The matchbox girl is at the club and she’s firing up! Listen in to the conversation as Sonal Gupta Vaswani, illustrator-animator, speaks to Harshikaa Udasi about her love for colours and the magical universe that inspires her.


Your illustrations are magical! That's the first thing that strikes me about them. Can you tell us if this art is self-learnt or if you have undergone training?

I have always been in love with colors. It may sound strange but colors talk to me, they take me to a new world. So I end up using colors to create a magical world that I have experienced.  I think I got this color love from my dad, so basically it’s in the genes. But yes, I polished my understanding of colors and design via my gurus (Prof Baldev Gambhir from Amritsar and Prof R L Mistry from Ahmedabad) and my design institute MIT ID PUNE where I graduated as an animator.

How did you begin illustrating children's books?

I love telling stories, and I grew up listening to stories by my mom. I knew somewhere that I wanted to tell stories. The only medium that I was exposed to was cartoons/animation. So I joined MIT ID design Institute in Pune where I learned the art of animation but was also introduced to the medium of children books. I found it so fascinating because unlike animation (which is great, but takes a lot of time and requires a big team) you can still tell a story through some pictures.

This motivated me to write to Karadi Tales sharing my love for stories along with my drawings that I used to make, and within a week I got a positive response. That is how I did my first book The Wednesday Bazaar written by Neha Singh and published by Karadi Tales.

Could you tell us what a day in the life of an illustrator looks like?

Like any other person, my day starts with daily house chores. Then by 11am I sit down to work (I work from home). I start with checking my mails and plan out my entire day work. Then I spend some time chit chatting with my cats and playing peek-a-boo, and go back to my commission work like books, or any graphic designing stuff. But one thing that I do not miss is doodling. My day feels incomplete without doodling, so that’s a must J

You had two book releases last year - Moongphali and Bela. Could you tell us about them?

Moongphali is my third book with my amazing author/friend Neha Singh. Its also my first book where I got a chance to be part of it from the beginning from layout design to conceptualising activities and finally making illustrations. It’s a book very close to my heart since I have actually seen the seed being sowed and then growing up. Moongphali is a collection of short and sweet stories, which quickly brings out all the old fun memories. So it’s not only for kids but adults too.

My second book Bela Missed The Train is a sequel to The Wednesday Bazaar. This book is again by Neha Singh and published by Karadi Tales. It’s a story about this little girl Bela who misses her train and has an amazing adventure.

You call yourself the Matchbox Girl! Please tell us about your miniatures on matchboxes (they are gorgeous!)

Hahaha! That’s right. I am fondly known as thematchboxgirl since I paint on matchboxes and mainly because my visiting card is in the form of a matchbox. During college, my friend used to collect matchboxes and soon I fell in love with them. I love drawing miniatures, so I took it as a challenge to paint my art on them and fell in love.

Could you share some skills-honing tips for our budding illustrators?

There is nothing as good drawing or bad drawing. We all are magicians and have the power to draw anything and tell a beautiful story. Just follow your heart, but keep polishing yourself through practicing. And always be ready to learn because the universe has so much to show and teach.

What are the projects (books or otherwise) that you are working on/will be released this year?

I just finished two books with Pratham. First one is based on Dipa Karmakar (the first Indian female gymnast to compete in the Olympic Games). It’s an inspiring story by Sreelata Menon. This is already out and up on Storyweaver.

The second book (and my favorite) that I have just finished is The Very Shocking Report Card by Jane De Suza. It’s a very lovely story, which changes the perspective of how a report card should be perceived. I am also working on some book cover illustrations and aiming at launching my own artwork merchandise.

(Copyright: Book Trotters Club)

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