Football, Music and Punjabi Culture Combine in Textural Illustrations by Raj Dhunna

For Raj Dhunna, a London-based creative working in illustration, design and education, drawing is a way for him to channel his identity; a way for him to let people know who he is. “I want people to see it and get a sense of me as a person knowing I did the work because it’s important to me, rather than being a fad or a flavor of the week,” he explains. In turn, his portfolio is full of images that reflect his interests and culture as a British Indian – from sports to hip-hop to Punjabi festivals.

While many enjoy the moment when a job seems done, Raj is all about the process. He describes a certain tunnel vision that takes over when he is working on something and how that moment is more enjoyable than achieving a result. “Nothing else seems to distract me,” he says, “…the problem-solving involved is what keeps me on the ball.” It’s a fitting idiom for an illustrator who so often chooses sport as his subject, something that stems from his quintessentially British childhood running around parks and schoolyards with his buddies after footballs, basketballs- ball and cricket every day. Far from being mere thematic interest, it’s the energy and culture that comes with the sport that also affects Raj. “Sport is definitely a big source of inspiration for me,” he explains, “both in life and in my practice. Anything competitive, I’m usually involved. I will probably watch or participate in anything that challenges me physically and to solve problems. I have always loved football, cricket, NBA culture and more recently cycling.

Raj’s use of branding – his signature work of gestural lines and texture – plays a major role in how he is able to capture the spirit and atmosphere of multiple sports. “I try to explore the elements that I love about sports in my work, and not give it a general ‘sporty’ aesthetic,” he explains. “I strive to include that competitive nature, the vibe and how I think it’s wavy to be a footballer and also to be a fan of the game.” It’s a style that Raj developed by working with art directors who allowed him to explore subjects in a way that was uniquely his own. This experience of honing his aesthetic combined with what he learned about what he means with his work through personal projects to create a distinct tone of voice. One that is bold, graphic, and sees it whittling down as much information as possible from a room until it’s satisfied. To ensure he continues to perfect his style, Raj constantly carries a sketchbook with him, calling it “a safe space for all my ideas, bad drawings and experimental work”.

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