They say sometimes destiny has a subtle way of letting one know what they’re meant to be. As kids, not everything taught within the four walls of the classroom seemed to interest us. On some days, while the teacher went on describing what the earth is made up of, we turned to the last pages and found solace in doodling our planet consisting of dragons and zombies. And while most of us didn’t end up holding on to that creative world, some like Billy did.
Billy Joe Fernandes, popularly known as Billytoons Goa, grew up in the Goan village of Sirsaim in Bardez. While his cartooning journey began sitting on the back benches of his college, it was something only meant as a leisure activity done on weekends.
He went on to pursue a master’s degree in commerce from St Xavier’s College, Mapusa. Cartooning, however, became an integral part of his life only after he moved to Dubai.
“Prior to that drawing was always there – scribbling and caricaturing on the back of books – but being away from Goa brought out the cartoonist in me. Drawing on Goan topics and happenings became a part of my life here in Dubai,” says Billy, who presently works as a logistic manager at an MNC in Dubai, UAE.
Growing up, the illustrations in textbooks and Mowgli’s character from The Jungle Book, a cartoon series that was featured every Sunday on Doordarshan, exposed him to the cartoon world. Apart from the day-to-day happenings in Goa, he draws inspiration from geniuses like the late Mario Miranda and Alex Fernandes (Alexyz).
“When a creative thought strikes me, I sketch it out on my iPad. My imagination comes to life with some vibrant colors and funny flavorful captions in Konkani (the language spoken in the state of Goa). The intention is to leave audiences with something to reflect on,” he describes his process.
Just like the saying goes, a picture speaks a thousand words, a cartoon does, too. And Billy found people related to his art when his very first exhibition in Goa sold out. The support has continued ever since.
“The best feedback that I have received is from Prime Minister of Portugal Antonio Costa, who found my work vibrant, and it reminded him of Goa. He told me to keep up the great work when I personally handed it over to him,” he recollects fondly.
One can admire Billy’s creations in restaurants or avail commissioned art pieces from him.
Although based in the Gulf, with Billytoons Goa he aspires to create a mark in the field while displaying immense love for his beloved Goa.
His cartoons are mostly Goa-centric, highlighting socio-economic issues, and promoting the Goan lifestyle, traditions and festivities. His artwork helps the Goan diaspora reconnect with their homeland through his eyes.
When asked what he would do if given the chance to be the chief minister for the day, Billy said,
Even before words came into play, people communicated with the help of symbols and drawings. Cartooning as an intriguing medium of communication requires one to put on paper one’s creativity and imagination while being observant, unbiased and distinct.
“Versatility is an asset, an incredibly important one, but sometimes it's difficult to demonstrate your voice and your artistic confidence if you can't separate yourself from the crowd. So now and then, step back and evaluate your strengths and focus on what’s best for you,” Billy advises.
His dream is to have his own gallery, conduct workshops, and organize exhibitions in Goa.
It is believed that a cartoonist speaks for and to everybody. A cartoon that contains a mix of humor and positive criticism and can go on to amuse, entertain or persuade the viewer. But while doing so, cartoonists can draw some fury and not be taken as lightly as the chuckle they intended to bring about.
“Humor, today, is not everyone’s cup of tea, and hence one must be very careful while depicting religious and political scenarios. In Goa, there’s acceptance. People do share and comment on my work over social media platforms. As a career though, it’s not considered a hard-core profession as it doesn’t bring in enough remittance,” he opines.
As adults, maybe, we didn’t go on to become all the silly things we daydreamed about in class. Maybe what holds most back is the persistence required to fulfil dreams. As a student of life, what’s important is to be open to new ideas and opportunities that come your way.
Find Billy Fernandes' work here:
ON FACEBOOK: BillytoonsGoa
ON INSTAGRAM: BillytoonsGoa_official
ON TWITTER: BillytoonsGoa