Debasmita Dasgupta's MINA VS. THE MONSOON

I love featuring books from other cultures and countries and here is a perfect example. Today I have the pleasure of talking to the illustrator of MINA VS. THE MONSOON, Debasmita Dasgupta. The story was written by Rukhsanna Guidroz for Yali Books.
e: What was your creative process/medium for Mina Vs. The Monsoon, can you walk us through it?
Like all my picture books and graphic novels, the creative process for Mina Vs. The Monsoon, also started with an extensive visual research. After reading the manuscript and the brief from the publisher I knew that the story is set in northern hilly parts of India in the rainy season. The story is part outdoor and part indoor. So I went through scores of images from northern India to document how the landscape looks in monsoon. Thankfully, being an Indian and having the opportunity to travel many hill stations in India, I had a fairly basic idea of the region that was complemented with my research. However, the indoors were more challenging. For that I had to figure out Mina’s socio-economic status accordingly I could decide on the kind of furnitures, even the colours of furnitures and other household items such as bed linens, pillow covers, etc. in Mina’s house. The cultural context was also important because Mina is a Muslim girl. So both Mina and her Ammi (mother) dress in a certain way. The overall colour palette of the story is influenced by the colours of monsoon. That’s why you see a lot of earthy colours such as cyan, ochre and sienna throughout the visual narrative.
      My visual research was followed by character sketching and storyboarding of the entire book. Once these were settled, I started creating pencil sketches for the full story. Later all my sketches were scanned and coloured digitally on Photoshop. I have also used a lot of hand-drawn textures and patterns in my visual storytelling.
e: What was your path to publication?
In case of Mina Vs. The Monsoon when Ambika, co-founder of Yali Books approached me with the offer, I was thrilled to hear the plot. It was simple yet nuanced and I could immediately see a lot of visual possibilities.
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of Mina Vs. The Monsoon?
So I have this habit of talking to my characters when I am illustrating them :) I spend hours in my home studio, alone, illustrating stories. When my characters cry and smile, I do the same. During the making of Mina, a friend of mine was visiting me in Singapore and one morning she found me talking to Mina and thought I am completely crazy. Ha ha…it took me a while to explain her I am not.

e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call “Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
To me “Heart Art” is the visual detail in a story that’s only possible when you closely, very closely observe the story and its characters. Those visual details are embedded in the visual narrative. In the first reading you might not even realise them but when you come back, you start finding those elements, which makes the storytelling much more impactful without shouting in your face.
e: How do you advertise yourself?
I am still learning how to do that :) At the moment, my Instagram page is where I share most of my work. I love how Instagram helps me to connect with publishers and other collaborators who otherwise I could have never imagined to find in the first place.

e: What is your favourite or most challenging part of being a creator?
The favourite and which is also most challenging part for me is to experiment with new visual styles keeping my core visual identity unchanged.
e: Is there something in particular about Mina Vs. The Monsoon you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Besides Mina and her Ammi, there is one more very interesting chemistry in the story - Mina and her cat, which I feel the young readers will remember. The cat responds to Mina’s acts with surprise and wonderment. It is present from page one in the story and is an integral part of the visual narrative. However, after you finish reading the story you will realise that the cat was not a part of the text. So on one hand you won’t find any textual description of the cat and its emotions while on the other hand it adds a lot visual drama in the story.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Currently I am working on a picture book “The Boy Who Talks in Bits and Bobs” is written by a very good friend and a fantastic writer, Eva Wong Nava. The publisher is Armour Publishing in Singapore. I am also working on a super exciting project to be published by Scholastic India in 2019. A project that’s very close to my heart for many reasons. So looking forward to the new year!

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