How this 28-year-old Mumbai artist is dealing with her own anxiety, helping others through her quirky, relatable illustrations on Instagram

Pranita's series Surviving Anxiety is one of the most interesting ones you would come across and it is purely based on her real-life experiences. She tells us more
Image: Pranita Kocharekar
Image: Pranita Kocharekar

After a couple of years of therapy and fighting anxiety herself, Pranita Kocharekar wanted to share all the habits she created to help herself through those phases, with those who are too afraid to seek any kind of help. Based in Mumbai, the 28-year-old is a self-taught illustrator whose light-hearted illustrations on Instagram are sure to strike a chord with the audience given its relativeness to everyday situations.

Pranita's illustrations also speak about issues like gender stereotyping. She has been working independently for the past six years after graduating from the Rachana Sansad College of Fine Arts in Mumbai where she majored in type design. "Although I majored in that, I was always inclined towards illustrations. I took up online courses and self-taught myself how to illustrate," adds the 28-year-old. Pranita has worked with various brands like Vodafone, Oreo, Adidas and Netflix, but she wishes to work more on projects that interest her and her audience can relate to. Sometime last year, she also set up her online store that sells her illustrations on products like mugs, keychains, calendars, badges and more. She tells us that what initially started off as a project on Instagram five years ago, now has become a commercial venture. "I would just upload a sketch or a drawing, like use Instagram as my art journal. I observe things on a day-to-day basis and the idea was to be consistent. A lot of people began admiring my work and eventually, a lot of brands started approaching me after that," she says.

Her series Surviving Anxiety is one of the most interesting ones you would come across and it is purely based on her real-life experiences. The anxiety series actually began a few years ago as a series of illustrations under the project name Acknowledge Anxiety – this spoke of how to identify if you’re anxious, the signs or situations which come up when a person is anxious. "At that point in my life, I was discovering my anxiety traits. The series is an attempt to destigmatise anxiety and mental health problems. It was during the time when I first began going for therapy. Everything I draw has always in some way related to my own life. I was aware of the fact that I was experiencing anxiety and I wanted to be able to express myself with light-hearted illustrations. As a part of the Acknowledge Anxiety series, there was this illustration where I portrayed a situation with me sitting in a car, I would check for my phone at every step — while getting in, then inside, while getting out of the cab. It was the irrational fear of losing it — a typical trait for a person with anxiety. I didn't want to overwhelm people but the idea was to put out there that they are not alone and I experience such things too. A lot of people came out to me after the series sharing their anxiety stories, some also don't know that there is help out there," she explains.

After this, Pranita started talking about mental health a lot more through her illustrations. Then came the Surviving Anxiety project, which spoke about simple techniques Pranita used to survive anxiety. "For example what can you do when you have a panic attack. There's a technique called grounding — name five things you see, hear, smell — that lets you come back to the moment and it has really helped me when I was in the middle of something and I was panicking and it enabled me to clear my thoughts," she adds.

Pranita had also worked on an entire calendar which spoke about gender stereotyping through her illustrations. "It was the 2019 calendar I worked on. The series was called 'Shut up and stop stereotyping'. It included fun and colourful looking illustrations which spoke about gender stereotype. I had to be careful and add as much relatable content as it was in the form of a desk calendar. The idea was to intrigue the person sitting next to the person who has the calendar on his/her desk, to kind of wonder what it is about. It was specifically meant for the young office-going crowd. This conversation needs to start especially in workplaces. I don't feel there's any equality in workplaces when it comes to women yet in our country," she says.

Pranita feels that for an artist like her, the audience is the best teacher. She has also received a lot of constructive criticism over the years and has often worked on illustrations on the audience's request. Her style is quite relatable to the common public and that's what makes her stand out as an illustrator. Speaking about her style that's developed over the years, she says, "It was not very conscious, it initially started off as something to improve my drawing skills. People enjoy the content that they can relate to and that's what stuck. Every four to five months I typically take a break and look back at what I can improve, what else I can do. That is what helps me improve."

She has a certain piece of advice for aspiring young illustrators, "I feel like there are other people who struggle with establishing their own style and establishing a voice. A lot of them are trying to imitate other illustrators, which they shouldn't do.  Gradually, one has to build up confidence and believe in their own voice, overcome the fear, and always believe in themselves. Your own voice as an artist is very important, take some time to showcase your voice."

Some of her other illustrations:

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