Featured in DNA India

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This interview first appeared in DNA on Tue, 29 Dec 2015-02:32pm. Link here.

India lacks opportunities for creative youth, says comic strip artist Ramya Sriram

27-year-old Ramya Sriram from Hyderabad discovered she loved to doodle on anything and everything. An engineering graduate, she dropped out of here MBA and started working in the ad world. But her love for doodling made her quit her full-time job and set up The Tap.

27-year-old Ramya Sriram from Hyderabad discovered she loved to doodle on anything and everything. An engineering graduate, she dropped out of her MBA and started working in the ad world. But her love for doodling made her quit her full-time job and set up The Tap (thetap.in). In an exclusive chat with dna, Ramya talks about ‘The Tap’ and opportunities for creative youth in India.

When did you discover you had a passion for art and stick figures in particular?

 My mum got me a book on chalk figures when I was in school and I think that had a big impact on me. I started to use stick figures to make little stories for friends while I was in college. As I drew more figure stories, I realised it was the perfect medium of expression for me. I talk a lot, so using a minimalist drawing style was also a way of proving to myself that I could say a lot in less!

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Coasters by Ramya

What made you set up ‘The Tap’?

A friend saw my stick figures online and asked me to run a comic strip for his magazine. It was something I hadn’t done before and I thought – why not? ‘The Tap’ started off as a light-hearted comic about music, travel and everyday, ‘life’s like that’ situations. I started receiving requests for personalised drawings. After that, there’s been no looking back. I made products – t-shirts, coasters, keychains, etc. and showcased at some of the Comic Cons in India. ‘The Tap’ is now a place to narrate stories, both visually and verbally. A space to stick-figure out life!

It’s been three years since you set it up. How has the response been?

The response has been spectacular. For me, simplicity is key, and I think that is what many people relate to. I take up requests to create wedding invites in the form of comics, and the response to that has been really good. So has the demand for the merchandise, especially customised t-shirts. I also run a strip dedicated to all mothers called ‘Amma Says’ and that has picked up fairly well, too.

Do you think creative youngsters in India have enough opportunities?

The opportunities that nurture creativity in youngsters in India are largely lacking. There’s a lot of focus on getting what people consider a “sensible” degree. However, with more and more people deviating from the traditional path to follow their passions, this trend should hopefully change soon. There are also a number of schools that are now realising the importance of encouraging children to discover what they’re good at, rather than follow a set pattern, and I think that will show promising outcomes.

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Ramya at Comic Con

What do you want to do in the next five years with The Tap?

I’d like to use the power of visuals to create awareness on social issues such as cleanliness and women empowerment. I think the advantage of using simple visuals is that it can break language barriers. I also would like to widen the range of ‘The Tap’ merchandise.

What have you learnt as a young entrepreneur?

The hardest thing for me to learn was that it’s impossible to do everything in one go. It’s important to learn to be patient, take one step at a time and also delegate work where possible. Tips for others – don’t spend too much time on ‘what ifs’. Don’t let fear prevent you from taking a chance, and don’t let the maybes come in the way of what can be!

Speaking at the LitFest @ IIM Kashipur!

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Over the weekend, I went to speak at the Literary Fest of IIM Kashipur. I met a variety of interesting authors and poets and also attended my first Hindi Kavi Sammelan! What fun it was! I spoke about the evolution of storytelling and how one can tell stories through simple drawings and comics. Converting management case studies into comic books seemed to be well in demand 🙂

The organization (by the first year students) was absolutely splendid. I wanted to explore around the area (Jim Corbett National Park is about 30 km away) but was unfortunately down with a bad tummy. Superb experience nonetheless!

iimkashipur

Featured in Office Chai

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This interview first appeared in Office Chai, on August 20, 2015. Read it here.

In Conversation with Ramya Sriram, A Cartoonist With An Engineering Background

It’s not everyday you come across an engineer who’s quit several high profile jobs to take to art.

Ramya Sriram is an artist who creates comics, caricatures and many fun things. She has worked with many corporations; she has even designed some of the coolest wedding cards for couples and she has left no stone unturned when it comes to creativity. In our Uncorporate Jobs series where we feature people who have chosen an unconventional career, Mohita Adhvaryu got talking to the artist where she reveals some fascinating aspects about her life.

Ramya Sriramm Cartoonist
Ramya at her studio

You have done engineering; you worked as an editor and copy writer. You work for yourself now, how did this transition happen? What has connected the dots? 

