Within the vivid scenes of the illustrator Gaurab Thakali

Gaurab Thakali grew up in Nepal and was more interested in outdoor activities than artistic hobbies. He would rather run or swim before starting skateboarding and later played a pivotal role in bringing the first full-fledged concrete skate park to Nepal.

But his everyday environment has shaped him. “I've always been interested in the traditional carvings, paintings and architecture that have dotted the streets of Kathmandu, and I think that was enough to subconsciously influence many of the decisions I still make in my art,” he recalls yourself. "Having lived in London for so long, I have the perspective of seeing elements in my work that are inherently Nepalese, be it a greater sense of color or how I interpret natural landscapes."

Sun Ra

Dorothy Ashby

Art became a point of sale for him. "Like many artists, science wasn't a good fit for me, so I became more obsessed with drawing," he tells us. “In college, my art teacher encouraged me to do it at university. I studied illustration at Camberwell, which is where I found my feet in relation to what I wanted to be creative as a career. I also feel that learning different printing techniques has helped me get where I am with my practice. "

Today he is known for creating rich, dense illustrations full of color and warmth, especially his vivid interpretations of live music settings and the pioneers who changed the game, from John Coltrane to Sun Ra to Sonny Rollins. His path into music illustration came organically. “At some point it was the only thing I sketched and recorded,” recalls Thakali. “I just drew things that I was interested in and living with friends who were musicians certainly drove me in that direction. We would spend a lot of time in the living room where they would practice or rehearse and I would sit in it and draw them live. "

Red Rooster Events artwork

His illustrations perfectly capture the heady hustle and bustle of these rooms, but also the element of seriousness or isolation that comes with the job. Its performers are often bathed in shadows and stand out from the crowd.

The vibrancy and energy of Thakali's work is contagious, earning him assignments to work on billboards and create work for the likes of The New Yorker and The New York Times. Throughout his career, his illustrations have also appeared on record sleeves, clothing, skateboards, packaging, and even on a turntable.

Small ax rating for the New Yorker

"The colors and lines I use are heavily influenced by a combination of traditional paintings from Nepal and Tibet, the thangka paintings, Japanese artists like Hasui Kawase and painters like Maurice de Vlaminck, Alice Neel and Philip Guston."

His instinct for color is the result of years of collecting and archiving palettes that work harmoniously and that he also sees as representatives. "I love to find new combinations, to be inspired by my surroundings and of course great artists from movements like Fauvism and Impressionism," he says.

Hannibal Buress

Of course, there are a whole range of genres, labels and characters that catch his eye visually, including jazz records from the 1940s and soul and funk releases in the 70s and 80s.

He counts Strata East, Blue Note, Verve and Prestige among the labels who have particularly influenced him, as well as artists known for creating important album covers, such as David Stone Martin, Lemi Ghariokwu and Mati Klarwein. "Visually, they were so strong that sometimes people probably have as much to do with the artwork as they do with the music behind the record case," he says.

Nicholas Daley SS19

One of his closest collaborators in London is men's fashion designer Nicholas Daley, who is known for his fashion presentations that include music and culture. The two met at a gig a few years ago and since then Thakali has created commercial art for a number of Daley's shows as well as illustrations that are used directly in the collections.

"I think we have an effortless understanding of how a project should go just because the way we deal with our respective creative practices is pretty similar," Thakali says of their relationship. “We both use music to enhance and express what we do and to create works that are inspired by our cultural heritage. Working on some newer projects like his new Stepping Razor collection was particularly interesting as we had the opportunity to experiment with animations that I'm still learning and it was great just having this space to try them out. "

Cover for the New York Times at home

Despite limited access to live cultural events and music scenes over the past year, Thakali was still approached by musicians to work with them on various projects, which has helped him stay inspired.

The types of scenes that inspired him have also evolved in line with this period, with more of his work featuring natural landscapes or reflective moments at home, as seen in his recent cover illustration for the New York Times. "It was great to be able to connect with my natural environment here in the UK and expand and learn," he says.

gaurabthakali.com; @ Gaurabthakali