Inside vivid scenes by illustrator Gaurab Thakali
Growing up in Nepal, Gaurab Thakali was more interested in outdoor activities than artistic hobbies. He would be more likely to run or swim before embarking on skateboarding, and then played a pivotal role in the introduction of Nepal’s first full-fledged concrete skate park.
However, his daily environment marked him. “I have always been drawn to the traditional sculptures, paintings and architecture that scattered the streets of Kathmandu and I think that was enough to subconsciously influence many of the decisions that I still make in my art,” he recalls. “Having lived in London for so long now, I have the prospect of seeing elements of my work that are inherently Nepali, whether it is a stronger sense of color or the way I interprets natural landscapes. ”
Art has become an outlet for him. “Like many artists, academia was not for me, so I became more obsessed with drawing,” he tells us. “In college, my art teacher encouraged me to pursue it in college. I studied illustration at Camberwell, where I found my footing in what I wanted to do creatively as a career. I also feel that learning different printing techniques has helped me move to where I am now with my practice.
Today he is known for creating rich, dense illustrations filled with color and warmth, especially his vibrant interpretations of live music and the pioneers who changed the game, from John Coltrane to Sun Ra to Sonny Rollins. . His journey in musical illustration came organically. “At one point, it was the only thing I was drawing and recording,” Thakali recalls. “I just drew things that interested me and lived with musician friends who pushed me in that direction for sure. We would spend a lot of time in the living room where they would practice or rehearse and I would sit and draw them live.
His illustrations perfectly capture the intoxicating buzz of these spaces, but also the element of seriousness or isolation that accompanies the work, his performers often bathed in shadows and distinct from the crowd.
The dynamism and energy of Thakali’s work is contagious, which has earned him commissions to work on promotional posters as well as to create work for The New Yorker and The New York Times. During his career, his illustrations have also appeared on record covers, clothing, skateboards, packaging and even a turntable.
“The colors and lines I use are heavily influenced by a combination of traditional paintings from Nepal and Tibet called Thangka paintings, Japanese artists like Hasui Kawase, and painters like Maurice de Vlaminck, Alice Neel and Philip Guston.”
His instinct for color is the result of years of collecting and archiving palettes that work harmoniously and that he feels represent it too. “I like to find new combinations, to be inspired by my environment, and of course great artists from movements like Fauvism and Impressionism,” he says.
Naturally, there are a plethora of genres, labels, and characters that stand out in terms of visuals, including jazz records from the 1940s, as well as soul and funk releases from the 70s and 80s.
He counts Strata East, Blue Note, Verve and Prestige among the labels that have had an impact on him in particular, as well as artists known for creating album covers like David Stone Martin, Lemi Ghariokwu and Mati Klarwein. “Visually, they were so strong that sometimes people probably relate to the artwork as much as the music behind the album cover,” he says.
One of his closest collaborators is London, menswear designer Nicholas Daley, known for his fashion presentations that encompass music and culture. The two met at a concert several years ago and since then Thakali has created promotional artwork for a number of Daley’s shows, as well as artwork used directly in the collections.
“I think we have an effortlessly combined understanding of how a project should go just because the way we approach our respective creative practices is quite similar,” Thakali says of their relationship. “We both use music to enhance and express what we do, as well as to create works inspired by our cultural heritages. Working on some of the more recent projects like his new Stepping Razor collection was especially interesting as we got to experience animation, a skill set I’m still learning, and just having this piece to try it out. was great.
Despite limited access to live cultural events and musical settings over the past year, Thakali has always been approached by musicians to work with them on various projects, which has helped him stay inspired.
The types of scenes that inspired him have also evolved in harmony with this era, with much of his work showing natural landscapes or moments of reflection at home, as shown in his recent cover illustration for the New. York Times. “It has been great to connect with my natural surroundings here in the UK and to expand and learn,” he says.