Drawing a Line to Your Heart

summernight.jpgBy now you must have noticed the newest art banners adorning Sepia Mutiny. They are the creations of Nidhi Chanani, an illustrator and designer living in San Francisco. The first time I spotted one of these scenes at the top of the page it captivated me with cuteness, and I kept clicking to reload the page and see all of them.

I continued clicking on over to her website, and with each view the charming characters populating her illustrations–often smiling, sometimes pensive, but always sweet–quickly worked their way into my heart. I checked in with Chanani to find out more about her and her work. Keep reading to learn what inspires her, which illustration is a favorite, and the details of her award-winning recipe for mattar paneer.What’s your favorite piece so far that you’ve made?

That’s a really tough question! On any given day that can change, and sometimes I am likely to say none! That’s because I feel like I am still learning and growing as an artist. Sindhoor is one of my favorites–I made it for my hubbahubba for our first anniversary.



How long do they take to make?

That generally varies, but usually 2-4 hours. The drawing itself is usually quick, right now I spend the most time playing around with the lighting and mood after I finish the drawing.

How did you get started as an artist?

I think I always wanted to do this… As far as art as a profession, I got my first degree in literature and worked in the non-profit field for a number of years. I had dabbled in art here and there, but wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted.

I started to follow some artists and illustrators and through watching them grow and pursue art as a profession I began to see that it was what I wanted too. I left the non-profit world and enrolled in an art school at 28, but after a year I felt like I knew what I wanted to do so I left art school.


Since then I’ve been working everyday on art, whether it’s my daily sketch, my graphic novel or freelance work.

Who are your favorite artists?

Some of my favorites are Kurt Halsey, Craig Thompson, Stella Im Hultberg, Alina Chau, Sanjay Patel and Pascal Campion.

What is your first graphic novel about? Will it be along the lines of the Small Hands strip?

It is a graphic memoir about growing up Indian in America. It will have some elements of the Small Hands strip, but mostly it’s very different. It’s about challenging the traditional, family secrets and the confusion of a first generation childhood. Ultimately, I think it’s about being desi and understanding what that means.

Where do you get your ideas and inspiration for your art? Are the people you draw mostly based on people you know?

Inspiration is everywhere! I feel incredibly fortunate to have a life full of love whether from friends, family, my hubbahubba or simply the moments I stop to notice the color of the clouds as the sun sets or the way my kitty rests her head on the sofa. I am also a music lover. I almost always draw with music on.


I draw a lot from my life and the people I know, but often times I draw things entirely out of my head, based on nothing and no one particular thing. Sometimes I start with a specific image in mind, and other times I just want to illustrate a feeling or try something new with color or lighting. It really varies from day to day!

Did your mattar paneer really win an award? Can you tell us your recipe?

Yes! The recipe can be found on the Vegetarian Times website.

*Do you want to see more of Chanani’s work? Subscribe to “Nidhi’s Sketch of the Day” at e-nidhi.com. *

10 thoughts on “Drawing a Line to Your Heart

  1. I believe the correct word is “Sindoor”, and not “Sindhoor”. Sorry for nitpicking, but “Dhoor” in some north Indian Languages means “Dirt”. Now you don’t want to put any dirt onyour love’s forehead, do you? ;-)

  2. Beautiful illustrations indeed, and her voice, it is also very sing songy even in the written form. And for the nitpicker, “dhool” with an “L” is what north indians refer to as dirt, so her spelling of Sindhoor is just fine!

  3. I love it! It’s a cute and refreshing illustration style. I’m sick of mangafied visuals.

    Sorry for nitpicking, but “Dhoor” in some north Indian Languages means “Dirt”.

    Are you sorry? I doubt that. You’re shallow and pedantic to fuss on that knowing that transliterations are a mess from Indic languages to English.

  4. Nice interview and very nice style :D

    If you ever wanted to get started on 3D. You should check out my site for tutorials. I think It would look awesome i 3D as well.

  5. who said sindoor should not be spelled as “sindhoor’ , this is true spelling of Sindhoor, sindoor is modifed hindi lingo. In south India most words will have “h” associated with it. if you know the meaning of the word then this should be cool give the artist thumbs up for creating such a wonderful piece. why make a fuss. and by the way for dirt hindi word is Dhool not dhoor. I think you go check your own hindi.

  6. @ Miss and Nishi: I never said in “Hindi”. I said in some North Indian Language. In Gujarati it is “Dhoor” for dirt. I admire Nidhi’s artistic talent. That was never an issue here. @ Paul: Now, now, there is no need to get yourself in “dhoor” or “dhool” Chill out. Look who is now shallow and pedantic?

  7. ..

    Congrats Nidhi. Had been thinking of sending u a mail or msg about the fantastic improvement I see everyday in your daily sketching… It’s Nice to wake up, open the mail and see a new piece with fresh colors and incredible cuteness every morning. Helps me get into the artspree :D Keep the good work going.. All the very best and congrats on the interview..

    ps: digging the Recipe ..:D


  8. Thanks for the details, Pavani. I had noticed the new artwork too! I find Chanani’s work so joyful. How refreshing.