From wanting to be a designer, to coaching for medicine, then studying engineering, dropping out of B-school, working in academic publishing then advertising, and now freelancing full-time as a writer and cartoonist – the journey’s been quite crazy. You can see the dots were connected in a rather haphazard way.

I think I had experiment quite a bit to see what fit. I wrote a lot during engineering, which led me to consider advertising and publishing as potential careers. Strangely, I never did think about being on my own back then. I looked at friends getting into B-schools and decided it seemed like a good route to take (I was wrong!). When the publishing house called me, I was ecstatic – celebrated at the B-school, farewell party and all, and scooted. While I edited books by day, I drew comics at night. It started out just as a lark, but when I received requests for doing personalized comics, I felt I was on to something.

The transition was quite rocky, really, but I think having the liberty to choose was really great. Every experience only added to all the stories in my head.


Were you passionate about art and writing since childhood?

Yes, I used to draw and paint a lot. I had the loveliest childhood – I was exposed to a lot of art and craft, dance, music, etc. There was never a boring or dull moment. My mother is an artist, and she encouraged me to enroll for all kinds of classes – from wood carving to making stuffed toys, from calligraphy to water colors. I also read a lot, which perhaps prompted me to write later on.

Drawing was perhaps my favorite hobby during my childhood – a box of color pencils was pretty much all I needed.

I started writing more passionately during my college years – all that pent-up angst you know! I had a blog (the current one is over a decade old) and it really helped me structure my otherwise chaotic mind into meaningful words and sentences.

When I look back, I find that drawing and writing were activities that were very much part of my daily life. They just grew into part of me.

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Please tell us about The Tap. When did you start? Whom have you worked with?

‘The Tap‘ came into existence, because, I needed a name for the comic strip. I didn’t expect it to grow into something much bigger. I started about three years ago – and Comic Con Bangalore 2012 was the turning point, where I received an overwhelming response.

Her stall at a flea market

I’ve worked with a variety of clients on both illustration and writing projects – corporations, NGOs, startups and individuals. I’m currently working on converting a business case study into a comic, developing cartoons for the UI of a mobile App and writing website content.

I hate using the word ‘client’ – it just sounds so business-like and impersonal. I’d like to believe that my work has more of a personal touch – whether I’m working with a corporate or individual. I had made a wedding card for someone a few years ago, and now they’re back with a request for a baby shower invite! Things like that make me really happy.

I like having a mix of writing and illustration projects. Copywriting projects come with their own challenges – there you’re dealing with brand stories. I do a fair bit of travel writing as well.

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How important is creative independence for you?

With my own stories, I let loose – the idea hatches, takes shape and is translated externally quite comfortably, without having to fit into a certain mould. When it comes to working on orders, I’ve been lucky to have people come to me and say, ‘Do whatever you think will fit – we don’t want to disturb your creative process!’, which can be frustratingly vague but also very encouraging – especially when they like the output!

I think having to come up with something in a limited period of time, which has to match the client’s expectations, is super-challenging – and I love it! So as of now, I’m just really enjoying myself.

I love being pushed to think of new ideas, and every time I think up something, it serves as an affirmation that The Tap’s flowing steadily.

What were the major challenges in this journey?

Well, the first was trying to decide whether to give up a full-time job (where I wasn’t necessarily unhappy), or not. You always read about people who just impulsively quit a job overnight and went and did something crazy – but I took me some back and forth before I could arrive at a decision. It was only after I quit that I felt – wow, what was I waiting for?!

Another challenge I faced earlier was that I simply didn’t know how to say no. I took on too much, without realizing it. Now I’ve learnt to space out my work and draw up realistic schedules.

How different for you it is to work for yourself and to work for someone else?

There are pros and cons in both, I think. I love the freedom that comes with working on your own. I like the space and time – I like that I am free to experiment and see what works and what doesn’t. You can make choices and decisions that you can’t when you’re working as part of a company. There’s a lot of scope to surprise yourself when you work on your own! But it does demand structure – you have to create your own rules. While it can be liberating, it can also be grueling.

What I miss about working for someone else is being part of a team. Ideating on your own is quite different from ideating in a team where everyone’s approach is different. I also miss the general gossip of an office, noisy lunch rooms and chai breaks.

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What are your plans for future?

