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Highlighting illustration aspects such as lighting and colours, Naveen Selvanathan also dwells on his own personal story as an artist.

Lighting & Colours - Illustration by Naveen Selvananthan

Naveen has made quite a journey as an illustrator since he started out as a professional artist at Sony India. From his early days studying engineering to taking up an animation job post a related course in Chennai to further pursuing a Master’s in Fine Arts in the USA, he has made his way through.

Lighting & Colours - Illustration by Naveen Selvananthan

Today he’s involved in prestigious projects with Dreamworks in LA, California, currently focused on Puss in Boots 2 for the past couple of years.

Lighting & Colours - Illustration by Naveen Selvananthan

CG. Please take us through your early days in art – How did it all begin? How did events progress thereafter and how did you experience them?

Naveen. I was always interested in art as a child but I did not know how to make a living as an artist. So, like all of my friends, I studied engineering. However, by the time I finished my engineering course, I realized that I did not want to work as an engineer and that art was my true passion. So I joined a short animation course in Chennai and managed to get a job as an animator. I worked there for a couple of years before moving to the US to pursue my Master of Fine Arts degree.

Lighting & Colours - Illustration by Naveen Selvananthan

CG. How did you get into DreamWorks Animation and what role did you play there? Please also take us through one or two of your significant projects there.

Naveen. My director for Spiderman into the Spiderverse, Bob Persichetti, invited me to work on his next project, Puss in Boots 2, that he was directing at Dreamworks. That’s how I joined the studio. I have been working there for the past year and a half on the same project.

Lighting & Colours - Illustration by Naveen Selvananthan

CG. How can one get the balance between lighting and colours right, so that they complement each other well?

Naveen. You have to think about lighting and colours in tandem since lighting decides how an object appears in the painting. A red object may appear orange-based or purple-based, depending on whether it is lit by the evening sun or the cool skylight in the shadows. You have to design your lighting based on what you want to convey through your work. A fashion illustration will be lit very differently from a painting of an action sequence, for example. We can learn a lot about light design by studying movies and photography.

Illustration by Naveen Selvanathan

CG. Can you point out some works or artists that represent this balance well?

Naveen. Among traditional artists, I look up to John Singer Sargent, Anders Zorn, Richard Schmid, Jeremy Lipking, Kim English, and Matt Bodges for inspiration.

Lighting & Colours - Illustration by Naveen Selvananthan

CG. Did personally moving to LA show any effect on your work process, results or so? How did it impact you as an illustrator?

Naveen. LA is where the Hollywood animation industry is mostly based. So many of the prominent artists have made it their home. Apart from that, many animation and art conventions take place in LA. Being surrounded by so much talent and having exposure to the industry has definitely improved my work and kept me inspired.

Royal Detective (Disney TV) (Design & Paint)

CG. Please tell us about your time with Disney Interactive Studios – What projects did you work on and what was unique about the work process there?

Naveen. Disney Interactive was a social gaming studio where I worked as an artist doing simple designs for their games. It paid my bills while I attended art workshops in the evenings to improve my portfolio and achieve my true goal of working in feature animation.

Royal Detective (Disney TV) (Design & Paint)
Royal Detective (Disney TV) (Design & Paint)

CG. Is it pressuring to work for big names and projects? How do you handle it?

Naveen. There is more pressure associated with big-name projects as you are surrounded by top talent who produce amazing work. You feel like you have to always be at the top of your game. I handle it by taking it one day at a time and trying to play to my strengths.

Lighting & Colours - Illustration by Naveen Selvananthan

CG. How would you compare two greats such as Dreamworks and Sony, having worked for them both?

Naveen. Sony was the first feature animation studio to give me a chance by hiring me and providing a working visa. So I would forever be grateful to Sony. It was a great learning experience to work on productions there and watch top artists in the industry work. I have to say that the work at Dreamworks is a lot more relaxed because I joined as an experienced artist, not feeling the pressure to prove myself.

CG. Please tell us about your role for Smurfs and elaborate on it from brief to end result.

Naveen. Smurfs was my first feature film. I learned a lot of skills on that project, ranging from painting props and characters to painting locations, as well as lighting and colour keys.

SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE (Paint only)
SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE (Paint only)
SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE (Paint only)

CG. How much of a role do lighting and colours play in your work and what techniques do you use to apply them effectively?

Naveen. Lighting and colours play a very important role in my illustrations. I keep my light and shadows in layers so that I can play with the values and keep the overall illustration crisp and graphic.

Illustration by Naveen Selvanathan

CG. What have been your greatest lessons through working with such diverse organisations?

Naveen. I’ve learned that if your foundation is strong, you can survive in any studio and project. Along with that, always being willing to learn new ways and techniques from others, is something that always helps.

CG. Please shed some light on the significance of formal education in your illustration journey and what’s your advice to current art students?

Naveen. I would say, getting trained in the basics of art – such as anatomy, perspective, graphic design, lighting, and colour – is extremely important to enter, survive and thrive in the animation and illustration industry. What you learn is more important than where you learn it.

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Hazem Ameen breaks down the unity of his illustrations and personality through his creative process and various influences, which do not always exist in the creative sphere.

Illustrations by Hazem Ameen
Thiriyal, the bard
Wailing Merfolk

Hazem Ameen Ahsan is a freelance artist from Kerala whose work largely focuses on character art and narrative illustrations. Going by the tag “caninebrush”, a moniker he came up with when he learned that prehistoric people used canine teeth to carve drawings into rock, Hazem discovered digital art through the work of Izzy Medrano (a concept artist who worked on the God of War game series) and realised that being an illustrator was a viable career choice that balanced all his interests.

Illustrations by Hazem Ameen
Kali, the dancer
Illustrations by Hazem Ameen
Al Manaat, goddess of Fate and Destiny

Looking at Hazem’s gallery of illustrations, all the pieces are rooted in fantasy or mythology with a mystical folk vibe that immediately transports the viewer to a world of creatures and magic with a promise of adventure. On asking him to describe his personal art style, he says, “Every artist has an art style, and it usually is the result of all their collective influences and visual inspirations. I could not explain why my art looks the way it does anymore that can explain what makes me myself.” He does mention that his approach to each project is based on timelines, and a faster method may give rise to a “new style” just due to the circumstances.

A Cave Shrine
Illustrations by Hazem Ameen

While he draws inspiration from other artists, art forms, and video games, the larger sources are books, both fiction and non-fiction. It comes as no surprise when he claims to be influenced by history, mythology, and religion while creating his digital art/ illustrations. As an artist, being obsessive about something that isn’t art is a great way to find a well of inspiration. Aesthetically, fantasy literature such as Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones has inspired Hazem to create his own worlds through his own cultural sphere, which bridges his interests, giving him a unique voice when contributing to the genre.

Illustrations by Hazem Ameen
Padayani, the truth-teller
Illustrations by Hazem Ameen
Al Uzza, goddess of Lust and War

A huge fan of the ideation phase, Hazem visualises his concepts before putting pen to paper to help with any creative blocks. He is a line-drawing centred artist who sketches the entire concept before approaching colour and details, always using any references to help the project flourish. His art career includes working on RPG tabletop games for companies like Paizo, Petersen Games, Chaosium, and Creative Assembly; an online game titled “Vainglory”; and the 3DTotal book series.

Al Laat, goddess of Wisdom and Strategy
A bond in the sea

Hazem holds great appreciation and hopes for the concept art industry in India. While there is always room for growth, he is confident that with the accessibility of art resources today, many Indian artists will use their heritage and distinctiveness in today’s vast global art market to stand out. Only half-joking, the effects of the pandemic had not changed his routine much as “artists have been social- distancing from others long before Covid”. He went on to say, “This pandemic, though terrible for many of those unfortunate, has helped me focus and finish a lot of work, get some jobs and even set up a personal studio.”

Illustrations by Hazem Ameen
The Grower
Zaba the flute player

We threw a bit of a curveball question to Hazem, where if aliens invaded and he could only save the world through art – who would he choose to be by his side? He drafted his artist friend (Aniruddha Khanwelkar), who he claims represents the human condition and his mentor, Even Mehl Amundsen who guided Hazem’s journey as an artist. It goes to show that when it’s all said and done, the support of a community and a guide will always be valuable.

