Neethi is an illustrator with one main goal: to transport her audience to colourful worlds
Based in Bangalore, India, the illustrator, muralist and surface pattern designer works with a love of textiles to create transformative pieces.
- Ayla Angelos
- 23 April 2021
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Art has the power to transport us to new places. It could be anything from a grassy meadow, the architecture of a house, a horse, cat or the scene of a party; wherever you are in the world, you can jump right into these scenes at a glance or swish of a pencil.
Neethi is an illustrator, muralist and surface pattern designer based in Bangalore, India, and she’s always thought of illustration as having some kind of escapist power. From the earlier days in nursery, drawing coconuts, huts and palm trees, to later drawing crows after learning about the works of R.K. Laxman (who shared a similar fondness for the bird), Neethi was – and still is – an avid drawer. She would often spend her time outside of school daydreaming from her bedroom window, peaking out from the one bedroom apartment in Delhi and imagining the places she’d one day visit. “I was yearning for an expression as a teen and found my escape in writing short stories and poems,” she tells It’s Nice That. “I think I always wanted to run away from reality. It took me years to finally pause and be present, to notice life around me.” Once she reached this point, however, that’s when she finally came into the medium of illustration and painting.
After her studies in Textile Design in Kerala, Neethi decided to explore her deep love for pattern by reading up on textiles over the world; “the colours, motifs, history, rituals,” she adds, fascinated her. Neethi took a leap into the design industry, creating surfaces like table linens, curtains and rugs, as well as entire collections for fashion weeks. “My briefs were always very trend-driven, and I didn’t feel I could really be 100 per cent authentic.” Instead, she started to moonlight in illustration, building her own creations in the “gap” between print design and storytelling.
This background in textiles has had an influence on her illustration work. So much so that she regularly draws colourful interior scenes, the type that’s splashed with colour and laced in the intricacies of patterned fabrics. And sometimes, she’ll transfer the illustration to the interior, as she thoroughly enjoys “bringing the outside in” through paintings, murals and wallpapers for various locations across India – like she did for the recent project at WeWork. “I owe it to my then-creative director Jeremiah Britton for really breaking any rigidity I had in my work, and also driving me to embrace a super bold palette.”
Neethi’s choice in colour sets her apart, especially in the ways she pairs primary, bold colours with the artful use of a shadow. This makes the work both flat and layered, so the viewer can easily imagine themselves in one of these scenes, perhaps sitting on one of her sofas and revelling in the colourful environment around them. Take her recent body of work as a great example of this; a collection of illustrations created over lockdown in 2020. Stuck at home, like many, she decided to get a little imaginative. “I wanted to create a sense of whimsy in ordinary settings and bring the outside in,” she says.
Within this series, you’ll find health and wellness products used as vases – reminiscent of the overload of anti-viral sprays and lotions used over the months of the pandemic. In others, patterned rugs are displayed alongside giant vases stuffed with palms or flowers; and another depicts a female character screaming back at a tiger. The scenes that we’re observing are just the right amount of weird, playful and realistic, so your imagination is encouraged to run free. “You can also find hints of nostalgia in my still life works,” she adds, “be it the Chyavanprash container in Wellness Kit or a Parge G biscuit pack on the table of Work From Home Contd.”
Another notable project is a commission for MP Tourism and Tumblr in 2017, where Neethi visited various cities in Madhya Pradesh, a central state in India, and noted down the details of her journey in illustrated form. “Being in the forts and mahals [meaning a mansion or palace], I was completely transported back in time,” she adds. “In many ways, I felt like I was ‘interacting’ with history, and I wanted the audience to feel exactly that: transported.” And let’s just say she’s succeeded with her mission – not just with this project, but with each and every one of her captivating pieces.
Neethi: Quarantine Art. Wellness Kit (Copyright © Neethi, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.