NID graduate, Angshuman Dhar, exclusively shares how artists and designers can avoid burnout and find success by consciously maintaining a love for their craft.
CG. Could you please elaborate on what was your journey to, and at, NID like?
Angshuman: NID was like a dream come true for me. It took quite a lot of effort as the exams were quite challenging and you never know what kind of questions they would ask. I managed to pass the second time I took the test. Getting in was the best feeling ever. It’s the best design institute in the country and rightfully so. The design environment is unlike any other I have ever seen. It felt like a completely new world. The best part was the open studios. You could successfully learn anything you wanted to if you were interested enough. Although my time was cut short because of the Covid outbreak, which makes me really sad whenever I think about the campus, NID has been a huge part of my growth as a designer and as an artist.
CG. What role did art and creativity play in your childhood and vice versa?
Angshuman: I have two brothers and we are triplets. Since childhood, we were quite interested in art and would spend our evenings scribbling, doodling and making superhero sketches. We did play around a lot but making art was a big priority and an even bigger part of our childhood that we really enjoyed. As we grew up, though, art took a back seat and studies became more important. Yet we always took out some time to draw. Taking biology as a subject for our boards was also because we loved to draw so much.
CG. Growing up, did you always know you wanted to be in this field?
Angshuman: Not really. I was always interested in art but never thought I could pursue it as a career. It was just a hobby growing up and, being from a middle-class household, art was not a top priority. Only after my board exams did I seriously think about honing the craft into a profession.
CG. If you weren’t into design and illustration, what do you think you’d be doing?
Angshuman: Most probably, I would have been in biotech or microbiology. Thinking back, I don’t think I would have been as good or as in love with other fields as I am now.
CG. How did you adopt the comic style of illustration? What impact does this approach make on the outcome?
Angshuman: My style is a culmination of all the years of work; my inspirations and other artists whose work I really admire. I think this approach really helps tell a story better. Comics are great pieces of media that tell stories like no other media can. It’s almost like a middle ground between books and films.
CG. What makes you choose a consistently dark colour tone across your works? How does it contribute to your illustrations?
Angshuman: I think it mostly depends on the mood I want to portray in my work. Dark colour tones often help accentuate the subject which also helps in storytelling and composition. However, it heavily depends on the subject matter. I do love darker colours as I find them quite soothing and cosy.
CG. Who is your audience most of the time and what efforts do you particularly take to cater to them?
Angshuman: My audience would mostly be young and working adults. I think they fall exactly at a time and place where they appreciate the kind of art that I make. I really like to work on different topics but, lately, I have been really interested in documenting daily life in India and its uniqueness. It makes me very happy to see people connect with my work and share their own stories.
CG. Please elaborate on one or two of your projects you consider most significant or breakthroughs.
Angshuman: My nostalgia series would be my most significant and successful work. Indian people are quite nostalgic and we love to reminisce about our ‘good old days’. During Covid, I got nostalgic and made a short animation about trains which blew up on Reddit and other social platforms. School life is also something people really love and my works on the subject got lots of love.
CG. You’ve illustrated such a wide range of topics or series. How do you choose your subjects and the way you want to represent them?
Angshuman: Most of the topics I try to illustrate are about the daily life we see in India. So choosing a topic is just thinking about the unique things we do as Indians. I have been to and stayed in many states across the country, which really helped me realise how vast and different India and its people are. There is no shortage of content when it comes to such a unique country with such a vast variety of people.
CG. Essentially, what’s your work process from start to end, and how do you go about a project?
Angshuman: It all starts with ideation where I write down all the ideas I get. Once I’m happy with an idea, I go thumbnailing. Once the composition is set, I move to basic sketches. Linework follows and then colouring and polishing. Animation is a different ball game, though. Animation involves a lot more work and planning.
CG. Could you tell us about some of your notable commissions or client projects you’ve worked on?
Angshuman: I have worked with quite a lot of clients over the last 8 years that I have been working as a freelance artist. I have had the opportunity to work for Hike, Kwality walls, Sunfeast, Wacom and quite a few more.
CG. What are the sources of your inspirations, influences and observations? How do you develop vision and ideas?
Angshuman: My source of inspiration comes from a vast range of things but, mostly, from whatever I observe when I am up and about. The experiences I have had over the years also help me ideate for my works. Developing ideas start from the simple step of writing down each and every idea that comes to mind, no matter how bad they might seem. Once you have ideas, it’s easier to focus and polish the stories that you want to tell through them.
CG. Which skills do you find crucial to your work and what are the best ways to develop them?
Angshuman: I think the ability to work fast is very important. This helps manage your time, which in turn helps you balance your work and personal time. The art industry is quite fast, so learning to manage your time is extremely helpful. This skill comes with practice and experience, so it’s very important to keep practicing and improving yourself.
CG. What have been the greatest lessons you’ve particularly learnt through your journey?
Angshuman: The greatest lesson would be to not be over-ambitious about your work. Being interested and motivated is important but being over-ambitious often leads to disappointment down the road. It’s always good to keep a steady pace rather than sprinting. I have also learned to not get too attached to my own work as this hinders growth.
CG. What do you feel are the pros and cons of being a professional artist?
Angshuman: This is a huge list but, I think, the biggest pro is also the biggest con. The biggest pro of being a professional artist would be the fact that you can do what you love to support yourself. Doing something creative every day is a great feeling. But, when you do something you love as a career, it can become a chore or just a job and one can start losing interest in it. So the thing you love to do can become a job that you just have to do to make a living.
CG. If you had a magic wand, what would you do with it?
Angshuman: I would get myself a real shaka-laka-boom-boom magic pencil and start drawing the things that I always wanted.
CG. Your word of advice to upcoming illustrators from your own experience?
Angshuman: My word of advice to new illustrators would be to keep loving their craft and not lose hope. This field is quite competitive and newcomers can feel overwhelmed. If you love what you do and do it enough, you will always make it.