Meet Bhavya Desai who is illustrating Chennai with warm colors and happy lines!

Bhavya Desai

Mishkaat Imrani
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Meet Bhavya Desai who is illustrating Chennai with warm colors and happy lines!

Bhavya Desai is a visual designer and an illustrator. His artworks are a reflection of Chennai's people. From working on relatable series to finding color inspiration in the spice boxes, to showcasing the chaotic train journey, to showcasing old heritage eateries, we love how this Chennai artist is illustrating and finding art in small little things!

It was not an accident for Bhavya Desai to become an illustrator. He was always inclined towards illustrating scenes. Seeing things on google and Pinterest never inspired him. For him, it was always about having a personal interaction with objects. He mostly works with first-hand referencing. He did go to an animation school but always hated his work. " I was working in an architectural firm earlier, and after shifting fields, I got back to where I was supposed to be. Well, I always wanted to draw things around me. ", says Bhavya Desai.


Bhavya gets his inspiration literally from down the road. His Instagram is flooded with illustrations that are taken from his experiences and journeys. The inspiration can come from a random train ride or a trip to a place. Bhavya's ongoing Railway Series is also inspired by his journey to Bangalore that he took two months back. It has different passengers and their moods and personality in each illustration, and it's nothing but beautiful and relatable.

" I have always been flying, and so on this trip, I realized there's so much to see and tell. So I decided to dedicate a couple of months to that.", he says. Bhavya spends at least 8 months on one topic, and it shows in his work. His illustrations are detailed and carry a world in them. Last year, he created a series, ' While You Were Asleep', which was dedicated to the nightshift workers of the city and was equally amazing.

There is a particular uniformity and similarity in all of his works. Be it any series, the handmade illustrations, or the ones he does for different brands, there is a string that ties all his artworks together. " There are two things, the first one is the color scheme I look at, and the other one is the linework. I have a set of colors that I use in every artwork. You won't find bright Poppy colours, as I prefer using a greyish tone over bright colours. It'll be a little dull, but I use rich and earthy tones.", he explains.

Bhavya gets this warm color scheme from the 'Masala Dabbas' in his kitchen. " I just love these colors. Turmeric has an amazing yellow. Even if I have to use a new color that is not there in the spice box, I use the same value and intensity for it.", he adds.

Until a few weeks ago, he was helping art enthusiasts in illustrating things. His 'Tutorial Tuesday' was a big hit among the followers. " I was breaking down the objects into basic shapes. There were very random things like telephone and footwear. People were loving it. For those who would draw all 4 illustrations, I would send them stickers as a reward. But then I had to stop it because of other work. Well now, I am planning to start it again.", he says.

From his feed, what caught our eye were these very cool illustrations that he made with the Fish Eye Perspective. You won't find many artists doing that on Instagram." I picked up a pro camera a few weeks ago. And I am in love with perspectives, and before that, I had never tried the fish eye. It's very simple, and when I finished working on them, I realized anybody can do it. Just keep following the lines. I even tried teaching this perspective to 9- year-old kids, and they got it right.", he says.

In 2019 he did quite a unique series on the local heritage shops in Kolkata. Finding inspiration from one of the similar but incomplete projects he did in Chennai, this one was for an NGO, and the outcome was amazing.

" Some of the shops were over 100 years old. There was one particular shop that I remember. It was 130+ years old. The owner of the shop holds a degree in MBA. But instead of going abroad and working, he decided to come back to his family shop. The way he markets the shop is just amazing. He has a tall stool outside the shop on which he sits. This stool even had a cash box inside. As soon as anyone would cross the street or passes his shop, he asks them if they'd like a cup of tea with him. He never charged anyone for the tea, but he would eventually end up selling a fish fry or a bun maska. How cool is that?", says Bhavya.


Now it's been seven years since Bhavya has been illustrating professionally. He has done many projects for different brands, including Tinkle. But it's not the scripted things he loves drawing, he finds his solace in travelling and exploring and then making something out of his experiences. Reminiscing about one of the initial illustrations, he says,

" So, it was a project that actually strengthened my self-confidence. I was new to the illustration industry and I got this project from a lady who owns an art gallery in Dubai. She invited me to stay with her for 2 weeks and asked me to explore the city. My assignment was to give her 10 illustrations after this exploration. I was in a new city alone and it was scary. But, I enjoyed it unlike anything. In fear, you register a lot, so the illustrations turned out to be great! Since then, I have been travelling to places and illustrating. It is something that I am hooked on to now."

The Dubai Illustration

Quick 6

1. What is about Chennai you love and adore the most?

The salty breeze! I stay right on the beach, so I am always coated with a layer of salt. Also, I like how the city doesn't have skyscrapers like Mumbai. I love Bombay too. It's very happening, and Chennai is pretty dead in that sense.

2. If you have to make an illustration of a local place, a spot in a city, or favourite eatery, which place would that be?

Sowcarpet! It's one of the earliest settlements in Chennai, and a lot of trade happens over there. There is a shop named GEM & CO Pvt Limited. It's over 100-year-old pen shop. They make Gama pens, and they handcraft them. I love it!

3. Your favourite local spots?

It would be the Muttukadu lake and Pulicat Lake. They are my go-to fishing spots.

4. What are the 3 things you would recommend to someone who is visiting Chennai?

Visit the museums. Eat Seafood and check out the heritage building and the beaches.

5. You are a Gujarati! Best place to get Gujarati food in Chennai?

Sowcarpet! As it is a hub for all North Indians in Chennai!

6. Indian illustrators you look up to?

I think purity in illustration has died long ago. The only people who've inspired me are Mario Miranda and RK Laxman.

These days Bhavya is working on his upcoming comic book which is about a joint-family living in 1950s. It will explain how people used to entertain themselves and how they used live without computers or mobile phones. " It's a story about one meal that they are cooking together. "

Also Read: Artist Kanchan Jadli is making illustrations about the culture of Uttarakhand, and it’s adorable!

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