Inkscape Illustrations of Indian Mythology

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Matsya avatar - Indian mythology illustration

In the beginning, the idea was a simple one, to make a useful site. I always have written quite a bit on this blog about blogging software, content management systems and building websites, information I think is useful to many and surprisingly elusive in the flood of technical information online. I wanted to give all this information its own space where I didn’t have to worry about alienating my often non-technical regular readers. Then I came up with a name Content Deliverance and things got more complicated.

The melodramatic name worked well in my head, and in typical fashion, I decided that the site’s personality would come from the use of classic Biblical etchings and mythological illustrations that vaguely fit the theme of each post. When I finally got down to making Content Deliverance, I ended up creating a blog template from scratch and had convinced myself I’d make original illustrations for every post, illustrations tying the post to scenes from the grossly under-represented Indian mythos. This is how I ended up churning out some good, and some passable, Indian mythological illustrations in my vector graphics software of choice, Inkscape.

Ganesha as scribe - Indian mythology illustration

Being a sucker for punishment, by the time I’d gotten around to the second illustration for a post on the benefits of timeless content, I decided I’d try, as far as possible, to create these vector illustrations directly on the computer, with no physical sketches for guidance and with little or no reference, to test how much I could push myself. As you can see in the illustration of Ganesha scrawling the Mahabharat, push myself I did.

Saptarishi constellation - Indian mythology illustration

King Vikram and the vetala - Indian mythology illustration

Over the next few months, back in 2011, I did a series of eight posts on Content Deliverance and eight illustrations on Indian mythology to go with them. Some were rudimentary and quick to execute, some took days of slow work and careful detailing to create the effect I wanted. Through the process, I learnt a lot about illustrating with Inkscape. Even more importantly, I learnt that I could in fact think up images and put them down in a tangible form, an ability I am confident of with words but wasn’t so sure of with my artistic abilities at the time. These eight images gave me the confidence to tackle a much more strenuous course of visual experimentation at Today’s Doodle later that same year. While my technical skills are still far from consistent or remarkable, the boost in confidence which started with these images cannot be discounted.

Laxman and Ram with Shabari - Indian mythology illustration

Creating vector illustrations in the planned and layered fashion the medium allows, is a skill and a thought process of its own. I had used it in various pieces of commercial work before, and even the still very detailed personal March to Your Own Tune image from many years ago, but creating so many different images in a relatively quick manner gave me a new appreciation of the benefits of working in something like Inkscape. I found myself relying less on bells, whistles and fancy automation, and more on simple layered thinking, as one would have in the old days of air-brush art. That thinking in terms of masking and overlapping I even distilled into a short piece I wrote on the Primordial Soop blog, about creating dappled light effects with vectors, from the techniques used in the above image of Ram, Laxman and Shabari from the Ramayan.

Durga watches Hayagriva's penance - Indian mythology illustration

Most of all, this exercise reminded me of so many forgotten stories, so many nuances and wonders of all that is the long-running story of Indian storytelling. In trying to find appropriate imagery for obscure technical matters, I explored the mythic stories of the Vedic culture in ways I hadn’t before, and it was fascinating to see them anew and see them in ways that are just my own, as is the power of myth and parable. I was thankful for my stubborn and difficult idea for what should have been a simple technical site.

Parshuram receives a mighty axe - Indian mythology illustration

After that initial burst of enthusiasm, I lost steam in the actual writing of new material. While the site is still a sound idea, I was distracted by other projects and Content Deliverance was let to stagnate, as it has to this day. I think now of restarting my efforts, because such a resource is as needed now, and maybe more so, to cut through the clutter of me-too sites on WordPress and such popular topics that seem easy to cover with cut-and-paste blogging. I was trying to build something unique and useful, which I should continue.

Maricha in the form of a golden deer - Indian mythology illustration

I have thought more recently to give up on the dream of creating original illustrations for every post, but it doesn’t feel right to give up on what is essentially the unique character of the site, beyond the fresh start it provides in tacking the subject at hand. Only time will tell how I am able to continue this stream of technicalities and ancient tales brought to life in images, but I hope I am able to keep the knowledge alive and the myths breathing their colourful humours indefinitely.

Samir

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