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Mymcbooks Interview Illustrator Sunayana Nair Kanjilal


Sunayana Nair Kanjilal is the illustrator of View from a Zoo by Author Artie Knapp

In the summer of 2012, Sunayana Nair Kanjilal made a conscious move from a career in instructional design to pursue her passion in art. She is an Indian illustrator and enjoys working with watercolors, ink and charcoal. Though new to the children’s literature scene, Sunayana’s work has quickly caught the attention of prestigious publishing houses. In 2013, she illustrated a new annotated version of the children’s classic Lord of the Flies with Orient BlackSwan in India. She lives in Mumbai with her husband Srijoy and loves to travel and explore. To learn more about Sunayana’s work, please visit her online at


I want to thank you for being my guest here on Mymcbooks Blog

Thank you. It is my pleasure to be here.

What is the last book you illustrated?

The last book I illustrated was Artie Knapp’s ‘View from a Zoo’, which is a wonderful story about a housecat looking for adventure in the city.

What was your favorite children’s book?

I have always loved books by authors like Shel Silverstein and Roald Dahl. However, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s ‘The Little Prince’ is my all time favorite.

What were your earliest drawings?

Well, I started doodling stick figures at an early age, as most children do. In my early years, I found myself curiously studying visuals in picture books, and later, copying illustrations from my textbooks almost perfectly. One of my earliest influences through school was Mario de Miranda, one of the best illustrators that India has produced.

Were you encouraged to draw or was it something that came natural?

I don’t remember being encouraged to draw ever; no one in the family took my skills that seriously. It was something that came naturally and a few teachers or friends, and occasionally my parents would appreciate my work. Growing up, I never thought too much about my skill because art is generally overlooked in a predominantly academic Indian environment. My friends were audience to most of my work and they always encouraged me. My passion drove me on.

What inspired you to draw?

Everything that has beauty, form and color enthuses me to draw. My inspiration comes also from my state of mind. But practically speaking, a worry-free, relaxed day drives me to draw. Art needs dedicated time and sometimes I find that juggling household chores and my hobby gets rather tough.

My inspiration to draw for children came during my first job at a bookstore, where I was reintroduced to the beautiful world of picture books. But the rigours of life took me in another direction altogether. It was only much later that I consciously chose to give this other life up to follow my heart…my passion.

Which of the three methods watercolors, ink and charcoal do you like to work with best?

I like watercolors the best because their results and textures can never be predicted. You can transition easily from opaque to translucent, from rigid to fluid in the same piece of art. In a way, it’s therapeutic when you handle watercolors. Ink is my second choice because I like the definition it gives to a painting. Charcoal is a nice medium as well, although I find it very messy and rather stressful.

Are you working on a new book?

Currently I’m not, but I have been dabbling in ideas and hope to write and illustrate my own book sometime soon.

What is the most difficult part of illustration?

I think to be consistent over the length of a story is perhaps the toughest aspect of illustrating a picture book. In a long project, it’s very important to wake up everyday and feel the same about the story, the characters, the ideas and colors that you are dealing with.

It is very natural to have the tendency to override ideas that one was gung-ho about just yesterday, but this can mess up your work and set you back from your goal.

Do you illustrate full time or do you still have a day job?

I quit a full-time job to turn to illustration. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of working with MightyBook Inc. on Artie Knapp’s book ‘View from a Zoo’, and then with Orient Blackswan in India for an illustrated version of the classic ‘Lord of the Flies’. So for now, illustration is what I’m concentrating on.

What do you hope that readers will take away from your work?

I hope that children appreciate my illustrations just the way I used to admire pictures throughout my childhood. I hope that they are able to connect with my illustrations and are encouraged to draw and read. Most of all, I hope that children and adults alike treasure my work. That will be my greatest gift.

Who are some of your favorite illustrators you would love to dine with?

I wish I could dine with illustrators who have passed on, such as Beatrix Potter, Norman Rockwell, Shel Silverstein, and Maurice Sendak. Bring in Jerry Pinkney and Rebecca Dautremer of the current crop and I will be thrilled.

What illustrator inspires you the most and why?

In terms of form and technique, perhaps Norman Rockwell is my greatest inspiration. Someday, I hope to reach his level of mastery. I love Shel Silverstein’s illustrations as well for their quirkiness and wit. Of late, the works of Jerry Pinkney, Rebecca Dautremer and Erin Stead have influenced me a lot.

What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?

When I take on a project, I set an estimated timeline and work towards it. From thereon, it becomes a routine that involves working for a stipulated amount of time every day. I try not to overwork because it tends to numb your creativity and the repercussions of that are no good in the long run. Although it’s hard in the course of a workday, I try to take short breaks to refocus and come back to my work with renewed perspective. View from a Zoo was

What advice would you give parents on selecting the right books for their children to read?

The best books are always non-preachy. Righteousness and advice are totally lost on children, so parents should pick books that suggest but do not lecture. Bedtime storytelling is also a great way to build a child’s interest in reading. I’d just say that it’s great to invest quality time in a bookstore with your kids, you cannot go wrong with that sort of time and money spent.

What advice you would give to new illustrators?

I’m quite new to the league myself, so I’m afraid I cannot give the best advice to other new illustrators. But I do believe that you should never lose hope. Competition is tough out there, and if there aren’t enough projects coming your way use your time to build a superb portfolio. Never do a job half-heartedly because it shows immediately and always communicate well with your clients.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Well, I hope that readers will love the story and also my work in View from a Zoo. But most of all I would like it if children are able to identify themselves with Thea in the book and are inspired to read more.

Thank you for this interview.

Thank you so much for having me here, Ella.


November 17, 2013 - Posted by | Meet the Author | , , ,


  1. I enjoyed the interview. I also Love Norman Rockwell. Looking at his work always brings back wonderful childhood memories. I wish you much luck and success in your career.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

    Comment by carol Luciano | November 19, 2013 | Reply

  2. Thank you Carol. Glad that you liked the interview.

    Comment by Sunayana | April 29, 2014 | Reply

  3. Hi Ella. I must thank you for publishing my interview here…really enjoyed doing the interview.

    Comment by Sunayana | April 29, 2014 | Reply

  4. […] Mymcbooks Interview Illustrator Sunayana Nair Kanjilal. […]

    Pingback by Mymcbooks Interview Illustrator Sunayana Nair Kanjilal | Colour Fills Life | April 29, 2014 | Reply

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