1. You’ve got quite an eye-catching style, is this something developed or are you inspired by art and artists you see around you?
Hi, thanks a lot for having me here firstly. I’m glad that you think of my style as eye catching. Funnily enough, I don’t know what my style is. I often adapt my style to the projects that I undertake. When it comes to developing one’s style it’s constantly evolving. I’ve been constantly refining and adapting it with inspiration borrowed from artists that I follow. Some of my earliest inspirations are illustrations from my childhood storybooks, which is why I love working with storybooks. In high school I borrowed a lot of inspiration from comics.
2. Which was the very first illustration you did professionally?
I did a few small projects when I was in the first year of college but my first big project was a comic with Raj comics. It was a dream come true to work for the comic house that I grew up reading.
3. Which was the very first book cover you did? Could you tell us a bit about your process for that?
The first book cover I did was for Penguin’s ‘Asmara’s Summer’ by Andaleeb Wajid. It was a real fun novel to start with. It’s a YA book about a girl spending her summer at her grandma’s place in Tannery Road in Bangalore and how she warms up to it.
The process begins with a briefing from the client, such as giving me a concise summary of the story, some visual references or inputs from the story that can be translated onto the cover design. That’s when my work begins, I start off with a moodboard (I mostly use Pinterest nowadays) and make a few quick thumbnail sketches. These sketches are very basic, the goal is to visualize the main elements, the layout and composition of the cover. Once I have a few options (usually 3 to 4) I refine them a little and send them off to the publishers. And then I wait…enjoy a few moments before the real work begins.
The publishers then get back to me with their inputs, their choice of options, any changes that they’d want etc. I refine the designs based on the suggestions and the cover slowly starts to take shape. After this we go through a few more rounds of edits, often minor changes related to colour, positioning and composition. Shout-out to my friend and collaborator Devangana who patiently facilitates the feedback process between the publisher and me till the cover is finally approved by the team at Penguin. And finally a last round of feedback (also the most crucial), the cover is sent to the author for their review. If they like it, the cover goes into production.
Then you just wait, a couple of months or more, when you randomly receive the freshly printed copy of the book in your mail. And it is the most amazing feeling to see it in print.
4. There are quite a few illustrations of movie posters and of musicals and other figures on your instagram, are your pieces available for purchase anywhere?
I am a huge pop culture buff. I just devour films and shows the moment they come out. Often I get so excited by the time leading up to the release of a movie or a show that I show my excitement by making art inspired by the trailers of the movies/shows. I do have some of my art available for purchase on Cupick here.
5. How did you finalize the cover for Remember Death? Did the author tell you what he wanted or was it completely you? Or was it a brainstorm session?
When I received the brief for Remember Death, I already had my brain oozing with ideas. I am a huge fan of the crime noir aesthetic and have been following Ankush’s work for quite a while, so I did have a faint idea of the direction I wanted to take. I also received a few inputs from Penguin on possible scenes that could be the cover image. They were quite experimental with this cover which, as you can see, is quite different from the rest of his covers. This cover had to be more visual and action packed as opposed to the minimal approach of his earlier covers.
As usual I started off with a few thumbnail sketches and also a few character sketches for Arjun, as this was going to be the first time Arjun would be visible on the cover. So I read through parts of the story to get a sense of his character, back story and the mood. I borrowed a lot of inspiration from covers of pulp fiction novels and 80s new wave aesthetic as it resonated with the fast paced narrative. When I finished the final draft for the cover, it was shared with Ankush and he loved it. He later told me that he was a big fan of Miami Vice and the cover reminded him of that.
6. Are you working on any covers now?
Not right now. Taking a break from covers.
7. I heard on the grapevine that you’re working on a graphic novel or a comic book? Is this true?
Yes, it had been a while since I last worked on a comic so I decided to work on a new story sometime last year. But it was only in July that things actually started taking off and hopefully we will finish it by the end of the year.
8. Tell us about it a bit? are you writing the story? or are you working with an author?
I won’t reveal much but it is set in a post-apocalyptic Northeast. I am working with a writer, who goes by the pseudonym King Stein. Funnily we are yet to meet in real life. But it’s been quite a journey working our way across time and space to put this story together.
9. Is this the dream? or did you want to be something else when you were younger?
10. Do you have any international cover designers you admire?
Not particularly cover designers but I love the work of Matt Taylor, Asaf Hanuka and his brother Tomer Hanuka. I love the way Image comics do their covers, each one is really unique.
You can check out Abhishek on Instagram here.