Lovely Kukreja talks about his famous series of illustrations, the artist’s mindset and the state of art education.
For Delhi based artist Lovely Kukreja, the choice to become a full-time illustrator was a spontaneous decision. He moved away from his commerce studies to become a graphic designer, eventually specialising in digital art and illustration in 2005. Interestingly, he was not an avid reader of comics while growing up and favoured the available animated shows like Chip ‘n’ Dale, Talespin, and Duck Tales.
Currently, he leads the content department at Bobble AI, where he helps develop virtual avatars for stickers and gifs to enable a personalised experience for their users across messaging apps. A classic example of where modern technology meets traditional art forms.
Lovely is best known for his adorable illustrations of Indian mythological figures. The series depicts various gods and goddesses in a cute, child-like form combined with a soft yet vibrant colour palette. When creating pieces linked to heritage or religion, Lovely believes that the artist is responsible for balancing their personal style and the sanctity of the depiction itself, where cultural boundaries should be respected. His inclination towards children’s content and spirituality motivated him to create something that everyone, both young and old, could enjoy.
Having dabbled in children’s illustrations, medical illustrations, and UI design (to name a few), Lovely’s philosophy is that “evolution is the only key to survive and grow”. One of the major challenges during his career was “selling himself”, which he overcame by staying updated with the latest technology, constantly developing his skills, and making sure to market his development on social media and not simply posting to keep with the trends. Favouring freehand drawing for concept development, Lovely avoids references as much as possible and instead goes with his instincts for composition, character, emotions and colour to create an original piece. The aim for him is simple – try to be better than yesterday.
While he has a Bachelors in Multimedia and Animation, he thinks formal education institutions need to adapt to the shift from traditional to digital media and the high requirement for self-learning and self-representation. While he doesn’t abhor the foundational methods or art school study materials per se, he thinks there is room for improvement in how it is communicated.
15 years later, his advice for those entering the industry can be summed up in a word – temperance. According to Lovely, artists “should enjoy the freedom of expression, but not exploit it.”, doubling down on his stance on representation. He believes that one’s work has a longer shelf life when measured in its “impact and ripple effect” and not “likes and followers”.
He goes on to say that there is nothing wrong with an artist expecting proper monetary compensation for what they do, even though the impression is that creative professions are not sustainable. A lesson to which every digital artist and creative can relate.
Lovely makes it a point to follow the constraints of commercial work but takes the time to satiate his cravings to develop his personal projects and art pieces without any limitations. In his words, “I dedicate my day-time to work for food, and in the night I feed my soul.” In the future, he hopes to start his own production house where he can narrate unexplored stories.