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Illustration by Shyam Shankar. Image source: mljohnyml.blogspot.com
  • 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

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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