Sunday, January 29, 2017

This is me.

Since the ringing of ‘Auld Lang Syne’, I’ve not had the chance to write anything besides additional things to do in my diary. This makes me work on weekends and yet, can still say it’s a ride. Not bumpy but definitely a little worrisome.
Anyway, new products out on the store, and I’m on the fifth cup of coffee on this truly beautifully-weathered weekend. I’ve been meaning to do a #meettheartist for ages and well, here goes!
You can also add icecream, country music, Christmas, cartoons, beards, my mom's food, gross jokes and dull weather to my love list 😀

Monday, January 9, 2017

The who and what of Charles-Brown.

Charles-Brown Whimperbug Souza was, and is, my first dog.
He was picked off the street by a friend, who gave him to me when I least expected or even wanted a dog. I had just moved to India and everything seemed new and different. Besides, I didn’t know much about keeping dogs as I’ve only had small animals, like guinea pigs, growing up. But with those worrisome doubts,  I began my learning and loving journey with the furry face that I call 'son'.

He was about 6 months old, and the ‘nicest’ puppy you could ever get your hands on. He wasn’t a tubby, rolly-polly playful bugger, as puppies usually are. He was sweet, quiet, cuddley, and pulled on your heart strings in ways you never thought imaginable. I think that’s what dogs do really. Make you realise that there was more love in that crumbly old heart than you thought one could have.
And man, was he a smart cookie! He could learn tricks in an hour, and was school-boy obedient. I had only a few instances, countable on my fingers (which is a rare puppy-experience), where he destroyed my books and shoes. It’s been 6 years now since I moved to India and he’s been my constant sidekick, my muse, the love of my life, my boy.

I get asked about breed he is ALL the time. I used to get a little peeved when that used to happen, I guess like getting asked if you’re Indian if you have coloured eyes or are really fair and then people not believing you. But to be honest, I probably would have wondered the same thing if he wasn’t mine. I know my wonkiness stems from the fact that Indies don’t have the good rep they should have.

Indies or Indian Pariah dogs or Pyes are our beautiful Indian street dogs (well most of the street dogs are pariah dogs) and the breed is thought to be one of the oldest in the world! Though Charlie is almost certainly NOT a pariah dog, most streeties are now called lovingly Indies. I love that. I love knowing that Charlie is one of us. Funny thing is that for two years his fur was very normal Indie-like. I like to say that he got petted into his heavy coat. haha. He also had the cutest floppy ears that took two years to erect into his pointy fox-like ones that he has now. They erected one at a time.

Because of Charlie, I always encourage adoptions. And I try to sneak in my ‘adopt Indies’ philosophy a bit more, only because (I don’t even know how it’s possible!) they aren’t adopted as much. Everytime I see a litter of stray pups, I imagine Charlie as one of them and my heart breaks into a million pieces.

Oh, I didn’t even mention how he was when I got him!
Charlie was roaming an area where my friend worked and that area had an old pack of dogs. Packs usually don’t like stray dogs, especially males, into their territory for obvious reasons. So my friend picked him up and got him to me. He was oh so thin and frail. And in a few days, he was in the hospital because he was undernourished and had eaten wood amongst other junk. It was the first time in my life I had ever cried in public. He was so tiny and helpless and perfect. Anyway, in a few days, he was back to being him and though he’s got way more health problems than most Indies (Indies are known to be hardy and strong), I always say that he probably does because he knows he gets more love and cookies that way. Sly little bugger.

That’s about it really. I know I can go on about him forever but I guess that’s what happens when you’re in love huh!

Oh yes, and here’s just a few illustrated bits about Indies. (thank you Rajeshwari, Priya & Sandeep for the bits:)

And a bit of information about adoption etc.

