“My name is Niloufer Wadia. I am an artist and illustrator. I was formally educated in Applied Arts at Sophia Polytechnic, Mumbai. I have spent over 20 years in advertising, and now pursuing my first love – the fine arts and illustration.
I was always good at drawing, a lot more than painting. However, I was not clear about it. My art teacher in school and my parents nudged me towards an art course, and before I actually realized what I was doing, I saw myself joining a Commercial Art course followed by a job in Advertising. To be honest, there is very little “fine art” in Advertising, especially with the advent of computers.
Illustration is not very popular in Indian advertising. In any case, my job description differed. All I had to do was to design the ads. For years I was so engrossed at work, I do not remember even lifting a pencil. I missed sketching terribly, therefore one day, I went out, bought some stationery and started, rather basic, graphite pencil sketches of women – my favourite subject. And before I knew it, I started to sell my pencil drawings.
Despite selling my pencil drawings, I was still working in Advertising. Having a career for over 20 years I really loved most of it. Even though it was very exhausting and you are always at the client’s beck and call.
Meanwhile, I painted, sketched, and in the last two years, I did some illustrations for commercial purposes via micro image sites and worked as a freelancer, doing a few cartoons alongside. I browsed and browsed through the work of wonderful illustrators every time I was free.
Eventually, one particularly hectic and draining day at work, I called my boss who was at the head-office and told him I wanted to quit.
Although sudden, this was not a mindless decision. I finished with outstanding loans and had enough saved to last me a year. Living very carefully, I felt I just had to see if I could make a living through painting and illustration. It was my passion and I figured that out after a lot of soul-searching. It only seemed fair to give it a shot. On the brighter side, I did not have to make any great investments, just a little more art material perhaps.
I was inspired by, hundreds of illustrators whose work I witnessed every day, thanks to the wonderful internet.
I wouldn’t consider myself a brand yet, but I hope I’ll get there soon enough. I feel I have just been very lucky. I started out with very little work, but, it obviously hit a cord.
Two years were very tough, and financially very frightening. Not to mention, quite a lonely experience. After being surrounded by colleague / friends and vibrant, exhilarating conversation and debate for years, it did get lonely to work at an empty desk. Not receiving a regular pay check made the process a bit harder.
It was during those days when, quite by chance, I took part in a storybook illustration competition with Pratham Books. Gratefully I was noticed and I’m suddenly doing picture story books for a variety of children’s publishers. Almost back to back, apart from other things squeezed in between, of course. Cartoons, urban sketching, book covers and a little painting, Painting is very little unfortunately, as that gets side-lined by the jobs with deadlines.
I am happy quite happy with the good work I have done. 2016 was good for me work-wise. I did a LOT and was often very stressed about deadlines, but I guess that’s the one down-side of being a freelancer. Rain or sun shine, ill or not, you just stay up all hours and meet the deadline. Being in advertising taught me to really take a deadline seriously, something I’ve noticed people in publishing are very appreciative of in an artist. I’m not complaining. I feel blessed to be able to earn a reasonably comfortable living while doing something I love and being, largely, my own master, oops, mistress.
I believe in dreams. I understand people have things happening in their lives, responsibilities, loyalties, limitations, fears. I’m actually quite cautious myself. But I would say, figure out what you really want – and that can be tough I know. But focus on it, and take the plunge, NOW!! In whatever small way, Moonlighting at first, maybe. It’ll never be exactly the right time”.