So many of them! One is to take up campaigns for corporates – leverage the power of simple visual/verbal stories for brands. There’s so much information overload and there are so many people trying to push their work out there that we’re forgetting that perhaps simplicity speaks. ‘Less is more’ is my mantra.

I’m also curious to explore how my work can be used by people who cannot read or write a particular language and if they can read comics picture-by-picture. Perhaps it can be used to bring about social change – something I haven’t explored yet.

I’ve started making custom t-shirts , and more of that is definitely on the cards.

Let’s just say The Tap’s pipes are full. 🙂

What is that one philosophy which galvanizes you to work every day?

I think all of us are here for a reason, and each one of us is good at something (or many things). Using that talent or skill to its fullest is one way of giving back to the world. We all want to get our hands dirty, but to contribute to society; you need not necessarily have mud-covered feet. I think the worst feeling is that of having a pile of accumulated unused potential. Whether you’re good at code, writing, music, cooking, running or art, you have to use that potential to its fullest. Each of them has a function in society. If you can go to bed every night feeling ‘utilized’, like you’ve given something to the world that day, then life’s a peach.

If you’ve found something you’re good at, then I think you thirst to become better and better at it. That’s what drives me.

What do you love the most about freelancing?

The variety of work I get to take up – from commissioned travel-writing trips to drawing caricatures! I’m exploring opportunities I never even knew existed. There’s a lot of stuff happening out there, beyond cubicle walls, and it’s great to be a part of it.

I also enjoy the variety of people that I meet – especially people who are starting up. The energy and enthusiasm is contagious.

Freelancing has also taught me to be disciplined – perhaps more than I would be in a full-time job.

Any advice for people who wish to start something on their own?

Take a chance! Go with unwavering focus on Plan A. If it doesn’t work, Plan B will always form itself.

All images courtesy: Ramya Sriram

 

Featured in India Today!

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I was featured in India Today, 25 June 2015, as part of their Simply Hyderabad issue, which showcased artists from the city. Read the online version here:

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/the-torchbearers/1/446975.html

The first thing that the photographer asked me to do was to lie on the floor, much to my horror. I reluctantly complied, and then asked him to delete the pictures. They published it, however (along with a bunch of things I didn’t say), and it’s rather amusing.

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Featured in YourStory

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This article was first published at 7:30 a.m., 23 May 2015, on YourStory:

http://her.yourstory.com/ramya-sriram-the-tap-0523

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“I think my biggest blessing in life is that I was allowed to pursue whatever crazy idea I got into my head. My focus kept shifting, with periodic obsessions — one day I would want to be a zookeeper, another day I would want to recycle the paper in the house. I took these ambitions with utmost seriousness, and being encouraged to do so led to many interesting experiences,” says Ramya Sriram, Founder of The Tap, which according to her is, “a storehouse for stories that originate from my wandering mind and pondering pencil.”

The Tap stands for simplifying life into comics. It is about using visual vocabulary to break the barriers language presents. Ramya allows her imagination run free to create visual stories. She had never thought she would end up drawing comics. But her random drawings of friends on Facebook (using a laptop touchpad), posted for fun got her the first break. A friend asked her to run a comic strip for his magazine. “The first order I got for a custom comic made me think perhaps this could be more than a hobby. I started taking my work seriously, putting more thought into it, finding different ways to express different stories, and playing with formats. I really enjoy the process of having to think for someone else and translate that into an illustrated story,” says Ramya.

At school in Hyderabad, Ramya was inclined towards extra-curricular activities like arts, crafts, music, and dance, always preferring piano lessons to PT classes. In spite of having the freedom to decide what she wanted to do she was not sure what academic path to choose once school was over. She ended up studying engineering from Vellore Institute of Technology, Vellore.

Again, after her graduation, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do next. She found herself frantically applying to a variety of colleges, companies, and taking entrance exams. Eventually she settled to work as an editor in a publishing house, a job that she stuck to for over five years.

Working at the publishing house helped Ramya understand herself: “I edited books at work; and went home and drew comics. I proofread academic books; and went home and wrote travel stories. And that’s when I realised that drawing and writing were my constant companions, and my calling! It happened by chance.”

Ramya founded The Tap as a space to hoard stories: “I found myself sitting in client meetings itching to draw comics, itching to know what would happen if I had more time to devote to The Tap. So I finally took the plunge.”

