Mythology Magic Uncovered and Unraveled by Shashank Mishra
CG. What attracted you to illustration as a profession?
Shashank: Art came to me naturally, so I never bothered about other fields. Also, I have always been an introvert and extremely shy as a person. So, being a keen observer as an introvert, art has been the only way I've found to express myself.
CG: Where did the fascination with Indian mythology in the majority of your artworks come from?
Shashank: I was born in a Brahman family and my parents, from the very beginning, taught us its cultural values and the value of worshipping God. Sitting in front of the idols after shower was ingrained in us and we all were left free to make our individual relationship with Him. We used to read and sing Ramcharitmanas, Hanuman Chalisa, Dev-Devi aarti and other famous scriptures, almost on a daily basis. My elders, especially my Nani, used to tell us the famous stories of Indian Gods and Goddesses as bedtime stories every night. That's what got me highly interested in these subjects.
Also, I never watched any foreign movies or had no access to know other cultures or their values. Since I was growing up, I wanted to know why we worship Gods and who they are. This curiosity made me read and research more about Indian mythology and, since an artist always needs a script and something to imagine, I had read old scriptures and Vedas too.
CG: How do you insert a realistic touch to your Indian mythological creations by infusing realism with modern imagining of religious Gods and Goddesses?
Shashank: As a Hindu family, me and my family members always worshipped idols or pictures of Gods and Goddesses. When I was a kid, I used to believe these are real Gods with four or five hands holding different things and blessing us. However, as I grew up, I realised these are only imaginations of artists, who we all sit in front of to pray.
I realised, the power of an artists' creation and what it can do. Also, I too have that power in my individual relationship with God and that I too can worship my individual image of him. Hinduism gives us the freedom to meditate upon anything; to imagine our own God or any deity.
So I used that freedom and imagined my own characters of mythology – my own Krishna, Rama and Shiva. Since I am a logical and realistic being, I did make my art more realistic. What looks modern is my brain and beliefs as an artist of this era. I am fully aware of the technology, VFX and special effects I have seen in movies alongside the standard of the artists of my time.
CG: How do you come up with concepts for creating dark, gritty mystical beings in your character sketches?
Shashank: I guess, that happens whenever I read something dark – like, in Mahabharata, there are evil beings who, as an artist, I have to feel as if a description is given to me. Whenever, I read or see something which hits my core, I become bound to express it in the same way I felt it. For example, in one of my sketches, I made an image of Draupadi screaming in anger because I felt like screaming. I felt like a woman of that era who had five husbands yet no one came to protect her. I felt the insult; I felt being beautiful is a curse; I felt what was going on in her mind and what exactly she must be feeling.
The other example is my Abhimanyu illustration, which is a scene of a 14 year-old fighting a war alone. When I read that scene, I could imagine the battlefield as a place where you need no mercy and the only way to protect yourself is to slit others throats; bathe in blood and become animal-like. That's exactly how I portrayed him, although getting into the subject has always harmed my mental health. Yet, I made it because when I feel and make something, the audience also feels the same.
CG: In your Navaratri series, each art piece conveys a deeper hidden meaning to the keen observers. What was your intention of choosing bright auspicious colour backgrounds with different forms of Goddess Durga in a black outline?
Shashank: Before making those, I too didn't know that my imagination works best in silhouette and I can create artwork very quickly when I work that way. I found out that my goal is to tell a story through visuals and, if it doesn't take much time, it's even better. I was actually posting each Goddess's form, the very same day for nine days. So I posted all nine forms of Devi each day. I used bright colours in background, so that the silhouette pops out very clear.
In my brain, the image of Devi is Grand and that's what I tried to convey through each artwork. I also can imagine her easily because I have the feminine energy in me and, from my very childhood, I realised the power of it being in my body.
The feminine energy is so powerful that it doesn't see whether you've got the body of a man. She will dance with you; make you do things she is supposed to do. I tried not walking like a female. I tried my best to not love feminine clothes; I tried not to get inspired by the most feminine acts of girls around me but I was bound because this energy is so powerful that it rules your body.
I would not have realised that if I was born as a girl because that would have been natural to me. Now, though, I know what it's like because physically I am a man. Earlier, I couldn't do anything while the world around me was laughing at me. I hated being like that for almost half of my life until I realised its positive impact on me. I realised this gift of being an artist and all the artistic things I can do with her in me. I love comfort and cleanliness; I can decorate my house and live in peace; I can cook yummy food and even my fashion sense is good enough.
I have compassion and love in my heart and the quality of always giving and helping others. I know, I am perfect and enough and I can run my house alone and live in an artistic atmosphere while the other men around me don't have these qualities. Yet, they are somehow suffering, running after finding a woman who can complete this part in their life which is natural to them. All my Navaratri artworks came from a deep sense of being grateful to her. All of them are a tribute to her for choosing my body to stay in me and giving me all these beautiful qualities.
CG: How do you come up with different silhouettes of fashion pieces in your Concept Designs art?
Shashank: I think the above qualities I mentioned will also be the answer to the question. Also, because I love fashion and am a concept artist, I tried experimenting and mixing them both.
CG: Is there any specific source of inspiration for the realistic infusion into mythology based art collection?
Shashank: There's no specific collection I have but I get inspired by so many things I see around me. Sometimes, while making the artwork, I search for something that can inspire me enough and can use it in my artwork.
CG: How do you capture an emotion into an artistic creation?
Shashank: I am a very emotional person and I don't do anything until I get involved in something. For making an artwork, I definitely wait for a time when I feel the need to make something. That way, I can easily get involved in it and feel it. I also meditate, so it's easy for me to concentrate on just one thing at a time and pour all my emotions into making my artwork a reflection of me. I read and research about it and use the best of my knowledge so that later I can answer people who want to know the reason behind my artwork.
CG: Looking at the dark, gritty side taking centre stage in your art, do you think that showcasing the dark sides of your subject is important?
Shashank: No, I never intentionally made anything like that because, when I make an artwork, I think of nothing but the very thought that has inspired me to make it. Only if it's a subject that has a dark side to it, I showcase it and not otherwise. I agree there are a few artworks I've made at a time when I was facing darkness in my life. I was suffering in my own body and that would have translated into art. Also, in my profession, I have to make the description I have been given. There have been subjects that harmed my mental health in my past because of continuously reading, researching and living those moments in my head until I completed it.
CG: Which art is your ultimate favourite piece?
Shashank: I think it's "Draupadi." Although I didn't take much time for that, a lot of people relate with it in exactly the way I was feeling while creating it. To me it's a win-win.
CG: What is the process of making sure the artwork is top notch when it comes to printing?
Shashank: Earlier, I had the habit of choosing dark colours while making the artworks. I now try my best to use bright colours even if it is not going for printing. Since the last few years, my taste has drastically changed. The kind of subjects I choose has changed because of the kind of person I am becoming. I am more positive and hopeful because of the spiritual path I have chosen. My pallet is more bright, saturated and sometimes soft pastel. If you choose dark tones, even the printer will give you dark or muddy results, so the more bright colours you choose, the fresher and better results you will get.