The Riyaaz Academy for Illustrators was set up jointly by the Parag initiative of Tata Trusts, Eklavya, Bhopal and illustrator Atanu Roy in 2015. The Academy is a platform for budding artists and young illustrators to explore different forms of illustrations through a dual mode – one week of theory and intensive hands on practice and three weeks of distance mode every month, supported with mentoring by a group of eminent professionals. The one-year certificate course aims to refine the perception, professional skills and intellect of students interested in illustration, especially picture book illustration. In the first year, Riyaaz has trained 16 young illustrators who have already illustrated books and magazines for several publishers including Pratham Books, Eklavya, NCERT, Room to Read and Agha Khan Foundation.
They draw. They redraw. They work towards their pictures and meddle with paints and brushes till they get splotched with colours. They hunt for their subjects right from the morning to late in the night. They drive themselves to reach the high standards that they feel around them.
At Riyaaz, the students give open feedback to each other through group discussions. The faculty does not want an end product as much as it wants the students to develop their insight into the story and the details. The students receive plenty of feedback and support from the faculty even during the distance period.
To draw realistically, the artist needs to know the subject. Field trips are organised regularly to selected sites to bring the students in contact with their settings. The students at Riyaaz are encouraged to interact and mingle with their subjects before they start drawing.
Many of the students receive professional assignments during their period at Riyaaz, where they sometimes get to illustrate entire books. In addition, the course culminates with an exhibition where the students get to meet publishers.