The name Mili translates to be being found in Hindi and was born out of curiosity. On my birth, my sister thought it apt to ask my folks where they found this baby. That stuck on and Mili became a part of who I am. Although my parents gave me an official name that I still stick to, people who love me call me Mili. It embodies my very human struggle to be found, even with the awareness that I can never be lost.
When did you first start illustrating | designing and know this was it?
Even though I didn’t grow up painting or even drawing for that matter, I remember being a quiet, shy girl just doing my own thing, befriending trees and collecting unique looking rocks, absolutely absorbed by nature. My first creative memory is of my mum getting me a water color set when I was very little and I remember being appalled at how color could mix with water and do magical things. When I went to college, I chose to earn a degree in Architecture because it combined logic with creativity but mostly because every single person told me that I should do something creative. It wasn’t till I was in the third year of architecture that I picked up a pencil to actually draw. Despite my endless love for spaces, very quickly architecture seemed too dull to pursue. I wasn’t certain if I was thinking straight so to check my passion I gave myself a goal and with the help of a friend, set up an exhibition at Lokayata Art Gallery, Hauz khas in Delhi. Bearing in mind that I had never stretched canvas before and had absolutely no work to exhibit, I worked endlessly for the next 20 days and got 15 paintings going. Once I saw them hanging up in that big white hall, it validated my intrinsic need to be an artist. I didn’t even know that illustration was a word and it actually paid bills until much later. The distinct moment of randomly stumbling on Oliver Jeffer’s work made me realize that illustration was how I wanted to express myself. Design came naturally from having studied it at school; the new challenge was learning how to apply that to stories instead of buildings.
Where do you find inspiration?
Nature is my biggest muse. With beauty everywhere, it’s hard not to be inspired. I absolutely love flowers and I’ve been collecting leaves since I was little, still obsessing over their tiny details. Old abandoned doors is another big fat fetish. Colors are my music and I like picking out my color pallets from absurd natural things. The extra-ordinariness of daily mundane moments take up a lot of my attention. I want my work to somehow be a reminder of how beautiful it all is.
How do you get ideas for your designs or illustrations?
To be honest, I don’t know. Being a visual thinker is hard work because you process all information in images especially if your mind thinks that the world is an art exhibition. There are specific colors in my head for specific feelings, and some days when I’m really in tune with a visual, I can feel the aliveness of it under my skin. Everything is an idea even if it’s just playing with proportion, hoping to see a monsoon cloud stuffed in a test tube.
What is your favourite medium to work with?
Water color mostly. I love using just graphite as well. I recently stumbled on to Gouache and oh my Gouache! It’s my new favorite medium to work in. I also enjoy doing digital work and make a lot of my surface designs on Illustrator.
Is there anything you are currently working on?
Quite a few! I’m working on a series of diaries, a calendar for 2018, a set of new posters and postcards, and some fresh surface designs. I’m leaning a lot towards writing vines these days, and I’m in the process of finalizing my first vine. It’s called ‘Plum shake’ and it’s a visual trip of an existential revelation that happened to me while drinking plum shake. I’m also working on setting up my Etsy shop where you should be able to shop for prints of my work by the end of this year.
Current playlist as you work?
22, Bon Iver’s new album. Music depends entirely on my emotional compass which could mean months of just Alexi Murdoch in case I’m yearning for solitude, which I mostly am. It could also fluctuate between hard core hip hop or classical Indian music. I have some extremely talented musician friends and I love working as they jam. There’s something very soothing about two art processes simultaneously in progress.
Is there any insight or words of advice you would like to give others in their creative journey?
Well, everyone who is in this for the long haul already knows how hard it is to walk a creative life. I’d say, work hard but don’t overdo it. This is what I try to remember most days – Creative lives, take life forward and to do that you cannot take things seriously, so have fun while you are at it. Don’t be afraid to show your work to the world in whatever state it is in. There is something very challenging and empowering about putting yourself out there. In that vulnerability, you can get a lot of validation and that helps you grow tremendously. Show up, every single day. Everything matters in the grand scheme of life and to remember that is pivotal to make raw, authentic work. Also, be graciously open to criticism and constructive feedback– something I’ve personally struggled with. Not everyone will like your work or will get the point of it. They don’t need to as long as you do. Find ways to love it despite its imperfections and like Neil Gaiman says, “Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here.”
Are there any illustrators or designers that you are a fan of that you think deserve some exposure?
I’d have to say Owen Gent. His work is absolutely breathtaking and I constantly seek inspiration from it. He has a very strong, unique voice which is something I aspire to have one day.