Gaurab Thakali takes to new heights combining his musical-themed illustrations with nature

The It’s Nice That favourite explains why nature has become a dominant influence in his bold, colour-soaked works.

6 January 2022

We’ve long been fans of illustrator Gaurab Thakali. In fact, we can trace our relationship with the London-based artist all the way back to 2014 when we featured him as part of The Next Generation, known back then as The Graduates. Since then, Gaurab has creatively matured from a fresh Camberwell grad to a dazzling illustrator creating a distinctly musical mood in his bright and colourful works. He’s been commissioned by a number of publications in the past years including The New Yorker and has collaborated with fashion brands such as Carhartt. He’s also continued to do what he arguably does best, capturing vibrant jazz scenes and underground music events.

Today, we see Gaurab take his practice take that one step further. His colour palette has changed to embody an engaging mixture of fluorescent tones and dark, velvety hues. On his use of colour, the illustrator tells us: “Colours are a strong way to highlight the atmosphere and mood of images I create.” Recently, he’s let the subject of the image guide the choice in colour. For instance, for his recent project titled Climate Feedback Loops, he wanted the colour palette to reflect the feeling of being uplifted.

Commissioned by Climate Emergency Feedback Loops, Gaurab was tasked with representing four different aspects of climate change – albedo, permafrost, forests and atmosphere. “It was important to show the positive side of our environment and show how beautiful it is,” says the illustrator, “reminding people of the impact of climate change that can potentially destroy the environment.” Shedding light on the various details of the four very different landscapes, this illustration evokes a sense of awe in the viewer, transporting them to wild icy mountains as well as dappled, dense forests.


Gaurab Thakali: Dorothy Ashby Risograph print (Copyright © Gaurab Thakali, 2021)

This commission is just one example of many different types of projects Gaurab has been working on. Amongst commercial work for animated shorts, book covers and newspapers, he’s also been working on some personal projects predominantly using screen printing techniques that further enhance the vibrant colours of his work. Music remains a common theme in his work, but he’s also found himself illustrating memories of his home, Nepal. “Not being able to travel back has made me draw things that remind me of home,” he adds, “such as the prominent Himalayas and the foothills which cover the whole of northern Nepal from east to west.”

Though he is most well known for his musical depictions, moving away from the subject has come naturally. “Music has always been at the heart of what I make,” says Gaurab, but over the past year, he’s tried to spend as much time as possible outdoors after so long in lockdown. In turn, he’s found himself drawn to images of nature and the landscape, incorporating these themes into musical compositions to create a new kind of energy. In one collaboration with an artist called Styles P, the illustrator and musician found themselves on the same wavelength and their ensuing work features plant life heavily.

Using trial and error, he plays with different visual elements to inform the overall illustration. His process can be as little as a few seconds or a few days depending on the level of detail. Often, Gaurab will do image-based research to come up with unexpected combinations. Elsewhere, he looks at photographs to jog various visual surprises and then looks for popping hues from nature “you almost wouldn’t believe it’s where I found it.” This is just a small glimpse into what it takes to create one of Gaurab’s highly original artworks. Hopefully this year, he’ll be able to travel back to Nepal and create a new body of work revealing new insights into the illustrator’s wonderful process.


Gaurab Thakali: Cloudy, gouache on paper (Copyright © Gaurab Thakali, 2021)


Gaurab Thakali: Editorial for The New York Times Book Review on Silent Wind and Dry Seas (Copyright © Gaurab Thakali, 2021)


Gaurab Thakali: Editorial for The New Yorker (Copyright © Gaurab Thakali, 2021)


Gaurab Thakali: Ama, commissioned by Climate Feedback Loop (Copyright © Gaurab Thakali, 2021)


Gaurab Thakali: Programme cover for The Jungle a play about the refugee camp in Calais, published by Mcsweeney's (Copyright © Gaurab Thakali, 2021)


Gaurab Thakali: Poster series for Think! (Department of Transport UK), (Copyright © Gaurab Thakali, 2021)


Gaurab Thakali: Editorial for The New Yorker's review for Steve Mcqueen's film series Small Axe (Copyright © Gaurab Thakali, 2021)


Gaurab Thakali: Archie Shepp for The Barbican Centre (Copyright © Gaurab Thakali, 2021)


Gaurab Thakali: Etna, Silk Screenprint (Copyright © Gaurab Thakali, 2021)


Gaurab Thakali: Les Colletes, Silk Screenprint (Copyright © Gaurab Thakali, 2021)

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Gaurab Thakali: Direct Drive, Silk Screenprint (Copyright © Gaurab Thakali, 2021)

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.

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