After working in advertising agencies as an Art Director for many years, Sayan Mukherjee stepped into his solo career, pursuing his passion for illustration and storytelling in 2017. He is a muralist, character designer, lifestyle, and story illustrator from Kolkata who has worked for Nike, Penguin Books, Hachette Books, Scholastic India, Harper Collins, Shell, Tanishq, and others.
Visual Artist Sayan Mukherjee creates vivid images that capture the movement of life with bold and vibrant colours. There is something familiar, warm, and unique about his work that kept us scrolling his Instagram feed. He has done projects for national as well as international brands and became a full-time illustrator back in 2017. Like many other kids, Sayan too used to draw since his childhood days. He grew up watching his grandfather paint and that introduced him to the world of art.
“Drawing has always been my passion since childhood. Copying the great master’s work, having fun with different mediums helped me explore more and learn so many things in art. After school, I completed BFA in Applied Arts from The Indian College of Arts & Draftsmanship, Kolkata”, he said.
Sayan later joined the world of advertising after his college. He started as a Junior Visualiser in one of the leading advertising agencies, continued there for almost 9 years, and even worked for international brands. But it never satisfied him as an artist, and so he kept working on his art. “After a lot of planning, I quit my job in 2017. I had to start my illustration journey from scratch. But, soon, I got an opportunity to do an illustration residency at the School of Visual Arts, New York. My whole perspective of illustration changed from there, and the journey began as
an individual artist”, he added.
Initially, making good money by just doing illustrations wasn’t easy for Sayan. But, with the support of his family, his skills, and constant hard work, he did it. His first mural project was at the Eden Gardens back in 2017. One of Sayan’s ex-colleagues recommended his name, and he was selected once they saw his work.
Sayan has also done plenty of illustrations on the local life of Kolkata, depicting local vendors, old eateries, bookstores, fruit shops, fish sellers, and everything that define the local spirit of Kolkata. After seeing a decline of these characters on the streets, he came up with this series, which he named ‘The People of Kolkata’. Another series that he has done and we are in love with is the ‘ College street’ series featuring some beautiful and vintage bookstores.
“I did a hawker series under which I covered the College Street paintings. Since childhood, I always wondered how the booksellers at College Street manage to stack so many books and arrange a comfortable place to sit inside such tiny little shops. I feel these days, cities are slowly losing their uniqueness and becoming like each other. College Street is such a place, which doesn’t look like any other place. I wanted to capture these interesting bookshops just in small canvases to show their daily routine in one box frame.”, said Sayan Mukherjee.
Recently, Sayan even did a doodle for Google for the 75th Indian Independence Day, and it was another feather in his cap. “Google’s Doodle team got in touch with me in July for the Doodle design. It was a great learning experience for me. Initially, I shared a few rough sketches of the ideas I had for the Doodle. After a couple of rounds of revisions, one of the ideas got approved by the team and it went up on the 75th Indian Independence Day. I felt very proud when I saw my Doodle on the Google Homepage”, he further added.
Sayan Mukherjee uses a lot of colours in his art and tries to create dramatic compositions. He uses both analog and digital tools to create his artwork and loves making picture books, wall murals, and illustrations for communication designs. “It’s fascinating to create images, which create a story and communicate to people. It is a good journey so far to experience life as an artist. Though trying to do good work on a regular basis with time constraints is at times a bit challenging. But, then each day is new and teaches you new things”, he said.
Apart from his regular work, he also captures memories in his sketchbook. He keeps a small sketchbook and draws whenever he is traveling. “Instead of taking pictures, I prefer drawing on location. That tells me so much about the place and I could relate to the place later as well”, he further mentioned.
Sharing one of the most memorable incidents from his artistic journey, Sayan Mukherjee talked about two incidents he’ll always cherish. “When I was painting a mural on the walls of the Eden Gardens back in 2019, the current BCCI President, Saurav Ganguly, came and congratulated me on the work. Also, recently after my work for Google’s Doodle, Mr. Sundar Pichai congratulated me and posted the work on his Instagram handle, mentioning my name. That too was special for me.”, says Mukherjee.
Quick 5 feat. Saayan Mukherjee
1. Your favourite stationery shop in your city?
G.C Laha, Kolkata
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?
Old buildings of North Kolkata
3. Indian mural artists, you look up to?
Anpu Varkey, Sameer Kulavoor, Shilo Shiv Suleman
4. Three tips for those who want to be a muralist?
Firstly, Work on the style which you are comfortable with. Secondly, a design layout always helps to create a mural.
Last but not the least, freehand drawing on the walls keeping the proportions right, also helps a lot.
5. Any advice you always follow?
So, I try to spend some time every day working on my sketchbook. Also, I think sketchbooks are the best place to
make mistakes and learn from them. Another one is to read every day. There is no alternative to reading.
I try to follow these two every day.