Exploring the sea of emotions with illustrator Pratima Unde

Charles Darwin believed that emotions were vital to the survival of human beings. Emotions are a huge part of what makes us humans. The spectrum of emotions felt and expressed by humans is astronomical. Yet, humans understand and reciprocate each minute subtlety with precision. That is the esoteric charm of humanity.

Connecting her brilliant sketches with human emotions, Pratima Unde specialises in this particular art form of sketching and digital art through a technique called as ‘giggling’. She says her subjects are usually shy, but she manages to convince them to turn into her muse by spending days on end, unveiling the masks these ‘humans’ hide behind, learning something new about them, each day!

Here’s an excerpt of a conversation we had with her about her illustrations and more.

1. Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?

I was born and brought up in a place that is more like an institution of art rather than a home. My dad is the reason behind this. He influenced me to pursue a career in art and created an aura of creativity in our home to help nurture my talent. So to answer your question, I never really thought about wanting to be an artist. My dad who is an artist himself, just made me feel like one throughout my life.

2. How would you describe your art?

My art tries to dig in and bring out the intricate emotions people go through. The subjects I choose are very shy and prefer keeping everything to themselves. I speak on their behalf through my illustrations.

3. What draws you towards sketching portraits of people?

”Emotions” – Humans are the most expressive creatures that have a plethora of expressions to depict their emotions.

4. How do you choose the subjects of your portraits? And what are the details that you aim to capture in them?

We live in a society where everyone wraps up his or her emotions under expressions. I pick people with the most honest expressions, the ones that connect with me. Then I sit face-to-face with my subjects for days. There’s always something new I see every day. A wrinkle, a tear or a smile, be it anything. But, mind you, not everything you see is real! My line begins only when I see a genuine expression.

5. Your portraits capture the vitality and vulnerability of the subjects. Do you think it’s necessary to establish a connection with the people you sketch in order to capture their essence?

I make sure to develop a bond with the people whom I sketch. It helps me understand the root of their emotions.

A person’s face is like a puzzle with multiple lines. The more I understand the person, the easier it gets to solve the puzzle.

6. Is there a specific technique you use when creating the portraits?

Giggling lines are the key factor of my portraits. I use lines of various forms as per the necessity of the style I wish to create. If you see my portraits you will understand that they are a mixture of continuous lines, fragmented lines and dots. The styles I choose help me go in depth and bring out personalities of my subjects precisely.

7. Do you choose a specific emotion as the motif for your sketch?

Even if you don’t know an individual personally, you can decipher a lot about that person just by looking at his/her face. Every day in our life we see hundreds of faces, but what we don’t know is that each of that person wears a mask. I choose the emotion that is hidden behind those masks. And the aim of my illustrations is to take off those masks.

8. What are the challenges of sketching portraits?

People go through umpteen amounts of emotions at once, to select that one emotion that dominates the other is a little tricky. I sometimes spend days observing the subjects before I start illustrating. It gets frustrating at times, however with patience and practice I get closer to my destination.

Check out more of Pratima’s insightful work here and here.

All images credit: Pratima Unde

Written by Aishwarya Menon


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