Illustrations by Hazem Ameen
Odin, the Alfather
Mermaids of the Reef

Hazem is excited to explore and experiment with different storytelling methods within books, graphic novels, video games, and animated films in the future. We can safely say that we are excited to see more of his fantasy world-building and riveting characters in the days to come.

The Yanuk Priest
Birker and the gang

Published in Issue 52

The pandemic has brought many different challenges for everyone. But educating our young ones is among the top priority. The issue focused on how design education is still possible while most of us are locked in our homes. We also interacted with illustrators and photographers such as Jasjyot Singh Hans and Anirudh Agarwal, who seem to stand firm with their uniqueness in this time of chaos. Overall this issue serves food for thought with visually stunning creativity on a single platter.

 

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Real is believable. But abstract teases the imagination. You don’t have to choose one of the two while creating. Mixing reality with abstract is the way to go according to digital artist Ankur Singh Patar. Whether it’s creating a portrait or manipulating a photograph, the digital art is capable of going as far as your imagination can take it. He shares what to keep in mind when working on the digital medium.

Illustratio for Toyota Land Cruiser - 70 years
Digital Art
University of Queensland
Digital Art
University of Queensland

Let your Artwork Play the Guessing Game

Realism, disguised with abstraction, makes for interesting artwork. Abstract art has no boundaries, no set of protocols and no clear message. The fun part is that even though you’ve created the piece with a certain subject in mind, every viewer will comprehend it according to their thinking and imagination and arrive at different conclusions. Realism is important because it helps to connect with the viewers.

Digital Art
Harp and Rabaab
Digital Art
Pandit Ji
Digital Art
Campaign for Adobe

The Challenge is to Re-create the Already-Created

When a famous personality is your subject, it’s important to think beyond how others have portrayed him/her. It gives you the chance to surprise not only yourself as an artist but also the audience. Doing some research, like going through some of the best creative works on the subject, is always recommended. You’ll notice that most portraits are hand-drawn sketches or paintings. That’s why exploring the digital medium can work wonders as it gives you limitless scope and opportunities to experiment.

Digital Art
Anom
Digital Art
God of Small Things
Digital Art
Femina Illustration
Illustration & Photography for Anibus

Creating digital portraits makes your work stand out. It also allows for the beautiful creation and merging of abstract elements along with unique colours. Now that’s different!

Digital Art
M.S. Dhoni
Digital Art
Rafael Nadal
Digital Art
Roger

Colours are the Protagonists

Our subconscious mind is capable of communicating with colours. After all, they are the expressions of our emotions, feelings, thoughts and moods. That’s why, most of the time, you’ll find that the colours you chose were done without a thought. Sometimes it’s better not to plan them and let them be spontaneous. However, sometimes they need to be monitored with respect to the design. The primary colour is an important ingredient as it sets the mood. Including a splash of contrasting colours supports and emphasizes the message and feeling which are embedded in the design.

Digital Art
Scent of a Woman
Digital Art
Udda
Digital Art
Ghagga

A Colour on its own is Incomplete

Colours are like a language. Like certain words hold different meanings when used in different contexts, so do colours. You can use the same colour to represent a smile in one artwork and laughter in another. It’s how you combine it with other colours and look at a painting as a whole to tell the complete story.

Digital Art
The Catwoman
Digital Art
Djokovic
Digital Art
Surjit Patar

Photo Manipulation is not an easy way out

Using real photographs in your artwork and building around it is equally challenging. You need the right photographs, to begin with. Once you’ve got it, you start planning what effect or things you want to do with it. The best way is to work along the way and alter your design numerous times before you finish. You add an element and then maybe tomorrow when you look at it again, you replace it with something better. That’s how your design grows and a photograph evolves from a subject into a story and finally becomes a piece of art.

