Thursday, October 4, 2018

Blog Tour: You're Snug with Me by Chitra Soundar, illustrated by Poonam Mistry

You're Snug With Me by Chitra Soundar
illustrated by Poonam Mistry
Lantana Publishing, 2018, 32 pages
As promised, here is the companion book to the wonderful You're Safe With Me. You're Snug with Me is the story of a polar bear who has settled into her sheltered northern snow-covered den for the winter and has just given birth to two baby cubs. As the cubs grow bigger and begin exploring the den, they also begin to ask questions about what lies outside their safe, snug lair. Mama bear begins to tell them what to expect, always calming their fears with the refrain "you're snug with me." Her explanations and lessons are sage advice for her cubs, as well as for children: if we take care of the earth, it will be there for us just as it should be, especially if we take only what we need because the earth is all we have. More than just a soothing bedtime story, You're Snug With Me is an important environmental story as well.
L: Chitra Soundar R: Poonam Mistry
And once again, Chitra Soundar's beautiful lyrical prose is coupled with Poonam Mistry's wondrously unique illustrations. I have wondered, as I'm sure you have, what influenced Poonam's distinctive style. Well, read on and let her tell you in her own words:

"Growing up in an Indian household meant I was always surrounded by beautiful intricate patterns and designs. Most of the paintings and etchings at home were found in a special room where my parents would pray. These usually depicted scenes from religious stories; some would even be embellished with sequins. They were always so wonderful to look at just like the fabrics and saris stored away in our wardrobes ready to be worn during festivals and special occasions.

While I was at school the pictures I drew were never really patterned. I found drawing people far too hard and would often spend time drawing animals and birds. I had always been fascinated with nature and the complexities of living organisms. Science was a subject I really enjoyed learning about along with Art.

It wasn't until I was in my second year at university studying my BA in Graphic Design and Illustration that I really began to illustrate the way I do. My course tutor had asked us to do a presentation all about what inspires us. I remember my presentation containing images of Kalamkari textiles and Indian fabrics as well as William Morris wallpaper and ceramic tiles. I knew this was what I wanted my work to showcase; my Indian roots. It was only then that I started to experiment with interweaving patterns into my work. I found simplifying shapes would allow me the opportunity to add more patterns into my designs without it looking messy or overdone.

At this point all the illustrations I had made were mostly in black and white. It was only towards the end of my degree that I had started to use colour. The way I did this was through screen-printing. I had always adored printing techniques and wanted to create as much by hand as possible without relying too much on the computer. I began researching other types of art I was interested in too, such as Aboriginal art and African textiles and incorporating these into my style.

One of the most important things for me as an emerging artist at the time was to have a style that was honest but unique. I liked the idea of my work having a hand crafted feel to it and I didn't care if it was fashionable or modern. I loved traditional art and was happy for my artwork to appear authentic regardless of whether it would be popular. During the first two years freelancing my Photoshop skills developed and I properly introduced using digital software into my process. It allowed me the chance to play around with colour and layout and I became a lot more confident selecting colours and arranging my art.

For a few years I worked on editorial projects and advertising ones. You're Safe With Me was the first picture book I was asked to illustrate. For this book I wanted to produce a body of work that didn't necessarily conform to the normal layout and style of a picture book. I really believe children can appreciate detailed sophisticated art just like adults. It was important that adults could enjoy the illustrations too. I hoped for the book to look like a piece of art and celebrate the intricate, beautiful and fascinating elements of nature, our planet and its wildlife.

Working on the second book in the series You're Snug With Me was a little different. It was a big change to what I was used to creating so a lot more research went into finding out about polar bears and the Arctic. I studied Inuit clothing and textiles and knitwear patterns and incorporated these into the designs. It was refreshing to try my work and style in such a different setting. Most of my illustrations in the past contained leaves and trees so drawing frozen landscapes was exciting and new. Picking my colour palette was another challenge. It was essential for the colours to reflect the icy and cool tones you find in the north. With this book there is a particular focus on the relationship between the mother bear and her cubs. It is a lovely story and one that I hope will be enjoyed by everyone particularly during the cold winter months."

Thank you, Poonam, for sharing your journey as an artist with us. I think we always have a greater appreciation for illustrations when we understand the artist's process.

Poonam has generously sent a craft activity that's perfect for the upcoming holidays, and I will be posting the instructions tomorrow. Meantime, here's a preview of the finished project:

This book is recommended for readers age 6+
This book was provided to me by the publisher, Lantana Publishing

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