Kripa Joshi, competed her BFA in Painting and MFA in Illustration. She started making comics and developing a character of Miss Moti around 2005. Her work has also been featured in different platforms. Miss Moti and Cotton Candy was published on The Guardian and other platform such as BuzzFeed, Daily Mail have also featured parts of Miss Moti.
“I call myself an illustrator and a comic artist because I do children book illustrations and also have my own comics Miss Moti. I went to study painting for 4 years but when I came back I realized I couldn’t really become an artist as I got too attached to my paintings to actually be able to sell them. Then, I started illustrating some books and soon I wanted to get more specialized in it. I went to New York with a Fulbright Scholarship for my MFA. I then decided to make a comic but I still had to learn how to make it. And so that was when I started working on Miss Moti.
Having grown up in Nepal we read Tintin, Archies and have the general impression that ‘comics are for kids’. But in actuality there is so much of experimentation and varied stories being covered in comics. I mostly work digital but there is a lot of scope in comics itself. The art in comics, the stories, age range and topics can all be so varied and diverse.
Comics are just a medium. You can tell any kind of story with it. It can be sad, funny, fiction or fact.
Right now, I live abroad but most of my work is always here at Nepal. I did children illustrations for Rato Bangla publication, which was also local. Similarly though Miss Moti is online, the printing is mostly done here itself. I’ve also worked in organizing comic workshops.”
What are you currently working on? How has your work developed since you started out?
My work has morphed a lot since I began with art. When I started at School of Visual Arts I wanted to bring a Nepali essence to my work. So I took some aspect from Maithili art. But once I started comics I realized that lack of perspective was hindering my work. I saw that hindrance in my storytelling.
The past one-year I have been working on motivational Monday. It’s the character of Miss Moti but it is not quite a comic, it is more of an illustration with motivational quotes. It was a personal project at the beginning but I got in touch with a weekly Nepali publication and asked them if they’d like to publish it. They agreed and now Motivational Monday is a weekly column on Nepali Times. The rest I’m doing it online.
Which of your works have been most important for you?
The first appearance of Miss Moti is in the Hippo painting which was meant to be a series of painting. I created a fat character there and wanted to tell her story. That painting was very special to me because most of my work is digital but that was something I painted with my hands. Miss Moti and Cotton Candy was my first comics. My comics are wordless comics so I’m trying to tell a story without words and that was a steep learning curve for me and so that was very special. ‘Miss Moti and Ultra Girl’ is also very close to me because it was a part of anthology for Asian American superheroes. Asians are always the villain or sidekicks in American comics so the whole idea was about a representation of a minority.
Inspiration: necessary or a myth?
It’s definitely necessary. There’s a very nice quote from Pablo Picasso “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” You can’t just be inspired, you need to convert that inspiration to work. For example, the inspiration for Miss Moti came from my own struggle with body image.
What would your advice be to aspiring illustrators and comic artists?
For a comic artist I would say having a peer support is very important. Most of the time illustrators and comic artists tend to be on their own. So when you get to know, talk and connect with other people, then an idea will come up that could be better than what you previously thought of or maybe they’ll actually suggest something you haven’t thought of at all. Varied shots and angles make your work interesting so if you get a few pointers and tips on how you can make your work more interesting, just be open to suggestions.
There are a lot of people who are very good at drawing but they might not know how to put it together in a book. When you’re illustrating a book even though you’re very good at drawing you need to work on the composition and framing (like close ups or expansive views), and so many other things you need to keep at the back of your head, like the page turn.
How much attention do you pay to the feedback of others on your work?
Because of my personality, criticisms and feedbacks affect me and I take them very seriously, though I am slowly changing on this aspect. Having said this, I am open to constructive criticism. I think feedback can help you make your work better.
Most people who know of Miss Moti like her and what she stands for. She as a character is someone who is going beyond prejudices and not letting it hold her back.
“I always tell people I am not miss Moti but I want to be like Miss Moti”
There was this comment when Miss Moti was featured in an online platform – how can she be South Asian and yet so fair? Initially I didn’t want to give her a specific identity, I wanted her to be universal. I didn’t understand why the color of the skin needed to determine anything. But then it dawned upon me that there is a lot of attention given to fairness. There is no representation for dark toned people just as there’s none for fat people in the media. I felt there was a need for a proper representation about being brown and able to do what you want to do. So I made a conscious decision to make Miss Moti darker when I started the motivation series. I didn’t agree to in the beginning but then I took it as a constructive criticism.
How different is it to work with Nepal and abroad?
The first difference is payment. Artists get better pay abroad. They have a contract beforehand and its all professional. Whereas here, sometimes I sign the contract after I’ve done everything and mostly there isn’t even any contract to begin with. Similarly the idea of who actually owns the right to the work that you produce is very different. There they pay you to use your work and if they decide to make any changes they have to pay for it again.
In Nepal, after the payment the image belongs to the publisher, which means they can make anything of it and use it, anyway they want to. It is inappropriately used with no remuneration or credit and the artist has no way round it again.
“It’s difficult to make a work of art and it takes a lot of time so artists need to receive royalties and the credit they deserve.”