About a month ago, the editor of the Navaliya, a popular local women’s weekly tabloid who saw my mother's book of childhood memoirs ’phoned me. He said that he was highly impressed by my mother’s stories as well as my illustrations.
According to him, my illustrations are the best he has seen to-date which are comparable to those by Mrs.Sybil Wettasinghe—the leading illustrator of children’s books in Sri Lanka. I consider it a huge compliment, given the fact that my work was compared to an illustrator who counts over 50 years of experience.
As if that was not enough, the editor requested my mother to contribute unpublished stories of her childhood to be serialized in the women’s weekly. There was one condition, though: the editor wanted me to illustrate all the stories.
So I have been kept busy illustrating a fascinating variety of subject matter—yet again. Among them are various forms of wildlife, including a porcupine and a mouse-deer (chevrotain) as well as a snake-head fish (Channa striata). I have also had the honour of re-creating a likeness of my maternal great-grandfather whom I have not seen even in a photograph. My single source of information is my mother who was around 23 years old when her grandfather passed away, aged around 102 years.
So far it has been an interesting journey. The very first story in the series was published on the 25th of January. This is the illustration of the mouse-deer which appeared in that issue:
It is a mixed media illustration on cold-pressed watercolour paper. I used Derwent Inktense blocks and Staedtler watercolour pencils, as well as Derwent tinted charcoal and water soluble graphite pencils.
The second one which incidentally will contain an illustration of my great-grandfather will be published the week thereafter. I thought of sharing that illustration here:
The figure on the left side in the foreground is my great-grandfather. I am sure you are wondering as to what this illustration is about, It is part of a story where my mother relates how she and her siblings got into the habit of earning some money as well as saving.
Their grandfather would visit the rubber plantations surrounding their home and collect all the latex which had overflowed the collection containers. The ‘containers’ were large, cleaned coconut shells which had been halved. Sometimes, the latex would overflow them and congeal on the ground. They would then become a black, sticky mass. These could be collected, cleaned of any sticks, stones or leaves sticking to them and sold for a moderate amount. When the market price of processed rubber increased, the latex picked off the rubber estate ground also received a higher price.
When my mother’s grandfather set off to pick the overflowed latex, my mother and her siblings would accompany him and help. Once he sold the latex, my mother and her siblings were given a part of the income which they gleefully put into their saving tills.
It is this recollection which I have illustrated in the image above. I used a watercolour paper with a rough surface which I felt would be ideal to reproduce the bark of the rubber trees. For this illustration, apart from watercolours I also used a Derwent tinted charcoal pencil. I used a muted palette of colours since rubber plantations are generally rather gloomy due to the overhead canopy of foliage formed by the leaves of the trees.
I will be posting the rest of the illustrations of the stories on a weekly basis. So don’t forget to check here in another 7 days’ time.