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The C.R.E.A.T.E Series is a look behind the curtain at what inspires and motivates children’s authors and illustrators. We’ll take a peek at their creative spaces, learn about any unique writing or drawing habits, and examine how to carve out time in the day for creativity.
Today we’re featuring Anoosha Syed, the illustrator of the beautiful picture books Other Words for Home, I Am Perfectly Designed, and Disney’s Daring Dreamers Club. Not only does Anoosha illustrate children’s books, but she also is a character designer for animation. In addition, she co-hosts a podcast called The Art Corner and maintains a very creative outlook on life.
Anoosha: I originally was working at an animation studio for about a year and was doing picture books on the side at night. I don’t know where I had the energy to work a 9-5 job and go home and spend another 5 hours on a book, but eventually I kind of realized that I preferred doing books and I made the jump to illustrating full time.
When I first started I had endless energy, the kind you have when you’re right out of school and you’re like, “Yeah, I want to do absolutely everything.” In animation, it was pretty structured—you can’t really work the way that you want to, so it didn’t really feel like art to me. I needed that separate outlet, so I tried to make some time for that.
Anoosha: I always have some tea on me, which gets cold when I forget about it. So I have to keep reheating it in the microwave. I don’t need glasses, but I wear yellow tinted ones, because I’m sitting in front of a screen for like 8 hours and it’s pretty hard on the eyes.
Anoosha: I like having people around me. For a long time I was working in [my] house. I realized that I need to get out of the house. I like being able to collaborate with other people or being able to walk around for a bit, so my ideal scenario—which I’m doing right now—is working at a co-working space where I go out and get the feeling of going to work without actually being at a job, but still having quiet, personal space.
I don’t want it to be too loud, but I also don’t want it to be too quiet. I guess a quiet enough space that once I get tired I can go to some place a little more lively, recharge, and get back to it.
Anoosha: If I ever have artist’s block, the best thing to do is stop working for a little while. I don’t draw, I try to get out for a bit. You do need outside influences, other hobbies, watching movies, going outside, meeting other people to get out of that rut for a little bit. Just get out of that headspace. And if that doesn’t work, I have deadlines and I can force myself. It’s like the analogy that art block is sometimes an old pen that doesn’t work. You’ve got to scribble out a little bit and then things actually start coming out.
I do sometimes need to try something else. Lately, I’ve tried learning another skill. I’m picking up embroidery, I want to pick up modeling. That helps me think of it more three-dimensionally.
Anoosha: I’m a last-minute worker. And the thought of an impending deadline, the pressure of it, that really gets me started.
My biggest flaw as an artist is my disorganization and sticking to my projects. I don’t have a boss leaning over me at all times, so I get distracted. I use the Pomodoro Technique, which is 25 minutes of work and a 5-minute break—you do that 4 times and you get a 20-minute break. I usually have two or three projects going on at one time (books, editorial, animation), so if I start feeling like I’m getting bored or not feeling a project, I’ll switch to something else.