Quality of children’s books in Sri Lanka below required standard - Chrish Vindhy | Daily News

Quality of children’s books in Sri Lanka below required standard - Chrish Vindhy

Today we are going to meet an exceptional character with many talents. Chrish Vindhy is an architect by profession and now she is working as a full-time freelance children’s book illustrator both in local and international level.   

She comes from a significant family background for book writing and publishing in Sri Lanka with one of the leading computer book authors and two leading publishers in her family account.   

Speaking about using the name Chrish Vindhy and not her real name, she said, “My full name is N. P. Chrishnajina Vindhya Wickramaratne. From the beginning, I have been focused and mainly targeted the international market. I thought my name is rather longer and difficult to pronounce. That was the main reason for me to change my name as Chrish Vindhy for only in publications and web pages.”   

She was born in Mirigama in Gampaha district, but later after her marriage she settled down in Moratuwa, “With my marriage and after my higher education, mainly because of the convenience for our professions we moved to Moratuwa. But these days we are in the UK for my husband’s post graduate studies in Wales”.   

Speaking of her professional background, Vindhy said, “Yes, I am an architect by profession, qualified from the University of Moratuwa but now I am working full-time as a children’s book author and illustrator for mainly international publications. I have published three of my own children’s books and illustrated over 20 children’s books of many international authors and publishers. I am planning to publish another three books I have already written in the near future.”   

When queried as to why she changed the field, she responded saying, “It’s quite a long story. Firstly, I must say that architecture is also an art. That is the only art which fulfills a basic human need. If I say about my changeover, since I have written and illustrated few children’s books and done few publications, Sumithra Kadurugamuwa, one of my relatives introduced me to Sevugan Irajendran who was working for a global non-profit organisation called ‘Room to Read’. Sumithra aunty was also working in that organisation as an editor. Mr. Irajendran was extremely happy with my work and invited me to undertake illustration works for their books, the organisation was going to publish. That was the point at which I realised that there is an opportunity to involve other authors’ books as an illustrator.”   

Vindhy has already illustrated over 20 international books. She expanded her capacity by joining many related groups on the internet and researching about the illustration field and its characteristics. “I had an opportunity to work with Professor Rachelle Jones Smith from the USA, for her ‘Crystal the Chameleon’ book as my first international publication. I would like to say that it was the turning point of my illustration career and I always appreciate her for selecting me and giving her hand to raise me up as an international illustrator. I’m glad to mention that, from that point onward, I was able to get involve with over 20 international authors and many publications around the world including USA, UK, Canada, Morocco, Pakistan, and Australia, in addition to many publications done in Sri Lanka.”   

Speaking of her inspirations in the illustration field, she said, “From my childhood days I loved to read picture books on folk tales from many countries. My father’s library was the main source which fulfilled my reading and writing appetite. But above all the other books I read, I believe that the children’s books authored and illustrated by late Sybil Wettasinghe, the legendary children’s book writer and artist, were among my favourites.   

Obviously, I feel she will remain as my all-time role model for this field forever. In the contemporary field, David Shonnon’s David series is one of my favourites among children’s publications.   

With the international experience, she believes that the quality of children’s books in Sri Lanka are below the required standard. “I’m not so happy to mention this but comparatively the quality of Sri Lankan children’s books is rather behind. The main reason for that is the printing cost. Generally, in international books, there are about 32 pages on average but in our books, it normally limits to 20 pages or less to keep the price of the book in an affordable range. Besides that, there is a huge value on illustrations in any picture book, but most of the Sri Lankan publishers are not willing to get quality work from professional illustrators because of the same reason. In their point of view and as far as a business is concerned, they might be correct, but certainly, it will be a major setback when we consider the children’s development on reading habits and aesthetic preferences.”   

Vindhy is a mother of four sons. Her husband, Shimal Wickramaratne is the principal architect and interior designer of their own company. Coming from literature family background, Vindhy admits her upbringing played a major role for her career. “My parents have always given us the freedom to do whatever we liked. So, me and my two elder brothers were lucky enough to enjoy that freedom at home. My father, N. P. Wijeyrathna, is a well-known writer and a book translator. I can remember that he always admired my art works, hand works and my educational achievements. My mother, Prema Meddepola, was a sewing instructor at the Labour Department. Sometimes I used to make new dresses and frocks by cutting her sarees, but she never anointed me with those actions but always tended to admire it despite her loss. I must say that the love they offered and the encouragement I received had really helped me to develop my self-confidence.”   

She also didn’t fail to mention the people who supported her along the way. “There are many who have helped me on my journey in different ways. I take this opportunity to express my thankfulness and gratitude to all of them. I should especially mention here my parents, my brothers and two sisters-in-laws for their continuous encouragement. My special thank goes to Ashirwada and Akarshaa publishing companies for publishing my first three books despite my immaturity. My team of critics, my husband and my two elder sons for giving their constructive opinions and criticisms on my works. My second son, Adeesha is the one who has designed and updated my webpage ‘www.chrishvindhy.art’. 

“I am so glad to be reminded here, Sumithra Aunty and Mr. Irajendran for planting the idea of this illustration field. And also, Archt. Dayan Dananjaya, for his advice and introducing new digital illustration techniques, when I was using conventional methods of drawing and painting. Finally, I must thank all the authors who engaged me as their illustrator, giving me valuable recommendations and introducing me to other personalities in the field.”   

After excelling her academics in architecture, the career switch worked well for Vindhy and she is thoroughly enjoying this field. “I didn’t have anyone to get advice when I was entering to the international market. I was able to learn on my own, how to secure jobs, how to deal with international personalities via online modes and online payment methods etc. On the other hand, this job can be considered as a very free and less pressured job compared to my previous field, Architecture. I’m glad to mention here that some of the books I illustrated were able to secure a few awards. And the positive feedback I get from almost all the authors makes me extremely happier. Yes, indeed, I’m thoroughly enjoying this field.”   

Finally speaking of her future plans, she said, “I believe, still I am in my early stages of my career and there is a long way to go in this field as a professional illustrator. In addition, I have planned to publish a few stories which have already been written, with an international publisher. I have an idea of bringing Sri Lankan folk tales to an international platform with my illustrations. In the meantime, I am having an idea of pursuing a master’s degree in illustration and art in future, since I don’t have any qualification relevant to my current field.”     

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