Antiolinists and Non-existent Worlds


For a while now, I’ve wanted to become a children’s book illustrator. A child’s world is boundless. As we grow into adults, our imagination is bound by the outside world – the real world. It’s sad how, as adults, we shrink our thoughts down to facts, numbers, quantified details and the mundane. It’s sad to be in the real world sometimes. Pay attention to what children say, and, although at first you may fail to fathom logic in their stories, you realise that they are far more creative and imaginative than adults. They perceive things through their true form, backed by their vivid imagination and memory, not through some projected image that is learnt by experience and teaching in a rigorous school of thought and training. When they write, they write without inhibition, when they paint, they paint from the heart. Later, as they grow up, they stop being their natural selves on account of some external conditioning. Social conditioning is such. It kills the self and trains us to become the clone of an ideal.

Fortunately, for an adult like me, who is constantly amused by adult social interactions and opinionated conversations, I sometimes find my recourse in children’s books. I will never get back the experiences I’ve had as a child, but at least I can recreate my childhood by indulging in a bit of fantasy through art.

The initial mulling over this illustration brought me some random images – a big red mushroom (I’ve always been fascinated with giant mushrooms), an ant taking shelter from the rain, and some foliage. A lot of Alice in Wonderland images floated about in my head. They were impressions from all the illustrated children’s books I grew up on. I didn’t know what else could come into the picture. The draft illustration was initially done on my phone. In the final version, I let the ant remain, but changed it’s posture and apparel. Then, I thought of doing away with the rain. The illustration was still in it’s nascent stages, when I was sort of thinking aloud in front of my husband, and suddenly exclaimed, “The ant plays a violin!”. So that was it. The ant had to play a violin under a huge red mushroom, never mind if it didn’t make sense. Bah! As though stuff like ‘The World Wars’ made any sense ever in the adult world! My husband aptly titled the sketch ‘Antiolinist’.

So I had two of the ant’s spindly legs holding the violin and the fiddle stick. Another leg (arm for that matter) holds the music sheet. The ant is well-dressed, although a little wanting in cover on the lower torso. It stands poised on two strong feet, replete with shiny boots and pulled-up socks. The eyes are large and deep.  I did the illustration with a pencil, darkened it with a microtip pen and then coloured it over with rust and brown coloured pencils. Some say the illustration tells a story. What do you feel?

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