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Making a difference as a freelance illustrator and a carer – Mental Health At Work

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reading time:6 minutes

Joining us today is Rikin Parekh, a children’s book illustrator who recently topped the booksellers list with The World’s Worst Class In Danger! in collaboration with author Joanna Nadin. We spoke to him about being his mom’s main caregiver, success after rejection, and why making kids laugh is just awesome.

What does a typical day look like for you, Rikin?

I help my mom with it everything she needsSupport for working parents and caregivers
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Show ResourceClosecome back and draw a lot.

Mom is disabled so I’m her main carer, it’s a big juggling act for me to illustrate and care for her.

can you finish this sentence “The best and the worst of being self-employedFreelance Wellbeing Hub
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Being a freelancer in the film and television industry can come with a lot of uncertainty and pressure. The Film and TV Charity created this website to help you learn more about your mental health and what you can do to improve it.Free

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Show ResourceClose is…’

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Show ResourceClose will come in.

It’s an industry that’s all about “who you know,” not “what you know.”

Like many of the arts, illustration can be extremely competitive. How long did it take you to get your big breakthrough?

After graduating, I worked as a freelancer film/television industryMindful Monday with the Film and TV Charity
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Show ResourceClose as a storyboard artist/creature/concept artist for about eight years. Work was hard to find as it’s an industry that’s all about ‘who you know’ not ‘what you know’.

A few years later I struck gold and was hired by my first agent. I illustrated a few books with them but was later fired because my style wasn’t selling enough, which made sense as I was very new to children’s books.

How did you deal with this rejection?

I was sad but it was the right thing to do as my portfolio needed to mature and become much stronger. I spent a good six months refining my portfolio and was so happy to be picked up by my current agent, the wonderful Claire Cartey from HolroydeCartey, and have had a lovely set of illustrations ever since!

Congratulations are due as you and author Joanna Nadin recently co-authored the book World’s Worst Class in Danger! Why is laughter so important for children?

Simply because it’s fun, and what’s fun makes us feel good, and laughing is just one of THE best things we can do when the clouds are gray and life is a little rough.

I love your work Rikin and growing up I was completely obsessed with author and illustrator Mo Willems. What or who fascinated you about illustration?

That’s really nice and humbling, thanks! I was and still am fascinated by many comic artists, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, John Romita. The old, classic comic artists who drew Spider-Man and the Marvel characters. If financially possible, I try to collect original comic art.

It’s so important that we see more ethnic people

World Book Day (WBD) came earlier this year. What does World Book Day mean to you? Can you think of unforgettable costumes?

WBD reminds us all to keep reading and enjoy wonderful characters and worlds created by people who love to read, write and draw. I think a memorable costume would be when I played “Mr. Bump” went to a school in disguise – I worked on it!

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Show ResourceClose beautifully simple, while Oliver Jeffer’s critically acclaimed work explores humankind and the magic of storytelling. Do you think books can make a difference in how children think about themselves and others?

I think they can, but it’s more important that kids can find themselves in these books, and that’s why it’s so important that we see more people from them ethnic backgrounds​How to have difficult conversations about race at work
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Show ResourceClose in the world of authors and illustrators.

A young girl is reading a book.

Your work is filled with vibrant color, whether it’s jolly alpacas or the children you illustrate in Fearless Fairytales. As you are of Asian descent, is representation and how it is presented in books important to you?

Representation is really important. When I first started illustrating, I didn’t really notice or be aware of many other authors or illustrators either in the film/television world or in children’s publishing. And when I found one or two, I felt really good and like, yeah, I could do that too. I think for future generations there has to be more representation, it has to be like this.

World problems like war and environmental problems are a lot for adults, let alone children, to deal with. Do you think art can help express how a child might think about the world?

I think art is the perfect way to express yourself on all levels. It’s the first thing we’re taught to be creative, pick up a pen or brush, use paint, build, express ourselves.

And last but not least, did you illustrate your mother’s Mother’s Day card this year?

Ha! I must have as a child! She prefers flowers to cards, so let’s spoil her with flowers or exotic plants. We took her to Kew a few years ago and she loved being pushed around in her wheelchair!

Thank you Rikin for sharing your story with us, it was a pleasure.

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