Digital Art
Stairs to Heaven
Digital Art
Mad Scientist - Lenovo
Digital Art
Prison Break Fan Art

Published in Issue 14

We dedicated this issue to Digital Art where we explored the connection between our dreams and imagination and how the flexibility of technology can be used to document that. In his exclusive article, Android Jones explains the broader perspective of digital art. Featuring Ankur Singh Patar, Archan Nair, Harshvardhan Kadam and Aamina Shazi Arora, every article discusses how each of them has an individual way of working and yet they all look at life beyond the obvious to appreciate it’s beauty. So, go ahead

 

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Lovely Kukreja talks about his famous series of illustrations, the artist’s mindset and the state of art education.

For Delhi based artist Lovely Kukreja, the choice to become a full-time illustrator was a spontaneous decision. He moved away from his commerce studies to become a graphic designer, eventually specialising in digital art and illustration in 2005. Interestingly, he was not an avid reader of comics while growing up and favoured the available animated shows like Chip ‘n’ Dale, Talespin, and Duck Tales.

Digital Illustrator Lovely Kukreja

Currently, he leads the content department at Bobble AI, where he helps develop virtual avatars for stickers and gifs to enable a personalised experience for their users across messaging apps. A classic example of where modern technology meets traditional art forms.

Digital Illustrator Lovely Kukreja

Lovely is best known for his adorable illustrations of Indian mythological figures. The series depicts various gods and goddesses in a cute, child-like form combined with a soft yet vibrant colour palette. When creating pieces linked to heritage or religion, Lovely believes that the artist is responsible for balancing their personal style and the sanctity of the depiction itself, where cultural boundaries should be respected. His inclination towards children’s content and spirituality motivated him to create something that everyone, both young and old, could enjoy.

Digital Illustrator Lovely Kukreja

Having dabbled in children’s illustrations, medical illustrations, and UI design (to name a few), Lovely’s philosophy is that “evolution is the only key to survive and grow”. One of the major challenges during his career was “selling himself”, which he overcame by staying updated with the latest technology, constantly developing his skills, and making sure to market his development on social media and not simply posting to keep with the trends. Favouring freehand drawing for concept development, Lovely avoids references as much as possible and instead goes with his instincts for composition, character, emotions and colour to create an original piece. The aim for him is simple – try to be better than yesterday.

Digital Illustrator Lovely Kukreja

While he has a Bachelors in Multimedia and Animation, he thinks formal education institutions need to adapt to the shift from traditional to digital media and the high requirement for self-learning and self-representation. While he doesn’t abhor the foundational methods or art school study materials per se, he thinks there is room for improvement in how it is communicated.

Digital Illustrator Lovely Kukreja
Digital Illustrator Lovely Kukreja

15 years later, his advice for those entering the industry can be summed up in a word – temperance. According to Lovely, artists “should enjoy the freedom of expression, but not exploit it.”, doubling down on his stance on representation. He believes that one’s work has a longer shelf life when measured in its “impact and ripple effect” and not “likes and followers”.

He goes on to say that there is nothing wrong with an artist expecting proper monetary compensation for what they do, even though the impression is that creative professions are not sustainable. A lesson to which every digital artist and creative can relate.

Lovely makes it a point to follow the constraints of commercial work but takes the time to satiate his cravings to develop his personal projects and art pieces without any limitations. In his words, “I dedicate my day-time to work for food, and in the night I feed my soul.” In the future, he hopes to start his own production house where he can narrate unexplored stories.

Digital Illustrator Lovely Kukreja
Learn how Digital Illustrator Lovely Kukreja draws:

How to Illustrate ‘Goddess Durga’ with Basic Guidelines!

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When exploring a new space like NFT and cryptocurrency, Amrit Pal Singh highlights the importance of building a community and engaging with your audience to spark an interest that is sustainable in the long term.

By NFT artist

3D illustrator, art director, and Nutella enthusiast, Amrit Pal Singh is now a prominent Indian NFT artist whose art features prominent pop-culture and social figures from his “Toy Faces” series. Amrit leads “Mister Bumbles”, a design and publishing agency based in New Delhi that develops illustrations, animation pieces, games, mobile applications, and books. His clientele includes Google, Snapchat, and Netflix, among many other notable names over the last 10 years.

