“Keep at it, no matter what”
Journey from being an Architecture student to a successful Illustrator
I have been drawing since a very young age. I was happiest when left alone with a book and a pencil. I never stopped drawing and it always remained a hobby. Some people read books, some people played football, I drew stuff. I’d never thought I could make anything out if it.
I was good at math and science in school. So, like every other kid in the 90s, I was well on my way to become an engineer. Things changed a great deal once I joined junior college. I was away from home, I had enough time and space to reflect, think about what I really wanted to do and if engineering was it. It wasn’t. I chose design, I chose architecture. I felt architecture was all-inclusive in a very mother-of-all-arts sort of a way – meaning, I knew I wanted to get into design but I didn’t want to restrict myself to say, graphic design or product design. Architecture allowed me to dabble in a bit of everything. It wasn’t all as easy and smooth as I make it sound but yeah, that’s pretty much how it all transpired.
Illustration as a career began during my third year in college when I started making gig posters for local heavy metal bands. At the time, I was listening to a lot of heavily distorted, guitar-based music. It introduced me to a whole bunch of stuff – art, literature, history and of course, more experimental music. That’s what set off my interest in the relationship between art and music, their inter-dependence and the sub-cultures they’ve spawned together. I just wanted to be a part of it somehow and actively contribute to it in whatever little way that I could. I was pretty terrible with playing any instrument but I was decent at drawing things so I decided to go ahead and see what I could make of it. I approached a few people from the Bangalore heavy music circle that I’d come to be friends with over the years and waited patiently for an opportunity. Jayaprakash Satyamurthy from Djinn and Miskatonic gave me that opportunity. I drew a poster for one of their shows. It had a terrific line-up. I was really happy with it. It did good, I sold a few prints and I soon started getting more requests and that’s how it all began.
I don’t know about successful but today I’m doing illustrations for bands and promoters from around the world, working with publication houses making stuff for books and also collaborating with other artists. I’ve come a long way.
Importance of formal training and international exposure
I studied at Sir J. J. College of Architecture, Bombay. I absolutely loved my time in that place. I graduated in 2014 and have been working ever since. I’m currently working as an Architect at Total Environment, Bangalore.
In my view, any exposure is great – national or international, it doesn’t matter. I think it is about getting the right audience for the kind of work you do. I mean, it is 2016 and quite frankly, your geographical location is completely irrelevant. Everything you need is on the internet, easily accessible to anybody who is looking. What is sad though, and needs telling, is that international exposure over the years, for some warped reason, has come to be seen as a sign of having ‘made it’, a sort of validation for what you’re doing and that sucks.
I’ve built my clientele strictly off of the internet – just by having a world wide web presence and putting my stuff out there. It doesn’t matter where the work is coming from as long you’re happy doing it and are getting compensated right. Even right now, I’m working on three very different assignments and none of them are from India. But that is just not how I’m looking at it, to me they are just three commissions.
Pen and ink. I have been very comfortable working with simple black lines. I have drawn this way since a very young age so it is the most natural way for me to work. I’m not entirely sure if I have found a ‘style’ but I’d like to believe that I’m getting there. I’m consciously working at getting better and going finer with the details.
I draw inspiration from a host of things. During my years at the university I developed great interest in the works of Piranesi, Rembrandt, Goya alongside other 18th century etching artists. In fact my architectural dissertation was a spacial interpretation of a 16-plate series by Piranesi. Their work continues to inspire me.
I love working in black and white because I think it has this primitive, old-world charm to it. I owe this bias to a handful of modern illustrators who greatly influence where I want to be visually – people like Tony Roberts, Glyn Smyth, David V D’Andrea, Adrian Baxter, Mike Lawrence, Alexander Brown, Steven Tovar, Jas Helena and Bryan Proteau to name a few.
Pretty much every day I take time to look through artworks, photography, or pretty much anything that might give me a spark of inspiration. I also have a small library where over the years I have managed to collect an assortment of art books, graphic novels, obscure sci-fi, horror novels that I keep going back to.
Most memorable piece of work
It used to be Butterfowl for the longest time but now it is this piece I did for Sangharsha, a sludge band from Nepal/ New York. It is called Dhamilo and it is based on a song of the same name by the band. It was released as a part of a split album with Thera Roya in December last year. It basically talks about the mental struggle, the turmoil a mind goes through in a dire situation. The cephalopod trapped in sea-weed is a representation of this struggle.
What I find the hardest is arriving at a concept. To me, in my head, I have at least a dozen ways of looking at it. Screening through it all is probably one of the most difficult things I face. Some things are quick and other things take time.
Workflow pattern for any assignment
Once I have an outline or a brief from the client, I start my homework. Sometimes I insist on having some visual references to further understand what the client needs. They aren’t absolutely necessary and I can work without them too – but it makes it a whole lot easier to understand the client’s aesthetic sensibility and where he or she is coming from. I put a lot of time and effort in research, intently looking for an impetus. I’m mostly working with bands, promoters, labels that are deeply involved with the heavy metal or punk underground scene – music that’s known for its heavy sounds and strong subject matter. So picking an idea doesn’t take as much time as interpreting it. I’m always finding a way of representing the chosen idea in my own language in a way that I feel most comfortable with. Sometimes the ideas are too strong to be subject to that sort of visual treatment and I have had to give in. Brief is key, always.
Next I put my ideas on the board and share the rough ideas with the client. It is only once the idea & the composition (rough pencil sketch) is approved that I start work on the final drawing. The sketches then go back and forth as we develop the concept. Once I have the client’s approval, I spend the next couple of days meticulously planning the overall layout and putting the composition together using ample photo references. I’ll typically have an illustration fully developed in my head before I put it on paper. I spend more time thinking, envisioning an illustration than actually drawing or inking it and I really appreciate it when clients understand and respect that.
Once the drawing is completed, I scan it and use the basic Adobe Suite on my PC to convert it into a vector, add colors, do the layout etc.
Tools/software regularly used
I use Sakura Microns mostly, but Staedtlers and Pilots are cool too. I use a HP DeskJet 1050 All-in-One Color Inkjet Printer to scan my work and the basic Adobe Suite on my PC for the post-processing work.
Technical/Other skills industry looks for in a fresher
I don’t know about technical skills and all but a fresh, atypical aesthetic or a style, if you will, goes a long way. It isn’t necessary that it gets accepted rightaway.
Message for the aspiring designers
Keep at it, no matter what.