Best website about stray dogs (a bit traumatic and so real):

CUPA: (they also have a shelter for abandoned older dogs)
CARE (where Henry-oats was adopted as well)
BOMBAT DOGS (Facebook group for everything dog-related):

TAILLOVERS COMPANY: (Favourite dog store in town)
Indra Pet Clinic (Charlie’s vet- Dr.Dheeraj):

Out of Bangalore:
Adoptions in Bombay for a litter NOW:

World for All (Adoptions and animal NGO in Bombay):

(This is Charlie and Oreo. Oreo's mummy, Michele, used to take care of Charlie when he was little, and when I was out of town. She hence adopted an Indie, Oreo, who is Charlie's girlfriend (though Charlie is a terrible boyfriend and steals her cookies and chewies, and also her mother's love). They are our poster children for #adoptdontshop :)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Christmas was here!

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! We got back a couple of days back from Mangalore and are off today to Cochin. So excited! Here's to a wonderful New Year ahead!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A random love note.

Just over a year ago, I told Saurabh, my now business partner, that we can open the store under two conditions. One is that it’s entirely his responsibility to operate and I will just give him the artworks and product direction. Two, that it’s purely a test run and that we’re going to be closing it in February, right after Valentines Day, which I figured is the last real ‘festive’ day post the season. February came and went and Saurabh convinced me to keep the store open, I also got a lot more work to do than just ‘send artworks’ and I truly didn’t know how it was possible then, but I just got a lot more happier. (maybe also a lot more tired). A lot more smiles for a few more dark circles is great barter deal, I reckon. 

Today I went to see the ‘office space’ we’re renovating. An office. Me. An office. The first time I went there, which was just a week and a bit ago, I got a mild attack of ‘what the hell am I doing taking on this much responsibility’ but I comforted myself know I’m following my rule of always doing things that make me mildly uncomfortable, because then I know I’m doing something new and different. This works because I have a very ‘loves-routine’ sort of personality and here’s where I can be the only person to admit that I always wanted a 9-5 growing up. Sigh! 

So, coming back, I went to the office and Saurabh had saved a bunch of notes from customers. Beautiful, handwritten, loving notes. My eyes may not have shed tears but my heart actually melted. You know that extreme love you feel when you see a puppy playing with another and you, kind of, just want to die because god! how am I living after seeing this cuteness! No? Am I the only one with these extreme feelings? (I’ve been told yes, I’m the only one, but I forbid to think that I am) Anyway, the notes are on my desk now and I realise everyone even taking a second to see my work, is everything to me. Everyday is a birthday celebration with the niceness that you’ll shower, even thorough sometimes crappy courier service, late deliveries, unanswered calls. So much niceness! I feel like maybe the newspapers got it all wrong. Life is truly beautiful and the world does have so much of heaven!

I don’t know where I was going with this but I feel a bit too loved. Always more than I feel I deserve and I just felt like saying thank you randomly. So, well, thank you. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Ask Alicia: Analysis Paralysis

Email from Pooja: 

Dearest Alicia,

I am really struggling hard here to introduce myself to you! But here it goes...
I am a doctoral student who loves drawing doodles more than counting electrons. It has always been the same way, I have been married to chemistry at an awefully young age but have been in an extra marital affair with doodling and sketching all this while. But with PhD, its like my mind is supposed to be pregnant with all this molecular crap and I am not ready for it!

I forever imagined being an artist and at the same time have been continuously scared to embark upon a career known for being mischieviously unsteady. But from where I am standing with my PhD right now, I have whole new definitions for what can be called risky. 

If I decide quitting my PhD right now, how could I explore this field of my love. What qualities would you say stuck by your side while your career shaped up?

Thanks a lot for listening!
Convey my kisses to Henry oats!
With lots of love,
One of you million fans,


Hello Pooja, 
Lovely to meet you:) 
I’m so impressed with your journey already! 
Getting right to your question, when I think back about when I started, I think the quality that really proved useful and is probably the only one I can pat myself on the back for, is being diligent. Regardless of how awful I felt, how low my bank balance was, how overwhelming starting out can be, just sticking through and putting as much effort as one would in doing what you love, can shower miracles. 
I read ages ago about this illustrator who specialised in scientific illustrations and her story was super interesting. I can’t recall the artist’s name but I remember reading about how she was a scientist but really just loved drawing so she ended up being an illustrator for science journals and books because it needed that sort of knowledge as well. I thought it was a great match of knowledge and skill and maybe something that you could do as well, if it interests you!
I wrote recently to another lovely person about starting out here, that I hope may be useful too. 
All the best Pooja! I’m sure you’ll be fantastic, no matter what direction you go:)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Ask Alicia: Where do I go from here?

