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Chaaya Prabhat: ‘I find nature and wildlife really inspirational’

We spoke to talented illustrator Chaaya Prabhat about her passion for creating and the inspirations behind her whimsical work.
Tell us a bit about yourself and where your passion for illustration first originated?

I’m an illustrator based in Chennai, India. For as long as I remember, I’ve been drawing—ever since I was a kid, on paper, notebooks and whatever I could find. It was the only thing I really loved doing. Eventually, I started experimenting with digital art when I grew up and moved on to full-time illustration.

Chaaya Prabhat
Where do you find inspiration for your work?

I’m inspired by lots of different things—sometimes it may be a nice colour scheme I see on someone’s dress or the things/people around me—whatever makes me want to pick up a pen and start drawing. I find nature and wildlife really inspirational. I’m sometimes inspired by the books I read too.

You studied and worked in Hong Kong for three years. What impact do you think this had on your work and style?

When I was in Hong Kong, I was exposed to a lot of diverse forms of creativity and art. I used to carry my sketchbook along with me wherever I went, so I was always ready to sketch at any point in time, anywhere. I learnt to look for inspiration in every corner and translate that into art.

You do a lot of book illustrations, what made you take that path?

I’ve always enjoyed reading and storytelling, and incidentally, this has transformed into book illustrations, book covers and picture-books. I really enjoy being able to tell stories through illustration—it’s a combination of two things I find really exciting. I also love that through typography and illustration, one is able to make the reading experience engaging and exciting.

If you were given the chance to illustrate for any book or story of your choice what would it be and why?

I always love book projects that are centred around subject matter that is new to me—even if they are projects geared towards children. I love learning new things and enjoy stories and projects that are a learning experience for me as well.

What has been your favourite project so far and why?

This might be a very boring answer, but my favourite project is always the one I’m currently working on. I make sure I enjoy and have fun with every project—commercial or personal—that I work on because I truly believe that enjoying a project influences the quality of the end product.

Talk us through your process when you’re first developing a concept.

For a typical project, I usually start with doing a bit of research on whatever the project is centred around. After this, I usually create small, rough thumbnails of every idea I can possibly think of and then filter these down to the best ones.

You recently completed a commission for us. Talk us through the idea behind that particular piece.

The whale piece I worked on for Affinity is a combination of all the things I love drawing—space/galaxy elements, underwater and animals. I picked one of my favourite animals to draw and created a scene with it.

This was your first time using Affinity Designer, what were your thoughts on the software? Will you be using it in the future?

This was the first time I used Affinity Designer and I was very impressed with how intuitive the software is and how easily I was able to learn all the tools and start creating. I also really loved that Designer is a combination of vector and raster interfaces and how the user is able to seamlessly switch between the two while working on the same project. In the future, I definitely see myself switching between raster for illustration and vector for typography for my design projects.

What has been the best advice you have been given?

To enjoy the process and not focus too much on the end-product of any project. When you truly start to enjoy the process of creating a work of art (of any form!), it releases you from the pressure of completing it and instead draws you into the process of creating it, and this always produces the best end results.

Can you remember who your earliest artistic influences were?

I remember watching a lot of 90s-based cartoons on Cartoon Network and animated classic Disney films. I also loved reading comics—these probably were my earliest artistic influences.

What’s your favourite past time when you’re not illustrating?

I like watching movies and recently have really started enjoying cooking.

What advice would you give to someone starting out and first developing their style?

I’d reiterate the best advice I’ve ever been given, to focus on enjoying the process of drawing. When one enjoys drawing in a certain way, that often ends up becoming one’s style of illustration.

Talk us through what a dream brief would be for you and why?

I’d love to be given infinite time to complete a book project that involves animals, science fiction and food. I’d love to not have any restrictions on style and colour and be paid well for the whole project.

You can view more of Chaaya’s work on her website, Instagram and Behance.

Artist relations

Jess is part of our artist relations team. When given the luxury of peace from an excitable toddler Jess loves nothing more than curling up with a trashy novel, a family-sized chocolate bar and a G&T.

Credits & Footnotes

All images and content are copyright © of Chaaya Prabhat and used with permission.