She turned all her complete attention to The Tap. Ramya feels that given the humungous support she enjoys from her family and friends; it is unfair to call her a one-woman army. “I have very supportive family and friends whom I can count on to holler at visitors at flea markets to buy my stuff, to help me understand excel sheets, or tell me when my drawing of a cow doesn’t look like a cow,” says a grinning Ramya.

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Despite the love and support Ramya enjoys, she has had to buckle up and face the challenges that come hand-in-hand with entrepreneurship. “I’m terrible at saying no. Earlier, I would beamingly take up each and everything that came my way, sometimes at ridiculously low prices, without realising how much time and energy I was putting into it,” says Ramya. But later she understood later that it wasn’t a healthy way to work. “When you’re doing something you’re passionate about, you invest a lot in it. And it’s best to keep track of this investment, not only the monetary kind,” she says.

She is not very good at delegation, but it is something that she is working on now. Also to ensure that she did not run away from planning (which she is not good at) Ramya attended a course on entrepreneurship and developed little strategies for herself.

Says she, “One of the things that really influenced me was the concept of opportunity cost. So, I apply that to big and small things alike. Every decision I make, I ask myself — what will I lose? And the lucidity of my answer to that question makes or breaks my decision.”

As an entrepreneur Ramya loves the freedom of working on a variety of projects that involve ideation and creating content. She enjoys not being boxed into a routine. Though she does miss the chai/coffee breaks with colleagues and the liberty of taking leaves and running off to the hills – a few thrills of a full-time job.

As an entrepreneur she has realised that despite being a very ‘go with the flow’ person, laying some ground rules and setting small targets really helps. It keeps things real. Another important learning that she has had is: “I understood that it’s really okay to experiment with various things till you find something that you are comfortable with, not something someone else wants you to be comfortable with. Once I accepted that, things got much easier.” The future beckons Ramya as she looks forward to more projects, more challenges, more drawings, and more stories! And she adds: “I also plan to expand The Tap merchandise range and add more to the online store.”

Here is a story from Ramya-

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Workshop with Comic Con, 2013

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Animation Express brings you news about my workshop tomorrow!

http://www.animationxpress.com/index.php/latest-news/comic-con-india-announces-a-special-workshop-with-artist-ramya-sriram-tomorrow-at-hyderabad

Round the corner is the first edition of Comic Con Express Hyderabad and to add more excitement to it, Comic Con India in association with Red Point Café is conducting a workshoptomorrow at Hyderabad by artist Ramya Sriram, founder of The Tap.

Ramya, who believes that pictures speak more than words, in this workshop, will stress on Simple and Minimalistic style of drawing. She started her creative journey by narrating her own stories using stick figures. To take her artistic approach to new heights, she started The Tap, a weekly comic strip for a magazine in 2010, which has now developed into a full-fledged platform for developing quirky comics and illustrations using simple lines, shapes and stick figures. She gives out her expertise as a freelancer cartoonist and illustrator.

Speaking to AnimationXpress.com about what inspired her towards art, Ramya, says, “I’ve been exposed to art since I was a kid. So drawing has always come as a natural form of expression. With time I found that I was happy telling stories using a very simple style that I discovered most people could relate to.”

To be conducted tomorrow from 7 pm at Redpoint Café, Hitech City,- Hyderabad, the theme of this workshop is “Less is More”, in which Ramya will bring forward the techniques of telling appreciable stories through picture descriptions using very few lines, curves or shapes.

Adds more, “Less is more is a technique by which you reduce or minimize the usage of detail for maximum effect. I feel more satisfied when I tell stories in pictures than I do in words.”

Ramya will also talk about The Tap’s journey  and how the idea of setting up a platform for stick figures came about along with informing about the key elements that go into making a comic strip and point out the factors which bring out the power of using stick figures or simple drawings as a mode of communication.

Talking about her drawing style, Ramya says, “I try to break down ideas and stories into simple sequences, frame by frame. I also break down complex images or pictures into simple lines and shapes. I follow a hand-drawn, sketchy, “freestyle” sort of illustration technique. I draw and color everything by hand without using any preset shapes or fills.”

Ramya creates her artworks using simple lines, shapes and illustrations to tell a story or to depict a situation and takes up personalized gifting orders for wedding invites, book covers, greeting cards and personalized gifts. She will showcase her comics and products at the workshop.

Adds more, “I will be using my comics as examples when I talk about different styles and ways of drawing/ expression.”

