A month back my illustration professor from art school (Sir JJ Institute of Applied Art) had visited my studio to exchange ideas, experiences and to peek into each others’ sketchbooks. Kulkarni Sir also spoke about a number of illustrators/ cartoonists from his time who were known for their draftsmanship and aesthetic sensibilities. Thanks to lack of documentation about the art of illustration in our country, there were many names that were unknown to me. But one name stood out - Mario Miranda.
Mario’s work always spoke to me. As a child I remember keeping cut-outs of his cartoons from magazines and books. His lines and characters used to make me smile long before I could understand language and jokes. In school, I remember trying to copy his cartoons, to be cooler than my class mates. Mario’s work spoke to me at Mondegar and Crossroads (Mumbais ‘first mall’) when I was in junior college.
During art school I thought I was too cool for his cartoons. Right then I came across his work again at a street book seller in Fort. The book was called ‘New York’ and it was a collaboration between Mario and photographer Vinod Virkud. And I discovered his sharp eye for detail and composition, his understanding of mood and colours in the poignant – ‘man on a bench in central park’. His depiction of Manhattan high rises and New York’s dark alleys using only cross-hatch, exquisite! Humour was not the only weapon in his armoury.
Later, I was exposed to the graphic designer in him when I saw work from his Israel/ Jerusalem trip in another book. I cannot forget the simplicity of ‘Wailing Wall’ and ‘Montefiore windmill’. The series – ‘Germany in Wintertime’ - is another beauty. The attention to architecture and objects in his work showed Mario’s sharp understanding of design and culture.
At every juncture in my life I’ve come across a different Mario Miranda. My design and art sensibilities have evolved over the years from high school to art school to a full time design professional/ visual artist, but this man doesn’t cease to impress and inspire. And I haven’t even seen all his work. His body of work cuts through every strata of society, every religion, every age. Mario Miranda is a brand everyone can relate to, he is an icon, an institution. Easily the most original and the most imitated artist/ illustrator India has seen in this century.
Kulkarni Sir also spoke about making a visit together to meet him at his legendary home in Loutolim, Goa. Unfortunately it will never happen.
I hope we have a ‘Mario Miranda Museum’ in Goa someday. He sure deserves it.
(Sameer Kulavoor is a designer/ illustrator and Founder-Director of Bombay Duck Designs – India’s first studio specialising in illustration design and image making for advertising, editorial, publications, motion design, music and cultural projects. www.bombayduckdesigns.com.)