By NFT artist

Amrit made the switch to full-time 3D illustration in 2019, before which he was a product and brand designer for mobile apps and interactive experiences. Apart from commissioned projects, the aforementioned “Toy Faces” series is arguably one of his most ambitious and successful pieces of work.

 

It is a 3D library of over 2000 digital avatars in his signature childlike style that is a testament to diversity and representation. One can also request custom versions for themselves or their team.

The library has featured on Forbes, Wacom, Muzli, and Behance and was supported by the Adobe Fund for Design this year. Another notable series from his body of work is the “3D Rooms Project”, a personal project developed during quarantine that showcases isometric renditions of “iconic rooms” from popular movies and TV shows.

While he is a proponent of working solo due to the speed and flexibility he gains on projects, Amrit makes it a priority to engage with the design community. With the motivation to share what he has learned over his career, his blog “Lighthouse” is a collaboration with other designers to share design resources, trends and industry knowledge.

Including his experience with NFT.

For those not in the know (yes, all two of you), a non-fungible token (NFT) is a digital commodity (art, for example) that is unique and non-replaceable. Currently, the most popular crypto blockchain that supports NFT is Ethereum. The chain keeps a record of the transaction and the relevant information, giving it a “collector item” status.

 

At this stage, the experience is comparable to having the winning bid at an auction and proof of ownership. The caveat is that an NFT’s ownership parameters may include a limited number of versions should the seller wish to do so.

Another feature is that artists stand to gain a percentage every time the token is sold or changes hands. Before you make the case that procuring digital art is as easy as downloading an image, think about the gift shop at a famous museum like the Louvre. Owning the actual Mona Lisa versus buying a poster of the painting will naturally have different associated values, especially for resale.

Designers like Amrit view NFTs as another way to spread awareness and reach new customer bases for existing work. On selling Toy Faces through cryptocurrency, Amrit says, “Toy Faces started as a design asset, then I started doing custom Toy Faces to expand its reach. NFTs is the third step of its evolution, intersecting with art and collectables. I love how convenient it is to sell digital goods, and that is what attracted me to NFTs.”

 

He goes on the say that the space is very community-driven and that the media has covered the more sensational side of it, but it is the start of something new and revolutionary.

“Toy Faces started as a design asset; then, I started doing custom Toy Faces to expand its reach. NFTs are the third step of its evolution”

However, the relevant infrastructure in India has a long way to go relative to other countries. The constant misinformation and the lack of adoption by the Indian financial system have made enthusiasts take pause. However, Amrit is confident that, in time, cryptocurrency will be a widely accepted investment opportunity by both the government and the people.

His advice to others is simply “don’t rush”. He prioritises community engagement and building an audience before even considering to sell as this will inform how you even start. With the subjective variety, the key is to have a strong value system or storytelling skills to garner the favour of your work. “Quality and marketing go hand in hand”, and for all the other information you may need, the internet will provide.

Amrit specifies that “spamming people doesn’t work and is a bad long term strategy” and that real engagement comes with genuine interaction, asking for feedback, and sharing your insights or experience (no matter your skill level).

 

It would not hurt to consider making secondary or tertiary content around your primary skill or sharing thoughts you resonate with from others. Also, you would have garnered a knowledge base that you can tap into as an additional benefit.

 

Also, keep an eye on the trend but be true to your style.

Lay of the land

 

We will do a subsequent post on the emerging platforms in the NFT art world. If you’re itching to get exploring right away, here are some of the most popular NFT art marketplaces to get you going:

 

SuperRare — Highly-curated 1-of-1 edition NFTs. The “gold standard” in the current NFT space.

 

NiftyGateway — Fast-growing NFT market leading the pack in sales volume. Highly sought after daily NFT drops, with popular visual artists and now celebrities getting involved. One of the few NFT platforms that accept USD / credit card as payment.

 

Zora — Feed-style NFT platform in which the market of each piece is baked into the NFT itself and not run by the platform. Zora, therefore, doesn’t take a transaction fee on each sale like the other platforms. Creating NFTs is open for everyone. The Zora protocol is also open for anyone to build on.

