World Illustration Award winner Nina Chakrabarti on her new children’s book about collecting

Author of activity book Hello Nature, Nina Chakrabarti, is set to release My Collections of Collections with her line drawings in colour for the first time.

Illustrator Nina Chakrabarti took out the Professional prize in the books category of the Association of Illustration (AOI) World Illustration Awards this year, and she's set to release another children's book.

Her winning book Hello Nature, or The Nature Book, is an activity book for children based around the environment, animals and changing seasons. She’s also written and illustrated My Wonderful World of Fashion, My Even More Wonderful World of Fashion and My Wonderful World of Shoes in a similar line drawing style. These books are for drawing and creating, and take on a scrapbook aesthetic that explore decorative arts.

But for her latest book, available from August 21, Nina’s illustrations will be in colour for the first time. My Collection of Collections is a hardback book for children exploring the nostalgic art of collecting. Nina herself has collected vinyl and records since she was 13. She says she finds collections inspiring and has always drawn objects that can be found in museums, but likes to juxtapose them against something that “might not be an obvious companion”. And most importantly, the ordinary objects people collect fascinate her.

We speak to Nina about her recent award win for Hello Nature and the creative process behind her upcoming children’s book My Collection of Collections.

My Collection of Collections by Nina Chakrabarti is out on 21st August 2017. Available from Laurence King and selected bookstores. Pre-order it from Amazon now

Miriam Harris: Describe your style. 

Nina Chakrabarti: “I love line drawing, usually in black ink but recently I've been playing with colour too. I write my own text and enjoy hand drawn typography. My style is fluid. Sometimes it's simple, other times ornate. It can be decorative, taking me days to complete, or a drawing consisting of two or three black lines. My style responds to the brief I've been set or the one I've given myself.”

MH:  How does your childhood in Calcutta, India, influence your illustration style?

NC:  “Well, my interest in hand drawn type definitely comes from growing up in India and seeing it everywhere. I'd watch men dangling from scaffolding painstakingly painting cinema posters onto billboards or painting shop signage. A lot of the cars and lorries on the roads would be plastered with the most fantastic drawings and typography. As well as the signage and colourful iconography, I used to collect stamps whilst living in India and I think it was an early introduction to graphic design, seeing how art and text could fit together on these tiny, perfectly designed pieces of paper.”

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MH: Congrats on your WIA win for Hello Nature. Where did you find inspiration for the activity book?

NC:  “Thank you! Hello Nature, or The Nature Book which was its working title, existed in my head for a long time before I started to write/draw for it. I wanted to make an activity book similar in format to my first book My Wonderful World of Fashion which was part scrapbook, part informational guide and part sketchbook. I wanted to create a book without formal structures or chapters but rather something you could dip into whenever you wanted to. As for Nature as a topic, I have always loved drawing plants and flowers and wanted to get immerse myself into a subject I didn't know too much about.” 

MH:  Tell us a bit more about your upcoming book My Collection of Collections.

NC:  “It's a sticker book that playfully explores the subject of collections and collectors. It invites the reader to complete and personalise the pages so that each book becomes its own unique collection curated by the reader.”

MH: Where did the idea come from for the book? 

NC:  “I've always been fascinated with collections, whether it’s stamps, pots in a museum or someone’s collection of wrestling memorabilia or stones from their favourite beaches. I like drawing collections, as they are a way of exploring my inner collector without having to acquire the physical objects themselves.” 

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MH: What is the strangest thing you have collected? 

NC: “I haven't collected anything too unusual, stamps and records were my two passions, but whilst researching the book, I came across lots of weird and wonderful collections such as the man that collected his own belly fluff and stored the specimens in little glass jars.”

MH:  Tell us about your creative process when approaching a project.

NC:  “If I'm working on a book, the process starts with ideas scribbled onto post-it notes and notebooks. Then, these become thumbnails of how the pages might work together. When I'm happy with those, I then start working on the finals. First, pencil sketches, and eventually in black ink. Finally, I scan the artwork into Photoshop and work on the layout there. Often there are many elements of hand drawn type and drawings to squeeze onto a page so there has to be a lot of adjusting and moving bits about so it fits together pleasingly. I enjoy this process the most. I've done the tricky part and now I can play with the layout. It's my favourite bit.”

MH: What illustrative technique are you digging right now?

NC: “I've recently branched into colour so am enjoying using inks and watercolours.”

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MH: Can we expect another children’s book?

NC: “I'd love to make a book about India or a book about food. Watch this space!”