The virtual world has created a new age of technology and digital culture which is dominating the social and commercial world, seen any time you log into a website, on your phone, advertised on screens decorating the street –literally almost anywhere. Traditional forms of art, creating, writing are relatively low-key with this technological renaissance slaying the game; but a combination of both could prove to be interesting.
Fascinated with painting and traditional artwork since childhood, Denise Andrades is a Pakistani-based illustrator who got her BFA from Towson University in Baltimore and recently worked at The Citizens Archive of Pakistan. Pursuing this career in the West had its influence but Denise decided she wanted to focus on local stories, being advised by friends to concentrate on her heritage, her home, Pakistan; and we had a few questions to ask!
What sparked your interest in the field of illustration?
I was always interested in art from a young age, my family and teachers had always influenced me to research more. When I went to university, it was between graphic designing and illustration. I chose illustration because I liked the storytelling aspect and ended up really enjoying it!
How were you inspired to turn this into a career and establish your site?
As a career I always wanted to do something in art. Being around so many professors who were involved in the field and being exposed to editorial illustrations, children’s books, comics, looking at their work and process it inspired me to enter the field myself; and in Karachi I saw many artist doing the same thing, especially feminist illustration work which really caught my eye.
Who are some of the local artists who have influenced your work or that you are inspired by personally?
Locally, I really admire Samya Arif and Shehzil Malik’s empowering illustration work. I’m a feminist and I love works depicting strong independent women. Abroad, Haley Powers, Loish and Corah Louise have been artists whose work I hold in high esteem.
In digital illustration is it more difficult to express more so than locally?
I feel digital illustration is easier to work with, it’s less time consuming as you don’t need to buy all the materials you can just use your laptop with a drawing pad but personally, I prefer traditional ways of illustration over digital.
Your work is often seen as colourful and “playful”, is there a specific reason you’ve adopted this style?
I like working with colours, it’s the style I gravitated towards, I just love working with children’s illustration and a style more suited to a younger audience. It’s more fantastical and fun to work with and a better means to tell a story through, in my opinion for myself. People remember artworks seen in their children’s books when they were little, whole families can look at these illustrations and if you’re doing something that’s sending a message with a children’s illustration it can have a greater impact
What inspired you to start illustrating about certain topics?
Well, a lot of my illustrations and stories are based on creating powerful female lead characters –characters who I myself aspire to be like. Even abroad I was encouraged to focus on local stories rather than Western themes as it’s less common that you’ll find stories focusing on Pakistan. While incorporating more local culture into my work I did appreciate and understand the beauty in our culture through our textiles and artworks.
Which work or section of your work is personal to you and why?
My comic book which was my BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) project, it’s called “Aazadi” because it focuses on Pakistani culture and history. I loved working on it because of the strong female leads as well and emphasizing strengths of Pakistani women that often do not get portrayed. My friends here and abroad in Towson told me to pursue more local stories about the country, its heritage, the people and culture etc., which really did influence my work on this comic as well as I tried to incorporate as much about the culture as I could.
Working at The Citizens Archives of Pakistan (CAP) how did this change your style and perspective towards digital illustration or art?
Working at CAP taught me how to incorporate more local design into my work and significantly impacted my style, when I was working abroad I was used to more generic styles and not focusing on local content, but after working at CAP I learnt how to integrate art textures and more cultural work into my designs and illustrations, solely digitally, improving my skills.
Favourite go-to medium and why?
Definitely water-colours and colour pencils mixed together! I find it extremely therapeutic working with water-colours as they were also the first medium I’ve ever worked with and I’ve been most passionate about working with it ever since.
What kind of pieces do you hope to produce in the future here in Pakistan?
In the future I do plan on working on my comic book and submitting it to publishers. I also plan on working with watercolours and oils to produce work with content centralizing on depicting empowered women of colour in bold illustrations, making a statement.