An interview with Shreya Gupta

When the chance came to work on Jhumpa Lahiri's Pulitzer Prize-winning Interpreter of Maladies, illustrator Shreya Gupta didn't have to be asked twice. In our latest blog, we spoke to Gupta about her process, what inspires her and how she undertook this exciting commission.




Have you always worked as an illustrator?


My undergraduate degree is in computer science engineering and I actually started out as an IT engineer in India. Then I decided to change careers, moved to New York and attended the School of Visual Arts.


How did you feel when you were asked to illustrate Interpreter of Maladies?


Working for Folio has been a long-held ambition and I love the book, so to work on this, the first ever illustrated edition, was a dream job and incredible to be involved in!


'The Third and Final Continent' rough

'The Third Final and Continent' second rough

'The Third and Final Continent' final illustration 



Where do you create your illustrations?


I have a nice, peaceful set-up in the corner of my studio apartment. White noise is a constant in the background. I think it's because it's noisy where I'm from in India, so complete silence throws me.


Can you tell us about your process?


My usual process is to read the text and see what jumps out and excites me. I look for the mood of the story and try to reflect that in my illustration. My methods are completely digital, using Procreate for line art and then colouring in Photoshop.

Many of the stories in Interpreter of Maladies are about immigrants living in the United States. Living in the US myself, I am culturally a little different from Indians who were born here. That's something reflected in the stories that I connected with.

I had this idea of illustrating a key scene from each story with an additional overlaid image representing the malady, to add another layer of meaning. 


'When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine' rough

'When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine' rough

'When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine' final illustration



What was your favourite story in the book?


The story that made me laugh out loud was 'The Blessed House'. It's about a newly married Hindu couple who move into a new house and find items of Christian paraphernalia left by the previous owners. The wife forces the husband to keep those items despite being Hindus, which I thought was absurd and funny. My illustration for a party scene shows the husband standing with slumped shoulders and an image of Jesus stuck on top of him, like it's being forced on him.


Rough for 'The Blessed House'

Draft illustration for 'The Blessed House' 

Final illustration for 'The Blessed House' 



What inspired the binding design?


My cover illustration of lotus flowers taking root and blooming represents immigrants moving to a new country and making their life there. Even though they may face hardship, they still make it work.

Learn more about Shreya Gupta.