Visual Female of the Month – January

– Janine Shroff

Photo by Nikhil Hemranjani

Janine Shroff is a multi-talented designer and illustrator working in London. Originally from Mumbai, Janine creates provocative artwork of substance, often with surreal elements, amazing detail and a touch of humour. Her subject matter and client work is often of a political nature, looking at issues such as over-population, birth, pregnancy, gender and misogyny. I was lucky enough to interview the lovely Janine who gives birth to another amazing year of Visual Female’s.


Now for the interview….

How old were you when you started creating?From a pretty young age. I think I have drawings from around 7 that my mother has saved. (not that they were any good)

Where did you study and why did you decide to work as a designer?

I went to St. Martins Art & Design in London. Working as a designer was a necessity because I was a foreign student with strict visa requirements. Plus freelance illustration is precarious and I had no real computer skills at the time nor the luxury of not paying rent.

What is your creative process? How does this differ between personal and client­based illustrations?

With personal illustrations I have as much time as required so I can put in a lot more detail. I write down notes in my Gmail tasks, or send myself emails with ideas. Then I start with a rough thumbnail with mostly squiggles. The thumbnail is just to map out roughly the composition. I start pencilling in on a large A1 sheet (the largest I can go in my flat). I use pinterest boards for reference material if I need them and have them open on a laptop. Then I colour in the background with crayon or watercolour and work on top. The final layer is shading with a ball pen over the colour. The real difference is that there can be no mistakes, so I go a lot slower.

Client based is similar but shorter: I draw a few thumbnails and then do a pencil sketch that I send over to the client for approval with some rough ideas for the colour. Once approval is sent over I working on the final. I used to do everything manually but it’s really too cumbersome especially if changes are required. So now I’m trying to change my process so that I work black and white, then scan it in and colour on photoshop (almost backwards from my personal work). It allows for more flexibility while still retaining the hand drawn feel. I also want to start drawing everything piece meal and then put it together in a scan, but that’s a little tricky without a light box.

Your work often communicates political/social messages. What are you feeling most
passionate about at the moment?

Dwindling wildlife, Ruining of the environment, growing population, rampant misogyny. (Fun fun fun!)

Tell us about your interest in relationships, pregnancy and child-birth and why these
themes are present in your art.

Relationship ups and downs, intimacy and detachment are just interesting to draw. They are so nebulous that you forget that moment easily. I like to look back on a hard-coded sheet of paper with the evidence of it.

With Birth / pregnancy: I find pregnancy repulsive. There, I said it. (sorry) There is a whole arc of dislikes which range from the totally irrational (the distended tummy and the belly button popping out just disgust me on a deep unexplainable level. Like watching a scene from Alien) to the far more rational (we live on a planet of 7 billion and growing. Too many people, living for a long time. Do we need to keep making more than one per couple?).

I am also fascinated with the concepts of Motherhood & fertility. The society wide obsession with it, elevating mothers to goddess like status yet holding them back, stripping them of power and the trap that seems to entail. In short, this topic is like poking at one of those washed up jellyfish on the beach. You feel revolted doing it but it is also simultaneously fascinating.


What do you want to achieve in 2015?

More work & more focus. I have a growing email list for various project plans and drawing plans. One is making a paper theatre inspired by the british legacy of marionette theatre toys, another is painting on bottles inspired by traditional india arts & crafts. Doing 2-3 larger pieces. (One on abortion and 2/3 fantasy landscapes which will be part of the Bucket Bath series). Showing my work somewhere in London. Learning how to use a Wacom tablet for digital colouring in and working on more efficient techniques for client work. Be a better designer. Or a more thoughtful designer. Be more punctual, have better time management. (Fine last words)
If I get though even a fraction of the above I’ll be pleased.

What do you think humanity should strive for in 2015?

World Peace. (Just kidding. That’s never going to happen). I really don’t know. My personal vote is less children, long-term smaller, more sustainable population.

If you somehow hurt your vision, would you choose to wear glasses or contacts?

I used to wear both from the age of 10 or 11. Glasses until I had contacts, then contacts in the day, glasses at night. I finally had the lasik eye surgery a couple of years ago. Best thing I did! I wish I hadn’t waited as long.

Excluding sight, what two other senses are your favourites?

Hearing, so I can listen to podcasts at work and music while commuting.
Taste, because I’m a glutton.

5 most pleasant things to look at:

Cute pets doing silly things (I know, it’s bad. I can’t help it)
Plants / Wild Gardens
My Venus Fly Trap
Beautiful book covers
Vintage pinterest illustrations or photos

5 least pleasant things to look at:

people spitting
baby photos
injured animals

Janineshroff Goddess 3Janineshroff Goddess 1

Who is the most inspiring woman you know and why?

Hard to answer, I can only think of this South Indian poet called Salma. Her story was made into a documentary. (She was virtually a prisoner in her home from the age of 13 until middle age in a very conservative village). But her poems have this raw rage that I love, even though the translation.

Oh. And Tina Fey.

What is your favourite thing about yourself?

Smile, I suppose.

What is on your bedroom walls currently?

We have 2 of my paintings up (because we had no where else to put the frames): The Turkish Bath & Bathtub

Favourite clothing / accessory / product at the moment?

Batman & Superman belts (as in the photo)

Favourite artist at the moment:

Victo Ngai, Craig P. Russell (Sandman comics)

And finally, any words of advice for people stepping into the creative sector?

Don’t give away work for free. I’ve said it in other places but I think it’s pretty important because you are constantly being asked to do work for nothing in a way an electrician or plumber might never be.
This is a hard resolution to stick to (I know, I’ve done far too much free or virtually free work) especially when people cajole and please and tell you how good this will be for your portfolio. Most of the time you will regret it. If you are still raw it won’t really be good enough for your portfolio, and if it is good enough you ought to have been paid.


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