i stole this from you: sirin thada
For her project I Stole this From You, Brooklyn-based illustrator Sirin Thada collects and illustrates stories of treasured souvenirs, lucky charms, and everyday objects that have become important personal relics. I interviewed her about the inspiration behind the project and was able to film her working on several pieces.
It was really wonderful seeing her at work and hearing about her origins as an artist—read on for excerpts of the interview!
How did you get started as an artist?
I’ve been drawing since I was a kid. I’ve always been an introvert—growing up, my world was in books. My world was with pen and paper. When you have pen and paper you’re never alone. You always have a friend with you, and that’s really the world I created for myself. So I’ve been drawing since I was a kid. It’s just something that’s always been part of my life. Through breakups, the best of times, the worst of times, it’s always there for me.
What is I Stole This From You?
I Stole This From You is a blog I do on Tumblr. It’s a collection of short stories about people and their favorite sentimental objects. Anyone can email a paragraph about their favorite object, along with a photo of it. And I do a drawing or a painting based off the photo and I write the text out, and it ends up being a collection of like little slices of life around the world.
Why were you drawn to do a project about objects and souvenirs?
It probably has to do with the fact that I am first-generation American, and it’s just my parents and my brother here in the States, so I’ve never really had a real history—we don’t have any roots here. So, the closest thing I had was asking my mom about her necklace that her mom had given her.That’s really where I guess where it comes from. Growing up, every trip we went on, I always loved keeping little souvenirs to remind myself of it. And I just love hearing those stories from people.
There is so much advertising, so much pressure to buy things, and to sell things, nowadays, and for me it’s not about the thing itself, because things get old, they break down, they become useless, at the end of the day. For me, what takes something from being just an ordinary object into the realm of the extraordinary, the magical, it’s the human element. It’s the fact that human thought has been put into it, human emotion, human experience. For me that’s, that’s what gives everything meaning.
What’s your process like for each illustration?
Once I’ve decided on a story, I try to give myself a couple days to jus let it dance around in my head a little bit. I use that time to really think about how I’m going to lay it out visually. I actually don’t do that much pre-sketching. I’m constantly just drawing in my head how I’m going to lay something out. And that’s actually the part that takes the longest. Once I’ve come up with an idea for a visual, the start to finish time in the studio is pretty fast. I sketch it out in pencil, then I lay down the gouache and watercolor. Then I usually use pencil, colored pencils, or crayons, and then once the drawing is done, I write out the story.
Do you get feedback from people whose objects are included in the project?
I do get feedback from the people whose stories I publish, which is the best thing about what I do. I always email the author once it’s up, and almost always I get an email back. For me that’s, that’s where the collaboration really culminates, and to see their responses and hear how meaningful it was to them, that’s definitely the best part.