Bangalore-based animator and illustrator Nishanth Sanjay was one of those children who knew what he wanted to be ever since he had a crayon in their hand. His love for cartoons growing up made him explore drawing and animation ever since he can remember, and as he grew older, his need to learn the nuances of the art paved the way.
Since graduating from Srishti Institute of Art, Design & Technology in 2016, Nishanth has had his hands full with commissioned and personal projects alike. Driven by fanciful ideas, he is constantly experimenting and challenging himself to create amazing, visually rich worlds dug out of the corners of his mind.
He indulges us in an immersive brain picking session about his love for animation, where inspiration comes from, and his ongoing Lasso Series, among others.
Phresh Perspective by Nishanth Sanjay
What was your childhood like? Was becoming an artist a dream then?
My childhood was fun. I grew up watching a ton of cartoons like Dexter’s Lab, Samurai Jack, The Looney Toons Show, Hey Arnold, Tintin, Dragon Ball Z and Pokemon; reading comics (more like looking at the pictures than actually reading them); playing and collecting action figures and drawing. Some films that I enjoyed were Tarzan, Lilo and Stitch, Brother Bear, Lion King and The Emperor’s New Groove. But most of all, I loved drawing and getting lost in my own little world. I always enjoyed building imaginary worlds while playing with toys. If I didn't have a particular character that I really wanted, my Mom would usually draw it for me and we would end up creating makeshift toys of it.
Art entered my life from when I was old enough to hold a crayon and make squiggles with it. My initial experiments were mostly trying to draw characters I watched on cartoon shows, tracing out carton cut-outs of my favourite cereal box characters, namely Tony the Tiger and Choco Bear, and generally drawing things that I really liked. As I grew up, the world of drawing and art started making more sense.
It was after watching Batman: The Animated Series, which used to air on Cartoon Network, that I saw the credits roll in and remember asking my Mom what those names were supposed to be. That’s when I heard the term ‘animator’ for the first time, and learnt how people got to sit and draw cartoons as their jobs, which sounded like fun. My Mom introduced me to the process of animation when I was in the third or fourth grade. I didn’t dabble too much in animation back then. I mostly stuck to filling up loose sheets of paper with drawings. But it's no surprise that one of my earliest animations in college was on Childhood.
Lasso Pool Kid, an illustration from Nishanth's ongoing Lasso series
Are you inspired by life or is there a deeper channeling through animation?
I guess a bit of both. I do feel like my experiences of life and people around me find their way into my work. Maybe not directly, but they do in some form. From time to time, I also like to take an event and draw something based on it.
At times, I like tapping into ideas/themes in my mind that sound exciting and I’m keen on exploring and figuring out. It’s a fun ‘headspace’ to be in: to always be surprised at what you encounter, how you process it and what you turn it into.
Nishanth's interpretation of Edvard Munch's Scream
How did you arrive at this particular style of illustration and animation?
The current style is just the most comfortable and natural way that I draw in. I don’t necessarily want to be drawing in just one style; it’s an ever-evolving process that just keeps building upon itself, sort of like a snowball effect. I also try and expose myself to and consume all kinds of content from various sources. It’s interesting to see how they trickle down and inform my work.
Tell me more about the Lasso Series, which is your most recent, ongoing project.
Over the past year, I’ve been working on the Lasso Series, a personal project that I started a month after graduating. It spawned out from a happy accidental moment while I was messing around with the lasso tool on Photoshop during a work break from animation. It was super exciting and I had three illustrations done within an hour. The process felt refreshing and fun. Since I was using the lasso tool to draw, I just prefixed ‘lasso’ before every character. I decided to work with the constraint of only using the lasso tool, where the whole image is built up one layer at a time. So I’m pretty much on the edge of my seat from start to finish. I start with a general idea in my mind, but where the process takes me is totally spontaneous. I find this uncertainty to be fun.
Initially, it was like a personal a-drawing-a-day challenge for myself. I was looking at doing 30 illustrations and capping it at that. But as I got into it, 30 drawings came in a flash and I just kept increasing the goal number of illustrations. Now, the plan is to do a 100 or so illustrations and compile them into a book. Over time, the process and the illustrations has gotten a lot more elaborate, especially the Lasso Samurai. The series has also found its way into informing some of my animation work as well. I don't know where I’d take this but it’s a lot of fun and I'm excited to see where it goes.
Illustrations from the Lasso series
Tell me about your experiments with GIFs as a medium.
The GIFs are quirky little ideas that came into fruition. I like making them from time to time as they are fun ways to satisfy the animation itch and don't take too long either.
I’ve worked on LoopdeLoop videos. Loopdeloop is an online animation community that hosts bi-monthly animation challenges. So there’s a theme every two months and you make a looping animation to it. The entries go online on the website, and there’s a screening of the top 100 loops at the end of the challenge. If you’re into fun indie animation, you should definitely check it out! My first LoopdeLoop was LIGHT, and one of my favorite loops so far is the Bear Hug.
The Color Mood GIF was created after a three-week-long colour board phase on Nishanth's graduation film
What does your studio space look like?
At the moment, I work from home. I have an iMac with a Wacom 13’ Cintiq on my work desk, surrounded by four Lego Star Wars Micro Fighters, a figure of Darth Vader with his hand stretched out looking at me and a First Order Lego Build-able Storm Trooper, plus a bunch of other bits and bobs.
Who are some artists that have inspired your work?
There are so MANY! First up are the cartoons and comics I enjoyed in my childhood and which somehow trickled down into influencing my work. Some artists and illustrators I really look up to are Frank Miller, Katsuhiro Otomo, Mike Mignola, Moebius, Ghost Shrimp, and Andy J Pizza. I also enjoy following the work of some super cool studios and communities, who are crushing the animation game right now, like Buck, Moth Animation Studio, Wednesday Studio, Loopdeloop, Golden Wolf, The Late Night Work Club, OYW, and The Line Animation to name a few.
We live in a time and age where there’s so much work to look at from hour to hour. So a big heads up to social media and the Internet, which makes it feel I’m like jumping into this big pool of inspiration! I’d like to thank all the artists who post work on social media! It’s inspiring and helps me keep at it and make more work! I’m also a fan of the Explore tabs on Instagram and Tumblr - every Refresh gets you ready for a joyride.
A self-portrait of Nishanth in his studio
How’s 2018 looking for you?
Busy but good! I’m working on a personal animated short film I’ve been chipping away at. I’m also working on a animated music video for a band, so I do plan to have these two projects out by the end of the year. Plus, there will be a lot more Lasso drawings, GIFs and Loopdeloops! Art aside, I’m also trying to learn how to surf and getting better at it in 2018!
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