A Ray of unique artistic creativity — exploring the brushstrokes of Satyajit Ray

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May 2, On This Day

Satyajit Ray

Widely considered one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, Satyajit Ray was also a screenwriter, documentary filmmaker, author, essayist, lyricist, magazine editor, calligrapher, music composer, and — illustrator! 

Born on May 2, 1921, Ray’s illustrative talents may be less spoken about than his cinematic accomplishments, but they were prodigious just the same.  

A poster by Ray | Via satyajitray.org

He was an illustrator, book cover and poster designer, ad designer, typographer and costume designer, with immense creative reach. He innovated book jacket design and designed four typefaces for roman script — Ray Roman, Ray Bizarre, Daphnis, and Holiday script, even winning a global award for them. His interest in typography did not actually start with metallic letters used for printing but with calligraphy done with a thick brush.  

A font created by Ray | Via satyajitray.org

He illustrated his book covers, film posters, children’s books, billboards, publicity material and title cards. 

As a youngster, Ray learnt painting and graphic art for two years and five months at the Tagore University in Shantiniketan. His artistic leanings also had exposure to masters like Nandalal Bose and Benod Behari Mukherjee here.  

An illustration by Ray | Via satyajitray.org

Renouncing the clean formality of the British style of jacket/ book cover designing, Ray was one of the first Indian artists who experimented with a style of brushing that was entirely Indian in easy, pointed or broad brushstrokes. For Signet Press, he designed the cover of the abridged Bibhuti Bhushan Bandopadhyay novel Pather Panchali, which went on to become the inspiration for his magnum opus. 

Feluda and Topshe (left) in Feludar Goendagiri, drawing by Satyajit Ray

Ray also exploited his full potential as a graphic designer by creating his own film posters, as well as sketched designs for cinematography, art direction and editing. He designed slides, posters, booklets, titles, billboards, publicity material and everything post production required. 

The most significant costumes that he designed were for his children’s films Goopi Gyne Bagha Byne (The Adventures of Goopi and Bagha) and Hirak Rajar Deshe (The Kingdom of Diamonds). 

Costume sketches by Ray | Via satyajitrayworld.org
An illustration by Ray | Via satyajitray.org