Little Optimist: Pocket-sized book with big advice

By Aideen O'Flaherty

A childhood spent drawing and creating led Ashwin Chacko to pursue a career in illustration when he moved from India to Ireland five years ago.

Now living in Belgard in Tallaght, Ashwin’s lifelong passion for drawing has led him to create vibrant, arresting designs brimming with positivity under the name Whacko Chacko.

Ashwin Chacko B 1

Ashwin Chacko AKA Whacko Chacko

His artwork will be familiar to people in the New Nangor Road/Woodford Walk area of Clondalkin.

Last year Ashwin was commissioned by South Dublin County Council to paint the traffic light control box at that junction with his uplifting creation, entitled ‘Joy’.

Ashwin has also recently released a pocket-sized book, called ‘Little Optimist’, that centres on themes of joy and encouragement while offering positive ideas.

The talented designer told The Echo about how his passion for creativity began, what impact he wants his book to have, and he gives some advice for people who want to pursue a career in illustration or design.

When did your passion for illustration start and how long have you been an illustrator for?

As far back as I can remember I’ve always drawn. My mother recently told me a story about me, aged five or six, asking why I couldn’t make drawing my job – at the time I didn’t know that illustration could be a career path.

Though I knew from the beginning what I wanted it’s been a long and winding journey to make it a reality. I studied animation and multimedia, worked in advertising as a graphic designer, transitioned to art director.

After over a decade in the creative industry, moving to Ireland opened up the opportunity for me to pursue illustration as a full-time career and I have been working as one for the past two years.

What do you find most satisfying about working as an illustrator and designer?

More than the act of design, I think, to me, the story behind the design or illustration has always been my driving force. As an introverted child, drawing, for me, was a way to experience the world around me and to express myself.

This ability to communicate a story through a visual language has always fascinated me.

The act of drawing to remember or to tell a tale goes back to our ancestors leaving a mark in the caves they inhabited, the act is very intimate and intuitive. A story has an ability to reach past the many filters and walls we build and to touch the heart.

How does this influence your work?

This urge to tell a story is very present in my work today. A huge factor is making a conscious effort to bring a sense of joy or encouragement through my work.

I like to tackle serious or unconventional topics in a light-hearted, humorous way, to allow the viewers to see the piece and smile, but then walk away with something deeper, something that hopefully touches the heart.

Little Optimist by Ashwin Chacko Cover 1

You've released three vibrant books, all of which have very positive messages. Why is it important to you to carry positive messages through your work?

My positive messaging and voice stems from who I am, and who I am, stems from my faith. Jesus taught us to uplift the downtrodden, fight for justice and most of all love one another.

My hope is that, in this chaotic world we live in, I can bring encouragement through my art, bringing joy and a sense of peace. I want to spend my life making work that matters. I like to describe my style as ‘positively playful’.

Your newest book, 'Little Optimist', contains 30 days of creative meditation. What inspired you to create the book?

Cabin fever, isolation from our support systems, a feeling of entrapment, depression are prevalent emotions in our current climate. Over the last year our reality has completely changed.

With the onset of lockdowns there has been a rise in the struggle for a healthy mental attitude. Many have come across my work and my social media and asked ‘How do you keep positive?’, ‘How do you continue to be optimistic?’

This inspired me to create the ‘Little Optimist’ and share the system I use, called creative meditation, to maintain a positive attitude towards life.

What impact do you hope 'Little Optimist' will have on readers?

My hope is that this little book will be a tool people can use to help them shift their mindset away from circumstantial living, to one of ownership and choice. I hope it will be a little ray of joy in these hard times.

What advice would you have for people who want to pursue a career in illustration or design?

My encouragement for creatives is to understand this fact: your value doesn’t come from what you do, but who you are. Nurture you and in doing so it will have an immediate impact on your work.

Growth takes time, so don’t get frustrated if you don’t reach your goal straight away. Build a strong foundation so that when the time is right you can flourish.

Empathy is the key to great design and illustration so learn to listen.

Relationships will always be your greatest asset so spend time fostering them and building your community.

Where can people go to find out more about your work?

You can see more of my work on Instagram and most other social platforms with the handle @whackochacko.

If you would like to grab a copy of my book or see more of my commercial work you can find it on my website, www.whackochacko.com

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