 

Foundation — Beautifully designed and curated NFT marketplace with reserved bidding that, once met, unlocks 24-hour auctions. Creating NFTs is currently invite-only.

 

Rarible — The most open and permissionless NFT marketplace. Anyone can create an NFT right away without needing an invite, and a roadmap is in place to make the platform community-run.

 

Makersplace — An invite-only creator NFT platform that accepts both Ethereum and fiat currency. Recently partnered with Christie’s auction house to sell the first fully digital piece at Christie’s, by artist Beeple.

 

KnownOrigin — Quality NFT art platform with multiple weekly drops. Offers accepted in ETH.

To explore more of Amrit’s work, follow him on Instagram @amritpaldesign.

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Women, the kind around us, represent two faces of existence. One, which is treated like a commodity, shackled in the age old misdoings of the tradition. And the other which is breaking all boundaries to follow the dreams of freedom. Digital artist Ankur Singh Patar chronicles this duality in his artwork and explains the process of creation.

Artwork

Step 01

Drew a row sketch to get an idea of how the artwork would be. Created rough lines to get a feel.

Step 02

Added a background colour to decide on the skin tone of the woman. This would act as a base colour for the whole illustration. Also added more details in the face with a soft brush, taking care of the highlights and shadows.

Artwork

Step 03

With the help of a pen tool, created the lines and gave them little bit of shadow. With the help of big soft round brush added some softness and some more highlights and shadows to give depth to the portrait.

Step 04

To add more details in the artwork, changed the shape of the lips slightly. Also added a texture to the whole portrait, giving it a rustic feel.

Artwork

Step 05

While on the go, decided to change the illustration for good. On the canvas made the woman portrait smaller so that some more area could be achieved around her to play with. Took the help of slightly harder round brush to made these swirl shapes around her face.

Artwork

Step 06

Added more details around the portrait with the help of thin soft round brush. It’s all about highlights and shadows which add the depth and drama.

Artwork

Step 07

On Adobe Illustrator created a few abstract 3D shapes. Imported the shapes to Photoshop and with the help of dodge and burn tools, added the highlights. Wanted to give it a glow effect which was achieved through dodge tool.

Artwork

Step 8

Used some stock imagery and some more abstract edgy elements. Adjusted the colours and saturation to mix it with the illustration. Also adjusted the light source by painting the areas of the dome to the ambience.

For a portrait, it’s all about highlights and shadows, which add the depth and drama to it.

Artwork

Step 9

Created some more element and placed on top left of the canvas to make the composition complete and add meaning to it. For the eyes, added two earthen lamps to make it look like a reflection of light and to add life to the illustration.

Artwork

Step 10

Keeping with the idea of festivals, added those flags. Used a pen tool to create a triangle, filled it with a colour, reshaped it with warp tool and used dodge and burn tool to add depth to them. More depth was needed to the gate. So with a hard round brush added that.

Step 11

Painted the bricks on the face with the help of med-soft brush.

Step 12

To achieve the concept of two faces in one, half of it was broken with top skin removed and bricks inside. The other one was outer part or the body which was beautiful and flawless but underneath was all broken. Painted ornamental elements to make it look royal. Also added more colour and contrast into the whole illustration. More elements, like the abstract sharp edgy depicting a heart and a gear and queen in chess were added.

Step 13

Added gears underneath the bricks layer which depicted that part of our society which consider women as mere objects. Made the gears in Illustrator and imported them to Photoshop. Using a brush highlighted the areas where light might be falling and then added shadows. More things were needed to make the message clear. One of them was freedom, depicted by open wings. So, added couple of wings and painted the areas to mix them with the surrounding environment.

Step 14

Lastly, added some contrast and some more texture. Texture always helps in giving your illustrations some depth. Added some more flags at the top to complete the illustration. Achieved the final artwork.

Published in Issue 17

We tried to capture the time of chaos and confusion we all are in. How it inspires and influences creative thoughts. Starting with the cover design by Ankur Singh Patar, who captures the duality in the way we treat women. Followed by a conversation with Italian illustrator Giulio Iurissevich who explores beauty behind this chaos. And many more inspirational articles to explore.

 

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