Humour in the times of coronavirus: artworks and insights from cartoonist Nanjunda Swamy

In Part II of our photo essay on the Indian Cartoon Gallery, we showcase more artworks and insights on the creative journey of an award-winning caricaturist.

Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 485 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery. world music festivaltelecom expomillets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.

A sense of humour helps keep our spirits up, particularly in a world of crisis and conflict. From jokes and comedy to cartoons and caricatures, humour can give us a bigger perspective on life, and renew a sense of hope during struggle.

The Indian Cartoon Gallery (ICG) in Bengaluru has hosted over 165 exhibitions featuring local, national and international artists. See our earlier photo-essays from 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015.

The gallery recently featured the outstanding works of caricaturist YS Nanjunda Swamy. See Part I of our photo essay here; in Part III, we feature more caricatures along with an interview with gallery manager VG Narendra, Managing Trustee of the Indian Institute of Cartoonists (IIC).

Nandjunda Swamy, a resident of Shivamogga, practiced traditional and commercial art before moving to Bengaluru at the age of 50. He then began his award-winning foray into cartoons and caricatures. In four years, he has created over 200 caricatures and 1,000 cartoons.

Swamy regards a sense of humour as the most precious asset we can have, particularly during these times of stress and anxiety during the coronavirus. “Humour has the power to divert one’s mind from daily routine and helps become relaxed and joyous,” he explains, in a chat with YourStory.

He traces his journey in the world of fine art and paintings through the past four decades. “Since my father, late YK Srikantaiah, was an artist and musicologist, I grew up in an art-inducing environment,” he describes.

Even without formal education in art, his teacher Jnaneshwar taught him a lot and has been a great source of support and inspiration. “I accidentally stepped into the field of cartoons and caricatures, all credits to Megaravalli Subhramanya. Knowing my drawing skills and sense of humour, he brought me into this field,” Swamy says, with gratitude.

James Vaz, cartoonist and artist of Taranga magazine, published Swamy’s works and provided great encouragement. “Other senior cartoonists like B G Gujjarappa, VG Narendra, Prakash Shetty, Sathish Acharya, and Naganath have had a positive and helpful impact on me,” he acknowledges. Many foreign cartoonists and caricaturists were also sources of inspiration.

Swam was recently awarded third prize at the PV Narasimha Rao Centenary International Caricature Contest, organised by the Telangana Cartoonists Association. “It has been a great honour to be able to achieve that in my short period of work,” Swamy says with pride.

“Cartoons and caricatures being art forms must first have an impact on the artist himself. Our artworks must bring us satisfaction, and in parallel they should also inspire others,” Swamy explains.

He sees artists as playing an important role by having a positive impact on society and boosting people’s morale. “It has always been my pleasure to contribute to society by raising charities during floods and other natural disasters,” Swamy says. 

“Success is always a result of hard work. It opens up many new opportunities and helps us achieve greater heights. Success must always induce continuous learning, and we must treat it as inspiration to work harder and be more productive,” he emphasises. Success comes from the ability to express thoughts and influence society.

Framed digital copies of Swamy’s caricatures fetch a price of Rs 3,000. “Many friends and senior cartoonists are insisting that I publish a compilation of caricatures of classical musicians. This could happen in six-to-eight months,” he adds.

Swamy says he was pleased with the audience response and media coverage of his exhibition. “Many senior cartoonists viewed my works. They encouraged me to proceed in this field and achieve greater feats,” he explains.

The pandemic has posed severe challenges to society. “The coronavirus crisis has affected every person, in all walks of life. Artists are no exception to this. I utilise this time in a very positive way and to evolve into a better artist. My family has also been very supportive in all aspects,” Swamy says.

“During the lockdown, I have done more than 70 caricatures, including a series on renowned Carnatic and Hindustani musicians,” he says. He is also submitting cartoons daily to many Kannada newspapers and magazines. “These works keep me engaged throughout the day, shielding me from the negativity around,” he adds.

His caricatures cover figures from the worlds of politics, movies, and sports. See if you can identify the cricket and tennis stars in this selection!

(Note: These photographs from the gallery were taken before the national lockdown due to the coronavirus. The visit to the gallery was not in violation of any public safety guidelines.)

Swamy also offers tips for aspiring cartoonists and caricaturists. “It is preferable to have additional sources of income, since opportunities to earn in this field are very rare,” he suggests.


“Artists must not get diverted and must constantly focus their art. They must seek new knowledge and inspiration. Through dedication and determination, one can achieve great heights as an artist,” he advises.

Efforts must be sincere, without any expectation in return. “One must neither be overwhelmed by praise nor should one ignore feedback. It is important to constantly learn and improve,” Swamy signs off.

Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and explore your inner creative voice?

Nanjunda Swamy (R)

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Edited by Kanishk Singh