Visual illustrator Svabhu Kohli’s artworks represent a world within a world — his stylised works of flora and fauna are resplendent with imagination.
Based out of a small village in Goa, 26-year-old Svabhu Kohli grew up amidst nature and since then the natural world has played an integral role in fortifying his creative streaks. A visual illustrator, he has been dabbling in mediums of film and illustrations since a young age and his stylised illustrations offer a dreamy glimpse into an imaginative approach the artworks represent. Svabhu’s artistry combines bold colours and bright graphics and intricate designs to capture the spectacle that our environment is.
While being a visual illustrator was not pre-planned, Svabhu often found himself to be creatively inclined as a child. “The plan was always to be creatively involved and expand my thought process by gaining a range of experiences. I want to tell stories, reflect and bring forward my ideas using these tools,” he shares.
Since then it’s been a path of questioning, learning and understanding the world through the work he creates. “I’m fascinated by the mechanics of nature and deeply concerned about the threats posed to it in our current world. I love the feeling of standing in front of a vast ocean, or right below a giant mountain or even staring wide-eyed at the night sky. You feel small in front of something so vast — full of mysteries, complexities and somewhere you are part of this giant network — I’m most inspired and fascinated by that. Who are we and what role do we play in this great existence,” he says.
He is often commissioned for album covers, book illustrations, theatrical posters, and even stage backdrops but what he loves the most is creating art for himself, “A majority of time client briefs and client-based projects can alter your vision as an artist — I realised this early and started giving my own work more importance. It took me some time but now people understand my capability and what I can bring to the table.”
Svabhu recently tried his hand at cartography and the results are mesmerising. His latest creation covers Bandra, the Queen of the suburbs in Mumbai and is choc-a-bloc with places to visit, things to eat and do. He shares, “Map-making has been a dream and I’ve gotten the chance to create some illustrated maps before but based more on fictional content. This was an exciting challenge and I had a great time reading and digging through the archives learning about Bandra. We finally came up with this map that highlights the iconic architecture, old fishing villages, churches, eateries and much loved spots of Bandra.”
Most of the artwork he creates is a reflection or an aspiration of the world he wishes to inhabit, “I spend most of my time reading, travelling and understanding/studying the natural world — all this information ends up forming a bank of ideas and thoughts that help me build my work. It all begins with a rough sketch that is then developed using a basic colour palette.”
After bringing in the first set of details, he experiments with textures, angles and light that enhance the mood of the artwork. “I use watercolours, pen, ink and pencils to render my drawings. I then use Photoshop to digitally paint over my artworks. I even go full out digital using brushes and textures on Photoshop. The process really depends on my state of mind, I can sometimes take days to finish an artwork while on other good days, things can be quicker,” he says with a smile.
His artworks are dense and have a range of things happening within them, how does he cope with the creative impediments, we ask. “I do get lost a lot of times with where things are heading and colour balancing can be tricky at times too. Though, what I do find helpful is that I can scrap things and rework them without worrying too much and that has turned out to be helpful most times.”
Svabhu is now working on an illustrated book. “I’m currently studying ways of introducing host plants in our village to help preserve our butterfly population which will then expand on to birds. I want to bring together a book that can help people understand this information to help sustain certain butterfly/bird species in our country,” he concludes.