Manuja Waldia

India-born, Indianapolis-based illustrator and designer Manuja Waldia's vibrant work spans subjects from Shakespeare to sisterhood...

Large fb6ce783 e471 47ba bfdb e724da385109

Matriarchal Memories

Describe your work in three words...
Creepy, feminine, symbolic.

What first made you realise you wanted to pursue design and illustration as a career?
The moment when I realised illustration is drawing while eating snacks and watching TV, while getting paid for it.

What are your influences, and where do you look for inspiration?
Indian and Persian miniature paintings, surrealism, fine art and fashion. I also watch a lot of diverse and weird cinema to get inspired.

6121a323 db62 475f 9a4e 30f29695bfa1

Matriarchal Memories

B865a212 f86b 424a a4ee 2fbae50a8cf5

Matriarchal Memories

Your series 'Matriarchal Memories' won a Society of Illustrators award last year—what inspired you to create those images?
I wanted to draw nurturing environments for the girls in each drawing, free from the patriarchal gaze and patriarchy in general. The clothes are styled in line with recent fashion seasons, so they also act as fashion illustrations.

Your work spans a wide variety of media and visual styles. What brought about this way of working?
I work in the two styles as they are perfect foils of each other. When I get burned out with one, I work in the other, which makes for the most constructive productive change. Even though they are aesthetically different, there are parallels between the narrative and composition in both approaches.

It's easier to have one unique style for your 'brand recall' (ew), as art directors mostly hire illustrators for a particular style they are seeking.  However, I feel I can achieve that 'brand recall' by keeping my 'voice' consistent across my diverse-in-mediums work.

This might be difficult to achieve if I only did commercial work, as then I wouldn't have much control over the narrative. That's where personal projects come into play. They let me create content, and say what I want to say, how I want to say it. And I don't worry too much about the medium. Having a unique illustration style doesn't necessarily only mean aesthetic execution.

Large 830201ef 39f0 452c b300 168185d52485

Self-Care

Large 6de2abb4 ed80 40c6 8502 2fae6b3373c4

Self-Care

Large e1d23620 01cc 4d57 be9b 492dddd05d55

Self-Care

Tell us about the book covers you created for Pelican's Shakespeare series...
The story starts when I scheduled a student portfolio review with Jessica Hische—she gave me honest feedback on my portfolio, and also gave me the contact details of some of the best art directors. I emailed Paul Buckley, VP Executive Creative Director of Penguin US, a link to my (terribly amateur) student portfolio after the review. He kindly took the time to look at it, and replied that he'd like to explore the idea of doing Shakespeare covers in the style of my Daily Icon project. Not just any Shakespeare editions, but the Penguin Classics range! I cannot be more thankful or thrilled, and try to do my very best with each title.

In conclusion, doing personal projects always pays off and leads to the most interesting commercial work. Does a stand-up comedian only perform exclusively at SNL? No, they work on their material constantly, practice their delivery, and relentlessly train. We have to create work, for people to know we can do it.

The other important thing is having positive, empowering people around you, who will cheer you on and, more importantly, push you when needed.

Large 3863158a c43d 4751 9629 a8f4f5d29e06

A Midsummer Night's Dream, cover illustration for The Pelican Shakespeare. Art direction by Paul Buckley.

Large 7c0a7604 26da 46fc b6bd 44ac9deedbff

Much Ado About Nothing, cover illustration for The Pelican Shakespeare. Art direction by Paul Buckley.

Large 42a34664 285d 4e7b bb86 01cfcce7a9a3

The Tempest, cover illustration for The Pelican Shakespeare. Art direction by Paul Buckley.

Large 1edcb928 e850 4041 b0ed 1ceec322a372

Macbeth, cover illustration for The Pelican Shakespeare. Art direction by Paul Buckley.

What sort of briefs do you like working on, and what would be your dream project?
Working on the Penguin books has been pretty dreamy, and I really enjoy working on my personal artwork. I haven't thought about what a dream project would be.

How has your time spent living in India influenced your work?
I am very heavily inspired by Indian art, cinema, garments, etc. I grew up in 90s suburban India with a family that heavily advocates meritocracy, which shapes my work ethic and narrative.  

What are you working on right now, and what's next for you?
I’m continuing with the Shakespeare books, and working on some personal art. I am also planning more products for my shop.

manujawaldia.com

Large ac331b63 73cd 40e7 b4e0 94b70127faf1

Illustration for Asymmetry Magazine

Large d15052df 7642 4c37 b8b6 895e8ebeb960

Large 1ac69fdd 0cd9 49d1 9188 819cb8ad1929