To make a point, she uses lines

Comic artist Ramya Sriram loves going the minimalistic way
Last Updated 25 May 2018, 11:36 IST

Ramya Sriram plays stretch with her imagination and gets back stories shaped by stick figures. With the themed webcomics — among them art, travel, music & relationships — the 30-year-old artist keeps her creative space, The Tap, running.

Ramya (from Hyderabad and based in the UK) personalises wedding invitations, has created anti-child labour and anti-child marriage campaigns for NGOs, and even helped break down complex business ideas using stick figures.

The graduate in Biotechnology, while constantly growing up as an artist, has been an MBA student (for five weeks only), an editor at a publishing house (for five years), and an ad copywriter (briefly). She let go of that last job to freelance as an artist for two years, and now works for a start-up. This is a journey she calls ‘exciting’, one that she has spoken about in a TedX talk.

Here, she shares her story using words...

Why is your creative space called ‘The Tap’?

I like to pretend that it has some deep meaning about how it’s the tap of creativity, but it refers to the hot water tap that was in the college hostel! We lined up with our buckets in the mornings, and I remember feeling comforted by the sight of steaming hot water coming out of the tap. So, when I was asked to draw a comic strip for a Mumbai-based magazine, this was the first name that came to mind.

When did you realise you were a storyteller?

I’ve been writing since I was a kid. Unique experiences find their way to me and I want to share them. I did draw a lot, too, encouraged by my artistic and creative mum. She got a book on human anatomy when I was a kid and they had stick-figure references for postures. I would try to imitate them. In college, I started doing quick stories for friends. The comic strip came much later, a couple of years after I graduated.

Why are your characters stick figures?

Stick figures are powerful visual tools. I find it a lot of fun to emote in a broken-down form, and delight in the fact that it makes a connection. You can mould stick figures into whatever character you like; they’re adaptable!

You are a champion of minimalism...

I see minimalism as a relief in today’s cluttered world. The idea to communicate a whole lot without saying much fascinates me. It’s a purposeful subtraction, not an accidental omission. It’s choosing what to leave out, but still making that visible.

The hit series, ‘Amma Says’, is inspired by your relationship with your amma. Her reaction?

She’s pretty amused! She feels like quite the star that she is. Now and then, she threatens to start a ‘Daughter Says’ comic strip, which she claims will be funnier than mine.

What’s the quirkiest request you have received?

Off the top of my head, it was a wedding card on which I drew an army tank. The groom was an Army major. I’ve had people request for cycles, trains and boats, but a ‘Just Married’ tank was new!

Your most satisfying and fun-filled commissions...

I love all the wedding cards and custom comic books I’ve worked on. They’re personal, and I love listening to people’s stories. I did a 40-page comic book for a couple’s wedding anniversary. Another memorable project was a wedding invitation for a couple, who came back two years later with a request for a baby shower invitation! I enjoyed working on a project for an NGO that’s trying to promote the use of cloth bags.

What were the roadblocks in your artistic life? How did you overcome them?

I’ve been blessed and lucky to have had a supportive network of family and friends. I’ve changed my mind career-wise multiple times, and I was able to quit my job and freelance only because I had the right support and the right mentors.

Any principles you live by as an artist...?

Creative work is a process that continuously evolves. The philosophy is simple: to find joy in my own work. To converse through your work is satisfying. Someone asked me how I draw on bad days, I wanted to say drawing is what gets me through the bad days. I’ve found that when you love doing something, it’s exactly that which will rescue you when you need it the most.

Whose works have impacted you?

I look up to Grant Snider of ‘Incidental Comics’ because of his incredibly strong writing. I also love Shaun Tan. I recently read an illustrated adaptation of Marcel Proust’s work by Stéphane Heuet, which is something I’m going to go back to. I also love Nicolas Wild’s ‘Kabul Disco’ series... Appupen, Sarnath Banerjee, and many Indian children’s book illustrators.

How do you use social media as an artist?

I started off using Facebook, and have only now started being more active on Twitter and Instagram. I’m not regular in updating. I use my spare time to create stuff. But a lot of my commissions have come through Facebook though. All artists want their work to be seen, want a reaction. But, we are easily swayed by what social media has to say. I get a lot of requests from people who have started their comic strips online and are affected by the number of likes and shares, a place where I’ve been as well. It’s important to put yourself into your work, irrespective of people’s reaction, be honest, and love what you do. Whether you get zero likes or 10K likes, you have to stay true to your work and find comfort in it.

You are also a published poet...what other talents do you have?

Ha ha, that’s for me to know, and you to find out!

(Published 05 May 2018, 23:30 IST)

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