Mice, moons and shrooms: marvel at Sharmila Banerjee’s grainy illustrations
Within the Berlin-based illustrator’s creations is often smaller versions of herself, tiny people, hamsters, and one of her favourite characters: Mausi, a bewildered mouse.
- Peach Doble
- 16 January 2020
After we first chatted to Sharmila Banerjee back in 2012, we thought it was time to catch up with the Berlin-based illustrator to discuss her vamped-up style and beady-eyed characters.
Growing up in West Germany, Sharmila studied integrated design in Cologne before specialising in illustration. After realising that drawing was her calling, she studied her masters in Stockholm and began illustrating comics and zines.
When we last spoke to Sharmila she was living in Berlin and part of the now-defunct illustration collective, The Treasure Fleet. Since then, Sharmila had an exciting stint in Oslo before returning to the German capital, where the living costs were far lower. “After living in Oslo I have to admit that I find Berlin quite stressful at times,” she admits to us though.
Although hectic, Berlin is a thriving hub for illustrators, who often come together for events such as Clubhouse. “Johanna from Colorama is doing an important job in bringing artists together,” Sharmila says. Surrounding herself with fellow illustrators and designers such as Jay Wright, Paul Paetzel, Jack Taylor and Molly Dogson, Sharmila is well-established in Berlin’s creative scene.
When it comes to her own style though, Sharmila’s dreamy illustrations take their inspiration from the 70s and 80s, referencing her parents’ psychedelic record sleeves, nostalgic kid’s books and vintage packaging design. Her added characters merge the happy innocence of childhood with darker undertones, creating cartoons that comment on the realities of adulthood. Often her illustrations hold much of her own emotions, too, “it’s soothing to draw a smiling face when you’re feeling blue,” she tells us.
Sharmila’s illustrative style has also changed a lot during these last few years, becoming more graphic with thicker, defined lines, saying it was representative of herself: “I felt the need to bring more order and stability into my life when things had gotten out of control.”
Picking up her soft and crumbly B pencils, Sharmila begins her illustrations at the drawing board before finishing her pieces digitally. “I usually work in a very classic, old school way,” she says. Preferring to draw straight from her imagination, Sharmila avoids any meticulous planning in her illustrations, in order to let her characters evolve naturally. These characters tend to be tiny versions of herself, tiny people, hamsters, and one of her favourite characters: Mausi, a bewildered mouse. “They all have their own characteristics and play their part in the different stories, like actors.”
Next for Sharmila will be a lot of collaborations, the re-emergence of Mausi and a new book to be released in 2020.