Tiger Tales Indian Illustrator Pulak Biswas
Born in 1941, Pulak Biswas studied in the Govt. College of Art, Kolkata & went on to receive the UNESCO Fellowship in Graphic Design & Illustration. He is one of the most senior children’s book illustrators in India, starting his artistic career nearly 50 years ago.
He studied painting at the Calcutta College of Fine Arts, and did stages in graphic design and illustration at the Hornsey College, London and the Rietvald Academy, Amsterdam. Based in Delhi, he worked in several advertising agencies before he gave up this career in 1981, to become a freelance artist. He was invited to attend ” Les Belles Estranges” in France by the Ministry of Culture of France in 2002.
I hadn’t heard of him or come across his work until I purchased this slim paperback book from 1968 called ‘Tiger Tales’.
I consider it the best series of illustrations that I’ve seen by Pulak, his use of line and tone are amazingly expressive.
He creates such a likeable tiger character, who also can be fierce, hunted and scared.
These drawings are lovely, the sprayed effect really adds to the tension of each scene.
Can you imagine what it would be like if a tiger suddenly dropped in whist you were having dinner !
Pulak worked for 17 years in Advertising & Publishing and then focused on painting and children’s book illustration, which he considered his dream vocation, having created innumerable books for children. This interview taken from Papertiger’s Website was made before Pulak passed away in 2013.
Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a children’s book illustrator?
I studied Painting in art college. To support my educational expenses I started doing book illustrations as it was not possible to sell paintings in those days. I eventually became a full-time artist and illustrator in 1981.
Your books Tiger on a Tree and Catch That Crocodile! are very popular. Can you give us a bit of background about them?
I was in Chennai to attend a workshop where I met a lady working in a tiger project in Sundarban in Bengal. She told me about a certain incident. I thought it would make a very interesting story. So I did the story in verse and did the illustrations in black and white to cut down cost. I gave it to Tara Book. They liked the story and decided to publish it as Tiger on a Tree in two colours and with the text in rhyme. It was written in rhyme by Anuskha Ravishankar.
Sundarban is full of rivers, and they also gave me the story of a crocodile and wanted me to do illustrations in a similar style as the tiger story. The crocodile had landed in a drain as a result of floods in the village. Again, Anushka wrote the text, and that is how Catch that Crocodile! came to be published.
Water plays a central role in several of the stories you have illustrated, not least you most recent book, The Flute. What does that mean to you?
I spent my my childhood in Bangladesh, which is full of rivers and ponds.
What are working on at the moment?
I was in Sundarban recently. I am working on “Bon Bibi ” a folk tale that is very popular among the villagers in Sundarban, which Is in the delta of the River Ganges in Bengal.
Great that a chance find allowed me to discover this artist’s work and life story. There’s also a short film here about The Man with the Magic Brush.