other civic woes,” says Gerard da Cunha, curator of the artist’s work.

Mr da Cunha believes though that though Mario gained huge popularity during his lifetime, his true genius is yet to be recognized.

Mario Miranda had held exhibitions in 22 countries. Mario Miranda website
Mario Miranda had held exhibitions in 22 countries. Mario Miranda website

A brief history

Mario Miranda was born in 1926 in Portuguese India. He used to draw on walls as a child. Hence, his mother brought him a ‘diary’. Mario was to maintain it for the lifetime.

He started his career with The Illustrated Weekly of India, which published a few of his works. Earlier, he had been rejected at Times of India, which now offered him a slot. Following which, Miss Nimbupani and Miss Fonseca had started to appear in majors like Femina and Economic times regularly.

Mario had also worked with R.K. Laxman before he met another artist, Habiba Hydari, whom he eventually married.

The real thing started to work out when he received an invitation of the United States Information Services. Miranda traveled to America. This trip got him a chance to work with Charles M. Schulz.

His sketch, Balaco Serenade was sold for Rs 5,50,000. Mario Miranda website
His sketch, Balaco Serenade was sold for Rs 5,50,000. Mario Miranda website

 

A legacy

Mario Miranda’s murals are still present in various buildings in Goa and Mumbai. One of his most famous works can be spotted on the walls of Cafe Mondegar. The then owner Rushi Yazdegardi had asked Mario to draw murals on two opposite walls with different themes. The themes were ‘Life in Mumbai’ and ‘Atmosphere in the Cafe’.

Achievements

  • Padma Shri in 1988
  • Padma Bhushan in 2002
  • Lifetime achievement award by All India Cartoonists’ Association
  • Highest civilian honour of Spain “Cross of the Order of Isabel the Catholic
  • Portuguese knighthood in 2009
  • Padma Vibhushan in 2012

Exhibitions

Mario had held solo exhibitions in 22 countries including the United States, Portugal, France and Japan.

A pocketful of chuckles, an exhibition which was held by Galeria Gitanjali, Panjim in 2016 was the largest exhibition which showcased the original paintings of Mario Miranda.

A 288-page compilation of caricatures named The life of Mario: 1949 was also brought out by Gerard Da Cunha.