Making of Art1st Books

Writing, Illustrating and Designing Art1st Books

By Rohina Thapar, Lead Designer, Art1st

We imagine children as sophisticated readers for whom the reading experience is a rich
conversation with books, instead of a one-time, one-sided encounter. It is important that the writing and design process begins with identifying the reader’s learning stage. Additionally, our collaborating creators, be it writers, illustrators or designers, have always brought in their experiences to inspire a unique creative process.

For Likla, author of award-winning book Art is a Verb, it was her past life as a dancer! Her passion for dance moved her to combine this love for action with art. She penned a story of a child exploring their day of verbs – wake, open, see, stare, run, play, sigh, sleep and more. She then, with help from the Art1st team, curated works of eminent Indian artists that interpret these verbs in unique ways.

The story or the narrative itself is open-ended. The hidden activities allow for a spontaneous exploration of ‘verbs’ and ‘art’ by the child. By including a wide range of activities that can be explored alone or with friends, with paints or pencils, with drama or dance, Likla has ensured that there is a ‘choice’ for every kind of reader.

When it comes to design and illustration, Art1st Books have been recognized far and wide! While a book cannot substitute for an actual gallery walk-in, it can provide a visually conducive environment to view an artwork in. While our books contextually introduce artists’ works to readers through stories, games or activities, they also showcase these works spatially and emotionally through mindful visual design.

Rupal Vaidya, whose illustrations for Ambadas’ Dancing Brush were shortlisted for The Hindu Young World-Goodbooks Awards 2018, focused on getting the artist’s visual idiom right. She followed up with extensive research into his childhood and his style of work. For instance, Akola, where Ambadas was born, is located in the Vidarbha region in Maharashtra. The temperature in the summer months runs high making the heat palpable in the air. Rupal traced connections in Akola’s climatic make-up and tan landscape with Ambadas’s imagery of melting, moving lines and analogous colors. She infused these into her brilliant illustrations that seem to radiate every time you look.

For People and Places, designer Anuj Malhotra brought in his experience as a filmmaker and a film-critic to his editorial design. Using cinematography as a tool, he was inspired to construct layered imagery that guided the eye in the exploration of the artworks. For me, designing for Art is a Verb was all about pushing boundaries of bookmaking. With the goal of bringing surprise and delight to our readers, I designed through experiments with paper and book structure. As you can see, the ‘making’ of a book relies on several tenets and the creative process for each is unique. Through extensive research, past experiences and search for something new, creators of Art1st books have brought ‘playful learning’ about art to thousands of young readers!

Thank you all for reading. Our passion for books is sustained because we know there are
passionate readers out there, hungry to know and understand art. And be assured, we are working hard on creating new books for all of you!

Books about art that inspire us:

  • Seen Art? by Jon Scieszka
  • Mischief in Tuscany: Running Wild in a Famous Italian Painting by Nancy S. Howard
  • The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art
  • Book by Barb Rosenstock
  • Colour by Marion Deuchars
  • The Land of Lines by Victor Hussenot
  • Children’s Books by Hervé Tullet
  • Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith
  • The Art Book for Children by Amanda Renshaw
  • India-specific Publications:
  • K G Subramanyan’s book series (Our friend, the ogre, etc.) by Seagull Books
  • Tara Books
  • Madhvi’s Magical Daydreams, by Madhvi Parekh

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Links to our books: http://www.art1st.co.in/publications

This post was originally written for The Bookwallis on Facebook, by ART1ST Lead Designer and Award-Winning Designer of Art is a Verb, Rohina Thapar.
You can read the piece and enjoy the pictures here.

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