An Early Look at Dadaji’s Paintbrush

Rashmi Sirdeshpande Ruchi Mhasane

Dadaji’s Paintbrush
Written by Rashmi Sirdeshpande
Illustrated by Ruchi Mhasane
Released 7/7/22
£12.99 Hardback picture book
ISBN: 9781839131394

Coming this summer is the gorgeous new picture book, Dadaji’s Paintbrush, written by Rashmi Sirdeshpande and illustrated by Ruchi Mhasane. A heart-warming story (of) dealing with bereavement and keeping a legacy alive, set in a small village in India, with a beautiful grandparent-grandchild relationship at its heart.

Discover that bereavement can be a beginning, not an ending, in this sensitively told story of one boy’s grief when he loses his beloved grandfather.

Dadaji loves to teach others to paint, especially his grandson. But after Dadaji passes away, the boy can’t bear to use the favourite paintbrush his grandfather left for him. When a little girl knocks on the door, the boy discovers how many lives Dadaji touched with his art, and finds a way to continue his legacy.

Rashmi’s Inspirations…

This story is a blend of so many different things but at its heart, it’s inspired by my love for my grandfather and his love for me. He didn’t talk about it. He didn’t have to. Whenever it was time for me to go back to England after visiting him in Goa, India, he would hold me so tight that my bones hurt. You might remember that line in the book. That’s him. He isn’t around anymore but that feeling that the people you love will always, always be with you – that’s just how I feel.

The rest of the story is based on my father. He’s not a painter but he loves the arts and he’s a kind, generous soul who gives so much to the community. The book is based on his childhood in Goa (and to some extent mine too!) – not the painting but the paper boats, the fruits, the market, and the monsoon rain. It just so happened that Ruchi is from a similar part of India. And so the stunning setting in her artwork is just like our home in Goa – right down to the veranda, the rooftops, and all that beautiful greenery! Can you imagine how amazing it was to first see those pictures and realise that although we never once discussed it, Ruchi had painted everything that was inside my heart? How does that even happen?

There’s so much in this book that I believe in. I believe there are no mistakes in art and that every single one of us should just feel free to play and create. I believe little things bring so much happiness – like sharing juicy mangoes or a story and watching the stars. And I believe love is something that lives on forever and ever. I’ve put all of these things inside this little story and Ruchi has brought it to life in a way I could never have imagined. I love what we have created and I hope you will too.

Illustrations by Ruchi…

Illustrating for this book was both a joy and a challenge; a joy because I’m so familiar with, and so fond of the place and culture where the story is set, that it was a pleasure to bring it to life.

Almost from the first reading, the location where the story was set had begun to appear in my mind. The references to mangoes, bananas, coconuts and the monsoon rain brought to mind the western coastal belt of India called Konkan, which I’ve grown up knowing. So it was a happy surprise to learn, much later, that Rashmi’s family was from Goa, which belongs to the same coastline!

The challenge was to show a colourful world of art in a setting that’s already very vibrant, and that needed work since I’m personally partial to muted palettes. I’ve worked in some ‘Warli’ art into the book, which is a folk/tribal storytelling art form from around the region where the book is set, and that pattern resembles some borders commonly used in that art form. It also resembles patterns found in fabrics woven in the ‘Ikat’ style, again very common in India and Southern Asia.

In terms of medium, I’ve used mainly colour pencils and pastels on paper, but the images are built up over a number of papers using a lightbox, which are put together digitally; this allowed me to play with the strength of the colours, since some pages are quite busy, especially the ones with the paintings made by the characters.

About the creators:

Rashmi Sirdeshpande is a lawyer-turned-storyteller, who was part of the Penguin Random House WriteNow mentoring programme in 2018. As a British Indian child, she didn’t get to see many children like her in the books she read, so she is now passionate about writing stories that children from all backgrounds can relate to.

Ruchi Mhasane has an MA in Children’s Book Illustration from the Cambridge School of Art. Her ambition is to develop the form of the picture book; in India, children’s books usually have few pictures, and her aim in joining the MA was to change this. Ruchi especially enjoys drawing people and children, and her work has a dreamy quality to it. She currently lives in India, where she grew up.

Dadaji’s Paintbrush, written by Rashmi Sirdeshpande, illustrated by Ruchi Mhasane will be released in hardback 7/7/22, you can pre-order here from Waterstones.