Graphicshelf talks with Artist Nina Sabnani

Graphicshelf interviews artist and storyteller Nina Sabnani, as she talks about her works, her books and provides tips for beginners.

What made you choose visual as a medium of expression or storytelling?

It’s been a long time since I made the decision! (chuckles)

I studied fine arts in college and was torn between Painting and Art History after my foundation year since they were both miles apart; one that required a lot of reading and analyzing and the other that was an expression through images. Considering that I was 17 and confused, I just went on a feeling and took painting. Soon after college, I went into animation which had the added advantage of motion and words which emphasized what I needed to communicate more than ‘just’ painting ever did and I never looked back.


What are the books you read and what would you recommend for those who want to get into visual storytelling?

There are so many things around us through which we could learn so much. Every object has some meaning embedded in it and this might not be the same for everyone or what it was originally intended but it’s still there. We have to learn to read an image. Therefore, I think, it’s very important to look at things that other people are created, be it – comics, graphic novels, movies, to see how well they play with the word “image”.


Could you elaborate a little bit more about your work with Graphic novels?

It doesn’t really do the question justice cause I’ve done only one graphic novel which was the result of Viswajyothi Ghosh approaching me for it and frankly, I was terrified. I didn’t really what to do but as I started, I was really excited by the entire process. The skills that I had gathered as an illustrator and communicator came in very handy and I had a great time experimenting with it. The movie making experience also aided, for example, with font – where the boldness and largeness could impact the volume. The “layout” of the sequential art in graphic novels also had me very excited.  Although films are sequential as well, there’s something just so wonderful about sequential art in graphic novels when it’s laid out.

Books of Nina Sabnani

Books authored by Nina Sabnani.

Does the current narrative prevalent in the graphic novel and comic world reflect our political and social situations?

 Absolutely! If you’d hand me a comic book or graphic novel, I would just read and read and possibly forget about food and sleep. The door might even just be open! This was because of the powerful message that they carried, that kind of hooked you. Take Asterix and Obelix, Peanuts, you said it – it’s amazing how they say so much about the current situation through just the image.


What is your ONE absolute favourite Indian graphic novel?

I have many actually. Some I like because of the illustrations and some I really love because of the collaborations like Sita’s Ramayana. I thought it was pure brilliance!  The work Amruta Patil and Vishwajyoti Ghosh are also some of my favourites. How I could forget Orijit Sen’s work? Wonderful work!

Nina Sabnani

Any tips for those who want to enter the world of comics and visual storytelling?

One must have something to say.

They should be able to extract and present the meaning in a very tangential manner. Wwords and illustrations should’nt end up debating each other. Some meaning can be best expressed through words and some can be better done with illustrations. One should use both of these to complement each other, while leaving the rest to be read between the lines.

Go to website of Nina Sabnani here


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