Email from Preeti:

Hello Alicia,

I am writing to you after gathering a lot of courage and explaining myself that it-is-alright-to-seek-help-from-unknown-people-who-are-best-in-their-field.

I have been following your work for almost a year now. Its because of you I have got back to my hobby of "giving-faces-to-wordss-and-thoughts". Like every other commoner I lost touch with my hobby just to fit into the mainstream. Today I work with a reputed mnc and tagged as an IT professional. After spending four years in the industry, I am not happy with my work. Going to office doesn't excite me anymore.  My enthusiasm to learn new technical skills seems to be dying everyday.
I had come across one of your interviews where you mentioned that you left a well paying job with a very prestigious bank to pursue your heart. I know it takes a lot of courage to do something as brave as this.
Somehow I am not able to find the courage to do so. I am unable to find my start point. Please please please help me and guide me. All I want to do is sit with my colors and my doodle book and that is what I want to call my "job".

I am guessing that you would be getting such mails everyday. I would feel really lucky if you could share a piece of your mind with me and help me with my dilemma.

Waiting for your response.


Hello Preeti,
Thank you so much for having the courage to explain yourself, though, just so you know, you can mail me anytime without much thought. I may take a bit to respond, but I’ll always get back:)
I understand where you’re coming from and yes, I left the bank to start illustrating (though it was a part time job, and I was by then trained as a graphic designer) but I’ll explain the truth of the matter rather than romanticising it.

Yes, I have to be honest, I got lucky too. I never in my wildest dreams, thought I’d have anything but a nine to five and something that I liked doing rather than loved. Life walked kind of in the opposite direction and I’m doing a 24 hour job (well only because it’s almost a lifestyle in a way!) and I cannot think of doing anything I’d rather do with my time! Having said that, yes, the plunge is the hardest but I remember at that time the main reason I took it was because I realised it was an opportunity I couldn’t see myself taking any other time in life. I remember thinking, if all goes horribly wrong, I can always get a job. But I can never try THIS!

Fast forward to when I started freelancing. I knew only a handful of people and not a single freelancer. I really didn’t think I was going to make it and there were horrid days when I questioned if I was making the right choice. This is normal in the beginning especially when there are financial responsibilities and income is tight.

But I realised one thing, no matter how it felt, I always thought of my work as a ‘job’ and that’s what, I believe, made the difference between me being an artist and me being a commercial illustrator. A job is something that you HAVE to see to the end, and do the best you can do. A job is something that someone pays you for, so it has to be useful to THEM. Ofcourse, the joy is in enjoying the process but if you don’t make your client happy, you’ve done a bad ‘job’ and that’s also the difference between drawing for a hobby and drawing for a job.

I think realising that it’s not going to be doodling all day is also definitely worth a thought. Infact, i don’t draw as much as I mail, research, talk to clients, do my accounts, schedule and plan. But that’s because I’m a freelancing illustrator. If you want to just draw (and ofcourse research etc.), you can join an agency/ design studio/ publishing house as an illustrator and that’s fine too. It all depends on what you feel suits you and your working style. I LOVE working independently, I’m really organised and don’t really get distracted when I get down to work, so freelancing works for me entirely.

Lastly, is knowing what you’re offering. When you have a portfolio, you need to show your client or where ever you’re applying to, what you can offer. How can your drawings be useful in a project? Are you knowledgable in at least the basics of print and editing? It will be hard for an agency or a client to hire you based on drawings done on a notepad while you were talking on the phone, no matter how enjoyable it was to you. I like to think of a brief as a collaboration between many minds for one objective. It’s an illustration, working with copy for a brand. Or an illustration working with a story for a book. There’s always a purpose.

