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Ramayana: Divine Loophole Hardcover – February 10, 2010
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Artist and veteran Pixar animator Sanjay Patel lends a lush, whimsical illustration style and lighthearted voice to one of Hindu mythology's best-loved and most enduring tales. Teeming with powerful deities, love-struck monsters, flying monkey gods, magic weapons, demon armies, and divine love, Ramayana tells the story of Rama, a god-turned-prince, and his quest to rescue his wife Sita after she is kidnapped by a demon king. This illustrated tale features over 100 colorful full-spread illustrations, a detailed pictorial glossary of the cast of characters who make up the epic tale, and sketches of the work in progress. From princesses in peril to gripping battles, scheming royals, and hordes of bloodthirsty demons, Ramayana is the ultimate adventure story presented with an unforgettably modern touch.
Q&A with Author and Illustrator Sanjay Patel
Q: What was your inspiration to tell this story?
Patel: Well I finally read the thing. I mean I suck at reading and everything. But I came across a great adaptation of the Ramayana by an author named Ashok Banker. I actually discovered the book via Nina Paley's blog. She's the one woman force behind Sita Sings the Blues, the feature length animated work about the same subject. After reading a few pgs on Amazon I ordered the first book by Mr. Banker which weighed in at over five hundred pgs. Keep in mind that was just book one of a seven part series. I just read and read and the thing slowly unlocked. And what I found was an ancient mythology with themes and symbols that were timeless and essential. Really meaningful stuff all wrapped up in a visually rich world of epic adventure. The story was just begging to be illustrated.
Q: How did you get started working at Pixar?
Patel: The only thing I was ever good at was copying drawings from comic books. I just drew, and nothing could ever get me to stop. All throughout school I was considered "the artist," which really just meant that I could make really bad drawings for people’s letterman jackets. A friend told me about Cal-Arts and animation. The school was the key. Most of Pixar’s directors have come straight out of Cal-Arts and its character animation program. I just walked in their footsteps and they ended up recruiting me after my second year. I've been at Pixar ever since, close to thirteen years now.
Q: Describe your creative process. How do you create your illustrations?
Patel: Once I have a concrete idea of the story point that I want to communicate, which is usually nailed down in the writing, I then think of one “story telling image. For instance, it's a big story point when Hanuman, the monkey with special powers, uses his burning tail to set fire to the Ravana's capital city. Since this story has been told many times before I try and research what visual artist have done previously to communicate this moment. Here I pulled together reference from paintings and from vintage comics.
Click on the image to learn more about Patel's creative process and see more example illustrations.
Q: How long did it take you to create the scenes in the book?
At one point the illustrations were getting churned out at about one every two and half days. I was at a good clip till I decided to redo the entire book three times. I kept fighting with trying to make the art light hearted and cute, but the story was anything but that. The Ramayana is pretty dramatic and graphic, and I eventually found a style and voice that captured those things. It only took me four years.
Q: Which characters in the Ramayana did you have the most fun illustrating?
Patel: I can doodle Ravana the ten-headed demon king in my sleep at this point. I also love sketching Hanuman and Rama. They both have really fun shapes to fiddle with. The cover of the book was actually a blast, it was probably the last illustration I did.
Some of Sanjay's Favorites:
J Otto Seibold
Martin & Alice Provenson
Back to the Future
The Wrong Trousers
Raiders of the Lost Ark
That's a toss up between M83 and Sigur Ros
Usually places that serve french fries and hot sauce.
Phoenix Karma by Osamu Tezuka:
Calvin & Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book by Bill Watterson
Angry Youth Comix by Johnny Ryan
About the Author
Sanjay Patel is the author of The Little Book of Hindu Deities and is an animator and storyboard artist for Pixar Animation Studios, where he has worked on numerous films, including Monsters, Inc.; A Bug's Life; Toy Story 2; Ratatouille; The Incredibles; and Toy Story 3. He has also worked on The Simpsons for Fox and with legendary cartoonist John K., creator of Ren and Stimpy.
Top customer reviews
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Let me tell you - this was so much more than I ever expected. My kids (and my wife!) were mesmerized by the way the story was presented, and I can't speak enough about the artwork. My kids begged me, each night, to read more from the book. They would race through dinner and brush their teeth in record time just so we had more time to read. This is a testament to the quality of this book.
I liked the artwork so much that it's become one of my favorite books to gift - I've bought copies for my sibling's kids and several of my friends' kids.
Contrast this to the illustrations in "Sita sings the blues', whose creator Nina Paley Sanjay credits. The lack of Shraddha made those pictures,while beautiful in technique, tawdry and unappealing, whereas this book feels like no mere comic, but a work of art that is fit to adorn walls.
From the very day I first brought Sanjay Patel's RAMAYANA to class, my students have been nearly obsessed by it: they read it, want me to read it, pour over the artwork, copy the artwork, etc.
Already the book has be a delight for free reading and classroom art, true art projects in our literacy / art collaboration (after using Sanjay Patel's 12 posters for 2 weeks, students selected their favorite pages from RAMAYANA and worked different techniques for the next two weeks), and is now being read in its entirety to the class (my students INSISTED!).
So as a doorway to an Indian classic for young persons (and old ones like me too), there's simply nothing better!
(We do have a couple of books with "traditional" Indian art. My students are not drawn to it at all, considering it unattractive. But with Sanjay Patel's illustrations? My students LOVE the stories! Me too!)