Italian born illustrator Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini has teamed up with polymath writer, lawyer, nature lover and publisher John Jackson for the second time to create a new book. Brahma Dreaming: Legends from Hindu Mythology, is sumptuously bound and my press copy came nestled in an imposing embossed black box. Inside, the Hindu myths of Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu are retold alongside beautiful black ink illustrations that owe more to the style of Beardsley and Rackham than traditional Hindu artists. I look forward to reading this book to Snarfle once he grows old enough to appreciate it, but in the meantime it is the gorgeous handwritten type and Daniela’s imaginative reinterpretations of the tales that have me spellbound.
You have a background in both fine art and photography – how did your illustration practice grow out of both these disciplines and do you still create in all mediums?
I sometimes wonder what exactly one gets taught at an illustration school and what the advantages/disadvantages of being self taught and coming from a different, albeit somewhat relevant, background might be. I think both my fine art and photography backgrounds have informed my illustration work, aesthetically and in the physical and mental process that accompanies it.
I haven’t been producing images that would traditionally be classified as ‘fine art’ for a while, but I still practice photography.
When did you discover your love of pen and ink and how long has it taken to fine tune your particular style?
My love for ink on the one hand and black and white work on the other was there since college. But in the commercial world of illustration it’s relatively rare to be commissioned for black ink work, so it is really only with Brahma Dreaming that I was able to fully explore it. I think my style for this book naturally stemmed, in part, from the decorative style that I’ve been developing for my design and packaging commissions. But in its full story telling form I fine tuned it as I went. There is a natural, although I think subtle, progression in the technical development of the illustrations in this book. Although I haven’t illustrated them in the book order, so it might be hard for someone other than me to see.
What is it about the HIndu tales of this book that inspired you the most?
Each tale in the book has its own perfect balance of love, dramatic tension and wicked sense of humour. But in the end, it was the dark and surreal nature of the stories that inspired me the most.
Sati is a good example of a story where I found plenty of inspiration. The story tells of the love between two underdogs; Sati a princess too meek and mousy to secure the love and respect of her father, and Shiva, the Lord of Destruction, a dark and unloved figure, with matted hair and his breath reminiscent of burning corpses. Sati chooses Shiva, in spite of her father’s vehement disapproval but we know it won’t end well, as in the next tale, under the unbearable burden of the fatherly rejection Sati will commit suicide. In the depiction of their union, I chose to convey both the tenderness of the two figures in their devotion to each other, as well as the ominous outcome of Sati‘s choice, which I tried to evoke by making the tiger skin Shiva is cloaked in tower menacingly over Sati, a little too alive for comfort.
How did you first start working together with John Jackson, and what was the process of working with him on this project?
John found me through my agent and liked my work enough to trust me since the beginning to ‘do my thing’ and use my aesthetic judgement. In short, I was blessed to be given more creative freedom and trust that one normally gets at a relatively early stage of one’s career. As it happened, collaborating with John on Tales for Great Grandchildren was such an inspiring and enjoyable experience, that we went on to work on Brahma Dreaming together. Our work happens in fairly separate stages. John writes the stories and I then read them and visualise what my favourite way of representing them would be.
Where do you live and where do you work? How do you set the perfect atmosphere in your studio?
I both live and work in East London. My studio is set around a cobbled courtyard surrounded by many other, glass fronted, studios, in which a lot of manual creative activity unfolds. It’s a beautifully inspiring place to work. My particular studio, which I share with two dear friends, is full of old bits of furniture and soft lighting. And smells of good tea, coffee and old wood.
When you are not drawing what do you like to do to relax and find inspiration?
I like to watch old movies, read interesting books and swing dance.
See more of Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini‘s artwork here. Brahma Dreaming: Legends from Hindu Mythology is published by JJ Books and is available to pre-order now.
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