To see her latest creations, including a mini-series of cartoons just posted about The Little Mermaid and gentrification, your best bet is to visit her Instagram. Her work cuts across themes and topics of race, mental health, feminism, pop culture, desi immigrant communities, and whatever else is on her mind. Lucky for us, she was willing to share what’s on her mind these days, and a number of her comics, for this post. Read on for her thoughts on creating comics, inspiration, and what else she’s been up to when she’s not creating art, and keep scrolling to see a selection of her work in comics.
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Where and when do you create your comics?
I create my comics whenever inspiration hits. Once I have an idea I need to draw it out and see it right away — it’s kind of an obsession — so I keep my notebook and pens on me at all times. I try to make comics daily, so sometimes it’s right when I wake up, or when I’m waiting for the train, or during my lunch break. The important thing for me is to never force it, so I try to make them only when I’m feeling genuinely excited about an idea.
I know you love comics! What’s your favorite part about drawing comics?
I’ve always loved to write and draw, but it took me until my mid-twenties to realize that it’s really the combination of the two where I feel most creative and expressive. I wanted to be an art major in college, but I had difficulty finding my artistic voice or picturing myself in the largely white, elite circles of the fine arts world, which discouraged me from pursuing it further.
What I discovered and now love about comics is that I get to sidestep those traditional gatekeepers and conventions entirely; it’s such an accessible, versatile, and subversive medium, and I feel like I can completely own it. Creating comics is also a way for me to express and process my feelings and observations, and connecting with others over my work is really rewarding and powerful for me.
What materials/tools do you use to draw your comics?
My go-to tools are a Leuchtturm1917 notebook and Derwent Graphik Line Makers pens. For the digital stuff, I use a Wacom tablet and Photoshop.
What’s been inspiring you lately, when it comes to drawing?
I just moved to Philadelphia, and walking around this beautiful city, listening, learning, and meeting new people has been really inspiring.
I love comedy and I’m often inspired by what I’m watching. I’m going to echo the rest of the internet for a second, but Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette was one of the best specials — or hours of televised anythings — that I’ve ever seen. I really appreciate her meta-commentary on the art of comedy and nature of self-deprecating humor, and it has made me reflect on my own comics and where I’d like to see them go.
In a very different vein, I love coming-of-age stories and feel that American Vandal was the universe’s biggest gift to me in recent years. A recent rewatch of Freaks and Greeks reminded me, though, that the very white, coming-of-age stories I treasure the most are largely inapplicable to my own adolescence as the child of immigrants. I’ve started working on creating a fictional comic about a brown girl growing up in the nineties, drawing on my childhood experiences in the suburbs of DC. I’m really inspired by Pheobe Gloeckner’s Diary of a Teenage Girl, and I look to this graphic novel for its seamless blend of illustration and text, as well as its beautiful exploration of a young woman’s sexual and artistic awakening.
Your cartoons touch on so many different subjects, including desi-specific ones. Are there any topics that you find yourself revisiting more than others?
Any topic is fair game for me; I try to be true to what I’m experiencing and thinking about at the time. The topics I find endlessly important and fascinating and tend to revisit frequently include: race, mental and physical health, feminism, pop culture, relationships, and desi immigrant communities. As an unmarried (gasp) brown woman in my late twenties, the desi community has been giving me plenty of material to work with.
What else are you up to these days, when you’re not drawing?
I work full-time at a foundation, and since I’m new in town I’m spending a lot of time exploring and learning about Philly. (And eating. Eating so much.) I do stand-up comedy, so I’m working on some new material and hoping to perform at a local comedy night sometime soon. I love to teach and try to combine my passions for art, teaching, and activism; I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer with awesome organizations like the Prison Creative Arts Project in Michigan, Miriam’s Kitchen in D.C., and Mighty Writers here in Philly. I also love to read and spend time with my friends and family.
To follow up on a previous post on The Aerogram about your work…your website notes that your Kamaladevi comic has been made available on SocialChange101, a free online educational resource. That’s fantastic! Do you have any plans to continue or extend the comic?
Thank you! I really want to turn it into a full-length graphic novel. It would be amazing to make such a powerful brown woman’s story accessible to kids in their formative years of learning about the world and thinking about how they can change it. It’s my long-term goal.
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