Saturday, August 16, 2014

STGCC 2014: Bicepstuous Booths #3 - Jai'Ho!! Kini Merch Spices Up Artist Alley with Goodies, Mumbai-style!


Has anyone noticed that this year's Artist Alley is getting more diversified with regards to the origins of the creators? There are artists not only from Red Dot Island itself, there are those from Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong, China, Japan and South Korea. And this year, there's even a husband and wife team coming all the way from Mumbai, India!

Diksha & Abhijeet Kini's Mumbai-based store Kini Merch, will be setting up their goods at Booth #AA8. Animator and indie comics publisher/ artist Abhijeet Kini, has worked in the field of illustration since 1999. He has worked with several publications like Random Timeout Mumbai and Hindustan Times, and he is also recognized for his work in popular Indian cult titles "Tinkle", "Milk and Quickies" and "Angry Maushi Vol 1 and 2". Mumbai-centric "Angry Maushi" is actually Abhjeet’s first self-published comic book. Diksha his wife, is the queen of merchandising in their enterprise.

Red Dot Diva finds it terribly exciting to that will be extra spicy Indian-flavoured biceps at this year's convention. Here's Abhijeet Kini telling us more about himself, his experiences and his various works as well as the origins of Kini Merch:

Abjikeet and Diksha Kini - they look so cute together!

Red Dot Diva: Please introduce yourself and your company. How did you get into illustration/ art as a career?
Abhijeet: I have been interested in comics and comic art right from a very young age. I started off freelancing with various newspapers and magazines when I was in college. After graduation and while working in advertising, I got myself a diploma in 2D animation and started taking up animation projects as well. 

I got a job at an animation and graphics studio where I worked for about 4 years. I quit that role to focus more on independent projects and comics.

I illustrate for "Tinkle" comics, which is a veteran name in the Indian comic scene (I have grown up reading Tinkle when i was a kid). I have been illustrating with them on a freelance basis for the last 10 years and work on fan favourite comic characters in the Tinkle catalogue, like "Butterfingers", "Defective Detectives" and "Superweirdos". I also take up other comic art commissions as well, and have got about 3 other graphic novels by with various Indian publishing houses which were completely illustrated and coloured by me. 

In 2011, together with my wife Diksha (then my fiance), we started off merchandise featuring my art and debuted these products at the Mumbai Comic Con. We got a great response and thought of taking this ahead with a serious focus. We named ourselves "KINI MERCH". Diksha handles the merchandising and the marketing of the merchandise, while I focus on the art and design. 

We are regular participants in the Indian Comic Cons across various cities, like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, etc. We also are into self publishing our own comic content. So today, we have 3 titles under our belt, self published. I support the indie scene when it comes to creative fields, be it comics, music or film. So this is my bit to get the indie comics out there. "Angry Maushi" (which means Angry Aunty in Marathi language, spoken in Mumbai) is our flagship character, with 2 comic volumes out till date and a lot of merchandise featuring her. She's our best-seller, and we'll be getting these books and merchandise to Singapore.

Red Dot Diva: I've heard you won some accolades at India Comic-Con. How long did it get for you to reach to that level of recognition?
Abhijeet: Two of my self published comics got nominated at consecutive editions of the Indian comic con awards (2012 and 2013), but unfortunately I didn't win the awards. The nominations themselves were a big achievement for me, since it felt good to see an independent effort (without the backing of any publishing house) get to where it got. The books were "Milk & Quickies" which is a black and white collection 5 short stories, and "Angry Maushi vol 1". I was up for "Best illustrator" for both the books. 

I was also up for "Best cover art" for one of the Tinkle issues, for which I had designed the cover. For whatever little recognition that I have received till now, I have to thank the various opportunities I was given all these years. "Tinkle" comics got me a good number of people writing mails telling me they like my work, which to me was really special. And since I have been working on some widely-followed characters for them for the last so many years, I think the readers have noticed my work even outside Tinkle. The Comic Cons in India have really helped since people can come meet me at the stall, giving a face to a name they have read in the bylines.

Red Dot Diva: Tell us abit about your comics/ art style and its unique points.
Abhijeet: I love humour, and one of my many inspirations from childhood has been MAD magazine. I do use various styles on various stories, depending on the mood and tone of the story. But my personal preference is humour. I love Sergio Aragones' work in MAD. 

Having said that, I also have been into the Marvel/DC kind of work. I have a huge collection of comics and action figures at home here in Mumbai, and I collect these depending on the artwork and artist behind them. So, my Tinkle work has a definite art style I follow, which is slapstick and funny. 

For my self published comic "Milk & Quickies" I used 5 different art styles for the 5 stories in it. I got a lot of praise for this experiment, which eventually earned me the nomination for the Comic Con awards. "Angry Maushi" series is black humour, and suggested for mature readers. It is a socio-political satire, and hence, I would want to keep the look funny. So all in all, humour is my favourite genre and style.

Red Dot Diva: Who are you artistic heroes? And how do they influence your own writing / artwork?
Abhijeet: Almost half the team of MAD magazine were my early inspirations. Sergio Aragones, Don Martin, Duck Edwing, etc were people whose work has really got my thinking shaped in a particular direction. I am a huge fan of the Asterix and Tintin series too. Asterix was a revelation to me when I was exposed to it at age 7. The art style was phenomenal. I am a huge fan of Humberto Ramos too, and I'm looking fwd to meeting him again at STGCC. I had met him at the Dubai comic con in April and got a few books signed.

Red Dot Diva: Is this your first time exhibiting out of India? What made you decide to start a booth at STGCC?
Abhijeet: This is actually our second comic con outside India. In April this year, we participated in the Middle East Film and Comic Con in Dubai. We had a wonderful outing there and are looking forward to a similar one at the STGCC. We have been reading up a lot about STGCC for the last couple of years, and we thought we should try it out soon. It so happened that we are doing it this year itself! Plus I love Singapore. I was in Singapore for a holiday in 2007, and remember the good food we had and the shopping. This is Diksha's first time in Singapore, so she is really excited!

Red Dot Diva: What will you be exhibiting at this year's STGCC? Anything special?
Abhijeet: Diksha is busy making a list of things to pack as I'm typing this ;) This is her department. She's like my boss when it comes to the merchandise. So, we're getting a lot of art-prints, posters, coasters, fridge magnets, our self published comics and comic earrings. There might be other items added as the days near ;)

Red Dot Diva: What is the graphic novels/ comics scene like in India? Is it competitive?
Abhijeet: A lot of very interesting comic literature has come up in India. The veteran names have gotten bigger and the new entrants in the market are upping the ante with a lot of new genres and titles. The Indian Comic cons have provided a platform for various artists and publishers and we see a change in the way comics are perceived in general. Earlier, people in India felt comics are only for children, but today there are a lot of different titles out there for all age groups. The scene is quite competitive, but at the same time not hostile.

Red Dot Diva: What advise would you give to fledging creators in India as well as other parts of Asia?
Abhijeet: My big message to budding artists and creators would be to keep doing what they are doing. We see that many talents are quashed when they are discouraged from taking up these creative fields, by their parents, peer groups and teachers, since the perception is that a real career is a bank job or being a doctor. Creativity and art may not be looked upon as a serious option. It is very important for parents to understand that talent is a talent. One must keep drawing and creating ideas and concepts, and maintain a portfolio of the same. Eventually, your work speaks for you. But do not ever stop with the good stuff!

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