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Talk Time: The Right Art-itude

By Poornima Apte Email By Poornima Apte
May 2019
Talk Time: The Right Art-itude

Born in Kolkata, India and raised in California, Nidhi Chanani is a freelance illustrator, cartoonist, writer, and owner of Everyday Love Art. Her work fuses her love of literature, in which she earned a degree, and her passion for art. Her debut graphic novel, Pashmina, which tells the story of an Indian-American girl, was a runaway hit. Acclaimed director Gurinder Chadha is expected to produce an animated musical based on the book for Netflix. Chanani is an instructor in the Master of Fine Arts, Comics program at the California College of Arts. In 2012, she was honored by the Obama Administration as a Champion of Change.

How did you make room for following your passion in your creative career?
When I graduated from college I tried many jobs. None of them satisfied me, so on my off hours I played with Photoshop, sketched, and read all that I could about my favorite artists and how they began their careers. It wasn’t that I made room as much as I couldn’t ignore it—without art or writing in my daily life, I felt incomplete.


What drew you from illustration to writing Pashmina?
I always loved comics. I was introduced to graphic novels in art school and the idea began to form then. After art school I spent a few years honing my skills as an illustrator and working various freelance jobs. I view illustration as a form of storytelling—but it's one story in one image. I wanted to tell a longer story and that was the impetus for transitioning from illustration to comics.

How did the collaboration for the Netflix production come about?
Six months after Pashmina was released, my agent was approached by Hyde Park Entertainment. They had a clear vision of turning Pashmina into a feature film. I felt comfortable with them immediately. We shared the desire to address the absence in the market of an animated feature film with an Indian-American lead. From there they put together the proposal with talent, and Netflix was interested.

What further projects are you waiting to explore?
There are many things I’d love to explore, from a graphic novel series for early readers, short middle grade comics, animated series development, licensing, and much more. I feel that I’m really just at the beginning of exploring where storytelling can take me.

What is your advice to young South Asian kids who might want to follow your path?
Draw, practice, read loads and loads of comics. My family didn’t encourage me in art. I didn't start pursuing it as a career until my mid-20s. Even without support, I found my way here. Don’t let anyone who doesn’t understand what you want, make you stop. Keep creating and keep dreaming.




Poornima Apte, a widely published freelance writer, editor, and book reviewer, is based in the Boston area. Learn more at WordCumulus.com.

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