Five Minutes With Ruchi Mhasane
We love that the Indian publishing industry is filled with such fantastic writers and illustrators of children’s books. Five Minutes With … is a feature where we get to know some of our favourite children’s book people in some not-so-usual ways.
Ruchi Mhasane studied Children’s Book Illustration in Cambridge, UK, and wants to make beautiful picturebooks for children everywhere. When she isn’t drawing, she reads books, listens to music, and goes into forests to talk to the wildlife.
What is your favourite thing to draw?
Children! I just love drawing kids or babies doing whatever. Playing, or making stuff, or pretending, or observing… basically doing anything at all. Their movements are so free and uninhibited. They’re not aware of how they should stand, or whether they’re looking right, their entire attention is fixed on people and things other than themselves. There’s something very pleasing and liberating about that. And when I’m drawing, I need to feel and understand whatever I’m drawing, so the more pleasing it is, the more I feel happy drawing it.
Tell us a children’s book whose illustrations you love.
There are too many! Some illustrations I love because they’re funny, or play a wonderful part in telling the story, like in Marta Altés’ I am an Artist! (where our protagonist proceeds to create masterpieces which to the untrained eye might be a mess, wink wink) or Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back (my favourite spread is the red spread of realisation; ‘I have seen my hat!’) or in the beautiful and touching Norwegian book by Gro Dahle and Svein Nyhus Haret Til Mamma, where the little girl whose mom is dealing with depression, gets literally lost in her mom’s beautiful hair (metaphorically in her thoughts perhaps?) and needs a friend to wade in and help her find her way out.
Other books I love, less for the stories and more for the aesthetic of the illustrations, like books illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, Lisbeth Zwerger (she is my most favourite of all time!), Shaun Tan, Beatrice Alemagna, Simone Rea, Satoe Tone (this list could go on forever, so I’ll stop while I still can). And then there are books like The Little Prince which I can’t help being in love with, words, illustrations, the works!
Which children’s book character would you love to illustrate if given the chance? Why?
That is very difficult to answer. I used to think it was Harry Potter, or Lyra from Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials, but I’ve outgrown all that. Perhaps I’m resigned to the fact that other Harrys will always overpower the Harry in my mind, and that happens to me with a lot of literature that I love. I think there’s a charm in not having a visual for some stories. I’m old-fashioned in some ways about this; film versions and illustrated versions are mostly unsatisfactory to me. In my mind, I always ‘see’ characters I read about, but they have the form both vague and clear, and I can switch colours and shapes and the atmosphere in my mind and keep them looking just perfect. That is all lost once you give them a ‘real’ form that can be seen. I guess some characters I love more than my ability to draw them, I would rather keep them safe in my mind …
If you had to create a new creature which was a combination of two-already existing creatures, what would the two be and what would you call the new one?
That depends, especially if the creature is going to be me, because any creature I am, I need a shell to hide in (or invisibility is cool too!). And the ability to photosynthesize. No more need for jobs, you see 😉 But if it isn’t me, maybe Jiji, the black cat from Kiki’s Delivery Service could grow some black bat-wings and be a spooky and adorable work-mate!
If you could travel through time and space to be able to use what you see in your illustrations, where would you like to go?
To some beautiful forest, with lots of sunshine, water streams, and many creatures. A place where animals have their space and are happy keeping to it, and humans can be sensible and be a part of that. Where children can laugh and run free, and grown-ups can love freely, learn things, build things and everyone can make music and art, and get along with everyone else.