So which is the drawing style that Ramya recommends? “I don’t particularly recommend a simple style of drawing though it is what I follow. Some people are comfortable using more detail and that style may suit their stories better.”

“I am looking forward to interacting with the audience, especially those who are already into comics. I hope for it to be an informal session where both the audience and I can share ideas and generally have a good time.” concludes Ramya.

The Tap features in The Times of India

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This article appeared in the Times of India Hyderabad on Oct 14, 2012. Read the original article here.

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Back from the Comic Con Express at Bangalore, Ramya Sriram, a city girl who specialises in stick art, is all set to expand her horizons

An engineer-turnedcartoonist and now working in a publishing house by day, city girl Ramya Sriram sure takes her stick figures seriously. In fact, the 23-yearold’s simple and minimalistic stick art, that depict everything from her witty observations on life to caricatures of popular artists such as Jimi Hendrix, are all set to leave the confines of her Facebook page and website and feature in quirky merchandise. Ramya says that it wasn’t until she attended the national comic convention in Bangalore that she thought of merchandising her art.

Even though she had started getting individual assignments after people noticed her comic strip in a local magazine. “I started getting a lot of requests to make wedding and birthday cards and printed items such as coasters. It was then that I realised that it might be a good thing to take my hobby a little more seriously,” she says.

Her stint at Comic con opened new doors for her. “It was a good testing ground for me. Before this, I wasn’t into merchandisi n g . But after the res p o n s e from the people, I was inspired. Many people who saw my work at the Comic Con event, suggested that they would love to see stick figure bobble heads as well,” says Ramya, who describes her experience at the weeklong festival as “awesome”.

“I got to interact with several artists and designers from across the country. It was a brilliant platform where a variety of art was show – cased — from minimalistic to detailed work and caricatures to comics books too,” she adds. So what else is on the cards? “Right now, I’m completely focused on the merchandise and my website. I’m also likely to attend the main Comic Con event that happens in Delhi in 2013.”

AFRIN HUMAYON

Interview with Eenadu

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The Tap was featured in Eenadu, a local Telugu newspaper on 27 September 2012. I can’t read Telugu so I had to get someone to translate it for me 😉 Here’s the original!

 

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The Tap features in The Hindu!

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The following article appeared in The Hindu’s Metroplus Hyderabad (Read the original article here.

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Inspiration is ‘always lurking about’ for Ramya Sriram, who will showcase her work at Comic Con Express, Bengaluru

In geometry, a line is defined as a set of points. In Ramya Sriram’s world, it is quite the opposite; all her points are made using sets of lines. It is an exciting week for the biotechnology student turned publisher who doubles up as a cartoonist; she can barely stop talking about the weekend when her work, which goes by the name ‘Stick Figure Cartoons’ will be showcased at the Comic Con Express Bengaluru. She is the only artist from Hyderabad to have a dedicated ‘table’ at the convention.

Comic Con Express is a travelling version of The Indian Comics Convention being held in New Delhi since 2009. Initiated by by Comic Con India Pvt Ltd in 2010, the convention is a place where graphic artists, writers and comic book enthusiasts come together. “It is a great place to network, see where you stand in the industry, collaborate or simply meet people,” says Kabir Shah, a Hyderabad-based illustrator and concept artist. Although she studied science and works in publishing, Ramya is happiest at her desk, stylus in hand, drawing life into stick figures.

Using stick figures to tell a story is hardly a new concept but much like the artist herself, Ramya’s characters are happy, cheerful little people taking pleasures in the little things — a three day weekend, good music, sleeper class train journeys. “I use stick figures because anyone can relate to. It is challenging to express in a minimalistic medium and I’m happy when I’ve said what I want to in a few lines,” she explains. Ramya has ‘been drawing forever’ but began to take herself seriously as an artist when she started doing a comic strip for Helter Skelter magazine in 2010. Later, she took her work out of the magazine and into her website, thetap.in , a name that has now become synonymous with her own. Now she takes orders for personalised comic strips and is also starting a line of merchandise, including coasters, bags and t-shirts which she is launching formally at the Comic Con Express.

Why the name ‘Tap’? “I just woke up one morning and felt like drawing a tap,” she says. Like her cartoons, her ideas are simple, direct and filled with spontaneity. “Well, it could symbolise flow of creativity,” she adds as an afterthought.

ZEENAB ANEEZ