“Miss Moti came out of my struggle with body image issues like being overweight. I wanted to create a positive character that could achieve and accomplish things regardless of her size. I was inspired by my mother who, despite her weight, has never let it hold her back from doing anything. She is very active and full of energy,” illutsrator and comic artist, Kripa Joshi shares how the idea of Miss Moti came about.
She explains that she came up with a name Miss Moti, because a friend of hers used to call her Moti… “I wanted to change this negative connotation into a positive one. I liked the fact the Moti could mean a plump woman, but if you pronounced the ‘T’ differently it could also mean a pearl. So the name, and her logo, suggests that Miss Moti might look plump and ordinary, but on the inside, she could be extraordinary and a gem of a person.”
Read more as Kripa talks about body positivity through the adventures and fanatasies of the plump and extraordinary, Miss Moti.
What are some responses that you’ve received from creating Miss Moti?
Generally the response has been very positive, from both men and women. They say “we love Miss Moti” and they also love Kuku, her dog. Some people question whether a fat woman should be a role model. My response has always been that first of all, it is important to have representation of all kinds of people in the media. Secondly, Miss Moti is not there to promote any particular body type, but to encourage us all to enjoy our bodies, no matter what it is like. She tries to exemplify that we should not let our bodies, or inhibitions, hold us back from what we want to do in life.
How has your personal life contributed to Miss Moti’s fantasies and adventures?
My personal life does contribute to the stories. First of all, the character herself is inspired by my mother and the challenges I face. I find it difficult to climb stairs and often have dreams about flying or jumping through clouds which is probably what inspired the Miss Moti and Cotton Candy. For anthologies the theme given to us inspires the stories.
The Motivation Monday project that I am currently working on is more influenced by my personal life. It was started at the beginning of this year as a way for me to get back into making Miss Moti after a two year break since the birth of my daughter. It was also to motivate me after suffering from postnatal depression. On a weekly basis I choose motivational quotes to illustrate, and sometimes they are related to what is happening in my day to day life… it could be someone’s birthday, a friend feeling anxious, a family in difficult times or a national event. I try and find something positive to say. For example, when there was a report of rise in hate crimes in the UK following the Brexit vote, I illustrated the quote by W. Somerset Maugham which said “The essence of the beautiful is unity in variety”.
What is the process of making a Miss Moti comic?
The most important thing in making a comic is the planning stage where you jot down and plot your ideas quicktly. It can be pretty rough and just thumbnails, but it is important to if the flow of the story works well. Planning well ensures that you do not end up wasting time making too many changes during the final artwork.
When I first started I used to draw the outlines on paper and then colour on the computer. Now with my Wacom tablet, I do most of the work on the computer expect the initial planning stage. If it is Motivation Monday, I first start with finding a quote after which I think about what the image could look like to represent that quote. Then I plan a rough layout and look up reference images. I work on different layers on Photoshop, so separate layers would have the line work, colours, details, textures and so on. The more complicated the artwork, the more layers there will be. This enables me to correct one aspects of the image without affecting the others.
If I am working on an anthology the theme is generally provided and then it is a question of finding the story. For a comic, it takes more planning because you not only have to tell a story but also design the whole page and factor in the page turns as well.
What is your experience about being a woman and South Asian comic artist?
I am happy to say I have never faced any barriers or prejudice for being a woman comic artist… in fact it has opened more possibilities! I think my South Asian background makes me different. Generally the comic artists are quite accepting and supportive, specially in the small press and self published field. I have always had a lot of encouragement from them, especially from Paul Gravett who has worked in comics publishing and promotion for more than 20 years.
I have been a participant and co-editor of the Strumpet, women’s only comic anthologies. Recently I was also part of the Comix Creatrix exhibition at the House of Illustration in London and it featured 100 female comic artists. The exhibition emphasised that this was just the tip of the iceberg and that we should no longer question the presence and contribution of women in comics.
Leading from that exhibition I was asked to be a panellist at Bradford Literature Festival. This month I am a part of another exhibition opening at the Lightbox in Woking and will also be conducting their Young Curators workshop.
What would you like to say to young women who are suffering from body image issues and depression?
It is understandable that people suffered from body image issues when they are living in a world that places so much importance on appearances. Women certainly get judged more, but this is not only a woman’s problem. There are a lot of things people could feel insecure about, not just their weight. Even if you are the prefect weight, you might still not like aspects of your body like your feet, or your hair etc. However, if we shift our focus from our outer selves to our inner selves, we can start feeling better. Miss Moti is not advocating that we should be fat and unhealthy; she is advocating that we should not let our insecurities and body image stop us from doing what we want to do in life.
In terms of depression, I think the main thing to realise is that you are not alone. Sometimes the biggest hurdle is to accept that you might be suffering because mental health can still be a taboo subject. Postnatal depression can specially be very difficult because it strikes at a time when you are trying to bond with your new baby and you are supposed to be happy. The anxieties get ramped up and combined with sleep deprivation you could end up feeling like a bad mother. It really helped me to go to a support group because you are in a non-judgmental group with others who are going though the same situation. I am still good friends with many of the women I met there and we continue to help each other whenever we feel low. I didn’t take medication, but a lot of my friends did and it can be a big help. They tell me it enables them to detangle their thoughts and reason with unwarranted thoughts and anxieties.
What advice/suggestion would you give to those who are aspiring to pursue a career in the arts?
I would say that it is important to not just be good in art but also learn how to promote or market your work. This is difficult to do, especially since it can seem counter intuitive to being an artist. I have certainly struggled with it! Which is why it is also good to be a part of an artistic community. A lot of Miss Moti comics have appeared in anthologies, which is a good way to start out in comics. I would also like to refer to two quotes I have illustrated for Motivation Mondays : ‘It is never too late to be what you might have been” – by George Eliot” and “Eighty percent of success if showing up” by Woody Allen.