Sri Lankan by heritage and raised in New Zealand, Mokshini has a bachelor’s degree in Fashion Design and a master’s in Fashion Illustration from the Auckland University of Technology. She spent three years as an in-house illustrator at Ralph Lauren, where she learned the industry inside out.
Now she has spread her wings, finding new creative freedom as she experiments with different media and approaches, inspired by everything from Gruau and Klimt to the person sipping coffee in the window of a train station café… and the world is better for it.
When she first started out, Mokshini stuck strictly to traditional media, and still loves coloured paper and acrylics. Today, she works digitally as well, turning doodles in her sketchbook into vibrant, graphic, painterly masterpieces.
Spontaneity is a big part of Mokshini’s style, and she regularly illustrates live for clients at their events. When not drawing live, her work is more composed and refined, capturing joy and humour, and inspired by fashion, love, girl problems and New York City.
Question: What led you to become an illustrator? Mokshini: I’ve been drawing ever since I can remember, it was something that came so naturally to me, but I never considered it a viable career path even during my college years. I studied fashion design for 3 years, but my mentor later pushed me to study illustration for my Masters degree. The drawing aspect of design was always my strength- after 2 years of studying illustration, I was hooked, there was no turning back!Question: Did you study illustration in college? Mokshini: Yes, Auckland University of Technology, New ZealandQuestion: Where did you grow up? Mokshini: Auckland, New ZealandQuestion: Do you have a childhood memory relating to drawing/art that you hold dear? Mokshini: So many!! My dad was a great illustrator, he would always bring me back art supplies when he returned from his travels. My grand dad was also an art fanatic, and collected a tonne of art books that he would share with me as a kid- his favorite artist was George Keyt. My mum was a preschool teacher, so she knew how to hone in on my talents- she sent me to every art class imaginable, and pushed me to study art in high school. Growing up art was large part of my life, which I’m very grateful for.Question: Where do you live now and what drew you there? Mokshini: New York! I’ve always had an innate love for New York, maybe it was the movies I watched as a child. But I remember watching one particular Andy Warhol documentary and how he began his career in NYC, it moved me, especially because he began his journey as a fashion illustrator too. New York felt like a place where I could grow exponentially creatively….so that was it, I booked a flight to NYC.Question: Describe your studio for us. Mokshini: I’m a bit all over the place really. Some times I work from home- other times I go into my studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I like doing small projects at home, it means I can wake up and get straight into it, but the studio definitely makes me feel like I can work bigger and create a mess! The studio has a great atmosphere mostly because I love having other creatives around me to bounce ideas off.Question: Describe the view from your window Mokshini: From my Greenpoint studio, I have a great view of the New York city skyline- it also has that Brooklyn, industrial feel, I love the grittiness- it keeps me inspired for sure.Question: Who or What is your biggest inspiration? Mokshini: I don’t think I can dwindle it down to one person or thing- my mum, the city I live in, and the people around me inspire me daily! My work is very much about capturing personalities, everyday interactions and observations, so inspiration is always around. My favorite artists include, Egon Schiele, Toulouse Lautrec, Picasso, Matisse, Rene Gruau, Antonio Lopez and Kenneth Paul Block- I love their ability to adapt and evolve.Question: How do you get your ideas? Mokshini: Sometimes they just pop up in my mind in the mornings and I quickly sketch them- I love when that happens! More often than not, it's the things I see around me that feed my body of work- so I always have a sketchbook on hand. Sometimes I quickly doodle a scene or moment, and they become refined sketches later on.Question: What are your interests outside of illustration? Mokshini: My latest obsession is ceramics! It’s taught me to think and apply drawing in a 3 dimensional way, which I find new and challenging.Question: What was your favourite assignment ever? Mokshini: One of my favorite assignments ever has been flying to Colombo, Sri Lanka to draw live at Colombo Fashion Week. I was born in Sri Lanka, and prior to the assignment I hadn't been there in 13 years! It was amazing to return as an adult with a fresh perspective, and reconnect with my culture, family, and do what I love all at the same time.Question: Mokshini: How much of your work is hand drawn?Question: I would say 90%! I used to not incorporate digital elements at all, but I slowly realized that it can be a tool to enhance, not so much replace my hand drawn sketches. What I love about drawing by hand is the serendipity of it all, the mistakes, getting messy, the process is just more hands on, which allows me to discover more things. The other 10% is me scanning, editing and color correcting, which I now love doing! Mokshini: If you were not an illustrator, what would you be? Question: I’ve thought about this question and it always gets me- I would definitely still be in the creative industry, probably doing graphic design, architecture or interior design. Mokshini: If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go? Question: Morocco, Greece, South of France, Spain, Israel, and Thailand are a few that have always been on my mind. I can just imagine me eating amazing local food and drawing alllll day! Mokshini: How would someone who knows you well describe you?Question: Probably, funny, easy going, a day dreamer, an art nerd…maybe a bit stubborn haha Mokshini: What do you listen to when you’re illustrating?Question: I love back ground noise when I’m drawing! Sometimes I like listening to rom coms or Friends! Other times when I really want to get in the zone and focus I listen to music- I love instrumentals with an upbeat tempo to keep the drawing pace up. Mokshini: What was the last exhibition you saw and loved?Question: One that still blows me away that I went while ago to, was the Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt exhibit in Melbourne, Australia. It was such an outstanding showcase. I love going to the Neue Gallery here in New York also, they have a few paintings and drawings from both artists. Mokshini: What do you do when you have creative block?Question: I draw from observation or mimic a drawing from an artist I love- it just simplifies the whole process when you have a reference. A lot of the time i draw from my head- so when i get stuck I force my self to draw whats in front of me. Other times it just means I need to feed my creative tank, so I’ll look at books, go for a walk, attend an exhibit; anything that can spark something. Mokshini: What is your favourite way to fill free time? Any hobbies?Question: Honestly- a draw quite a lot haha. If I'm not finishing a deadline, I'm creating projects for myself, pitching ideas and collaborating with friends. Mokshini: Which languages can you speak?Question: Sri Lankan and German- I wish I was more fluent in both, but I can have a decent conversation with someone. Mokshini: What is your favourite quote?Question: “Many of us choose a path of fear disguised as practicality”. This quote really pushed me to go freelance. Mokshini: