Anusha Parthasarathy meets four dynamic and talented women who’ve found their calling in lines and strokes.

Whether it is the cheerful moustachioed Indian men on Alicia Souza’s fridge magnets or the abstract images of women that Maheswari Janarthanan illustrates in notebooks, young women artists are using their skills to connect their art with the world.

Alicia Souza

Age: 27

Occupation: Freelance illustrator

Website: Alicia Souza

Alicia, born and brought up in Abu Dhabi, was completing her Bachelors in Communication Design in Melbourne when she realised how much she loved to draw. “When I left college, I realised that the jobs involving illustration were primarily contract-based. Since I was starting out and supporting myself entirely, I took up got a job at a bank and illustrated part-time. But there came a time when I had to choose between the two and I obviously picked the latter,” she says. Alicia moved to Bangalore three years ago and has been freelancing for popular merchandising brands She only does customised products when there are bulk orders. Apart from this, she is also setting up an e-commerce site, where you can buy gifts and trinkets. “My products won’t make a hole in your pocket,” she adds. While freelancing is hard work, Alicia is happy that it has paid off. “It was literally hand-to-mouth, which is, I’ve heard, normal when you start off on your own. But great things have happened along the way, like getting to be an INK fellow recently, definitely made me proud of doing what I’m doing. Perhaps it is the unrealistic realism of cartoons that draws me to them. Every time I’ve sold at exhibitions, I usually find people smiling or giggling, which is exactly what I want them to do!”

Maheswari Janarthanan

Age: 27

Occupation: Freelance illustrator and designer

Website: Little one's doodles

A visual communication graduate, Maheswari took a break after working as a graphic designer for three years. This was when she started illustrating. “It suited me because I could select projects that I liked to work on. In companies, you are forced to do what is assigned to you but this way, I had more freedom,” she says. Her freestyle art has garnered many a fan over the years. “My work is inspired by everything. Whenever something strikes me, I just draw,” she adds. And what she draws, she prints on notebooks, tea towels, cushion covers, Christmas gifts, stickers and more. “I don’t customise small orders, although I do take commissioned projects. Otherwise, I sell what I design.” While some of her products are available at Pappadum (Off Cenotaph Road) and Orange Bicycle in Bangalore, most of her sales happen online. “I think people like the colours I use — they find the products bright, quirky and happy.”

Deepika Vaishnavi

Age: 25

Occupation: Designer – Drama Designs

Website: Drama Designs

With a Masters in textile design, Deepika began pursuing her twin passions — textile and illustration. “I wanted to do something on my own and found out what people wanted. November last, I started Drama Designs,” she says. Her décor collection including cushion covers and mugs is all about making a statement She is also coming up with a collection of yoga mats. “We do a lot of research with print techniques and come out with new designs. I like keeping my products bright and while most of them are inherently ethnic, I do add a contemporary touch to it for some drama,” she says. “I love the freedom that comes along with the job. I try to make sure the quality of the products I deliver are the best.” Deepika’s products are available at Taj Fisherman’s Cove and Silk Route boutique.

Nancy Raj

Age: 32

Occupation: Freelance illustrator

Nancy began doodling when she was a child on the whitewashed walls of her home. And it led to her doing a post-graduation in fine arts. Her assignment for an NGO working for rural children with hearing impairment proved to be a turning point. “I drew simple pictures for flash cards, story boards, greeting cards and posters . I drew local scenes. I realised the children could connect with these designs,” she says. She later went on to illustrate for Tulika. Malli was her first book. “The girl I drew for the flash cards became Malli, a typical South Indian girl.” Nancy has also worked with WHO, Deafchild India, SRA McGraw-Hill, Oxford University Press, NCERT, Katha Publishers, Sesame Street and Chandamama children’s magazine. “Local people and life are my inspiration — fussy children, loud hawkers, motorists, share autos… Now a lead designer with Polaris, Nancy continues to illustrate. She has completed another book for Tulika, Catch the Cat. Her book Days with Thaathu made it to the 101 Best Indian Children’s book list recently. Malli and Mala’s Silver Anklets, have been recommended by the CBSE for schools.