Drawing profit from passion
NADYA is a graphic novel written and illustrated by Debasmita Dasgupta (above), and published by Scholastic India. (Photo: Debasmita Dasgupta)

Drawing profit from passion

If you are a keen illustrator and want to explore turning your hobby into a career, consider signing up for the Singapore Book Council’s online course, Drawing for a Living, held on Saturday (12 Sep). The session, conducted over Zoom, will be led by Singapore-based illustrator Debasmita Dasgupta, who had her first graphic novel, NADYA, published internationally last year.

Dasgupta tells us about her journey to becoming a freelance illustrator and what she loves most about her profession.

How did you get into illustrating, and what inspired you to make it a profession?

Art was always a part of my life, but I never went to art school. I studied science and communications because growing up in the 1990s, I wasn’t sure how I could sustain myself as an artist. 

Life took a right turn in 2009 when, with a stroke of luck, I was first offered the opportunity to illustrate a children’s book for a renowned children’s book publisher, KATHA, in New Delhi. That was when I knew the world of illustration is where I belong. 

I took up online and offline illustration courses and exposed myself to different genres, including editorial and children’s book illustrations, animation, comics, product design and art prints. It took me a while to find my area of specialisation and pay my bills as a full time visual storyteller.

As a self-taught artist, I made many mistakes before I got closer to what I wanted to achieve, but two “C”s – conviction and consistency, have kept me on track.

You are also an “art-for-change” advocate – what do you do, and what led you to become one?

As an art-for-change advocate, I partner global non-profits to create illustrations for causes such as promoting female children’s human rights, fighting violence against women, breaking gender stereotypes and protecting the environment.

Growing up with parents who are creative – my father is a theatre actor and director – I have always felt that art has the ability to create a climate that makes change possible. With art, one can amplify voices of truth and share positive stories, with the hope that every positive story has the potential to spark another. 

Before becoming a full-time freelance illustrator, I spent more than a decade managing media campaigns for international aid agencies, including OXFAM, the United Nations and the European Commission. The experience gave me the opportunity to work directly with many changemakers across the globe, and I have continued to advocate for change through art.

What is one tip you have for those hoping to start their own side hustle during this time?

Start slow and remain steady! 

What do you love most about being a freelance illustrator?

What I do is not my job. It is my work, my happiness. Even when there is too much work pressure – and trust me, there is a lot of hard work – I don’t complain. I want to draw more and more and more, and to be a better artist with every piece I create.

Learn more about Drawing for a Living and register for it here.

We can’t wait to share more awesome content with you. This is going to be so much fun.

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