Anyway, lastly, if you feel like this field you’re in isn’t for you, then just quit. You have too many beautiful years ahead to be unhappy in something you’ve spent only a few years doing. But never regret it and use the experience. If you want to get into illustration and have no idea where to begin, maybe take a course just to learn the basics of design and print. If you already know the basics and want a less risky route, perhaps start taking jobs on the side. Maybe your friend’s friend wants a wedding invitation done or someone needs something for their website. Start there and see how it feels working for a ‘client’.
And lastly, regardless of where life takes you, just draw. Never stop and it will be your happy place!

All the best Preeti and a special hug for you for the courage to go forth!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Ask Alicia: Beginning and learning

Email from a friend of Apeksha asked....

- She said she is very good at copying things and improvising. She faces it hard to imagine something from scratch and give it a shape. Can this be learnt? If yes, how? If no, how can it be bypassed to still produce meaningful work and add value to customers? 

- How to identify customers and build network? Is it very necessary to get a formal apprenticeship experience on her resume? It is a chicken and egg problem - she needs some project to start building a portfolio and she needs a portfolio to get good projects. 

- She understands the potential of digitalization and animation of art work would be a good chunk of customer requirements. She wants to pursue a masters degree which has the perfect blend of technology and fine arts curriculum. She is at a loss on this account, as she doesn't know anyone who has done something similar. 

- What are the best learning resources till the time she joins an institute? Learning by doing is one. She needs to find people who would give her some projects to experiment with. But more than that, I feel she will need to benchmark herself, draw inspiration and learn from the best existing practises. 

Hello Apeksha, 
Thank you so much for mailing:) 

I’ll reply to your queries in points, as you’ve asked them like that so it’s easy to reference. 

1) There is a fine line between copying and inspiration. I think this is where the line ‘Good artists steal’ comes from but it’s always a responsibility of an artist to take inspiration one step further or use it in a different sort of way so as to make it unique. (I can go on about this topic for a while, on copyright infringement etc but I think everyone knows when they are stealing and when it’s inspiration, so I’ll refrain) 
I like to think of imagining as a habit. It gets better over time and after a while, it’s not much of an effort to imagine new scenes or things to draw. I think a good exercise to try is to just take a paper without really a reference at hand and start drawing. It may be hard at first but slowly and steadily, imagining new ideas and things to draw will come more easily. This may take a few days, or weeks or maybe even a month but trust me, you’ll notice your imagination skyrocket over time. 

2) You’re right. This is a rather questionable debate and to be honest, there is no right answer. I usually suggest people try getting an internship just to know what the industry is like and if they even like working in the field. A lot of times, it seems like drawing is one’s biggest love but the minute that there’s a brief at hand, it becomes a chore. An internship will settle that matter and will basically make you understand a lot about yourself, your strengths and weaknesses and also a lot about clients, projects and briefs, without having to worry about actually getting them. Having said that, I started in the deep end, without knowing a lot of people in the field, and of course, it was hard work and a lot of persistence, but I knew my strengths was in delivering on time, and my knowledge in print was substantial. I think this is another thing to consider. If you’re absolutely new to the field, you would need to know a bit about how to deliver print-ready files and though that’s something you can even learn online, it’s a little easier when you have other knowledgeable people at hand. 

3) I think it all depends on you, really. Fine arts is different from animation is different from illustration is different from communication design. Though they have a thread running through them of being in the same area, deliveries for clients from each field is very different. I’m purely an illustrator but sometimes take up illustrative design work. I would definitely suggest looking into each of these, reading up and seeing which one pulls your heartstring and going from there. 

4) There a thousands of learning resources online. I think going step by step rather than an overall learning makes more sense. For instance, learning ONE tool on photoshop is easier to master than just generally ‘learning photoshop’. That way you can target what you are learning and move slowly from there. This is how I try and learn new subjects.
If you know any acquaintances who need work done, that’s a great place to start. Or just doing some personal projects, like a Diwali card for the family or your sister’s wedding etc is a lot of fun without a lot of restrictions that a client may have. 

I hope this helps! 
All the best and much love,