First off, how do you pronounce your name?
Haha! It won’t be exact, but to sound very close, say as if ‘K’ were silent. Kind of like, Shee-ruj. Here’s a visual guide.
And remember you can’t say on a day you ate Spinach. It gets stuck between teeth, and the sounds won’t be the same.
Every kid loves to draw but when did you start really getting into art? Tell us about your journey to becoming a professional artist.
Much like every other kid, it started right from early school. My family tree has an Art Background, and a couple of close relatives were political cartoonists, so I discovered art through their works, and wanted to be one (cartoonist) when I grow up. After school, I moved to New Delhi to pursue an Art Degree, but I was not selected in the Art college’s Entrance Exam. Luckily I got a job as cartoonist in a small publication house, and then I always continued to work, mostly learning at job. I went from working as a Cartoonist, to 2D Animator, Animation Trainer, Web Animator, and then Game Artist, which I am today.
What type of things do you do at work? What's a typical day like?
I work for the Video Game Industry, and it involves creating both Concept Art and In-Game assets. The beginning of any Game project requires Visual Development, and I contribute by throwing in ideas (visual and design related), make character designs, and background art. It often involves choosing a style for the project, and then following it during production.
How much do you draw on your personal time? Do you usually draw with a purpose or project in mind or do you draw just for the fun of it?
Being a Game Artist, you don’t get the luxury of making only Art at all times, and no matter how creative the project is, you’ll need to spend time on technical stuffs. So, it becomes necessary, and is important to draw on personal time. Sometimes I do a lot (like at least one every day), sometimes I get busy with other stuffs in life, and miss practicing everyday. Since these activities are randomly distributed, I don’t consolidate them with a purpose or as a project. Any given day, whatever comes to my mind, is what I draw.
I've noticed that sometimes you will draw the same subject in a variety of styles from very abstract cartoony to realistic. What are the benefits of this type of exercise?
I have heard this term, ‘versatility’ a lot from my hero, and an awesome character designer Stephen Silver. And it’s very true that a commercial/successful artist needs to be versatile with his or her work. In this exercise, I try to learn how an idea can be represented in different styles. By observing people around me, I first do a semi-realistic sketch, and then try to stylize it in different versions. If you are versatile, you are seen as fit for any project, and that ensures regular supply of work.
I see your drawings in a Sketch Wallet, a Nomad, Cintiq Companion, and various sized sketchbooks, what do you use for what occasion?
I love Art gears, and buy a lot of them. I carry Cintiq Companion for situations when I will be away from home/work and may need to do digital work. I take Nomad Art Satchel to places where I need to draw for long, but may not have seat to rest on, or desk to spread art supplies around. That’s mostly when I am attending a life drawing session, or drawing any building/landscape in front of me. Different size of sketchbooks are just scheduled for different range of work (quick small doodle to something complex, like a composition). Sketch Wallet is common for all of the above situations and when I have no material around. I bring that out to draw down ideas in an unexpected situation or doodle to pass my time. Even if I am not drawing, having it in my pocket makes me feel relaxed and equipped. The small size prevents from attention, so you could draw someone sitting next to your table at a cafe, and he or she will not notice, haha!
What do you love about paper and what do you love about digital?
I love the traditional workflow you get when you work on paper. Thumbnailing your ideas first, and going from a rough layout, to defining main blocks, and then moving to details and finish. Not that you can’t do this on digital, but on paper, you don’t have the comfort or scope of selecting and rotating or transforming what you made, which makes you more careful about your craft and process. If I am making art on paper, I have no choice but to make sure my idea is right, before I spend a lot of time on it. Digitally, I can retake the whole artwork, by overlaying another rough.
Digital allows great deal of flexibility, and makes it easier to try many style treatment for your work. It’s also less time consuming, and easy to store, or share.
You've been very involved in the art community online and in person. What groups do you belong to or draw with?
I discovered a sketching community named SketchBomb, which has many chapters in U.S. (San Francisco, Chicago, etc.). I got impressed and inspired by the idea, and started a New Delhi chapter after talking with SketchBomb founder, Mike Henry. It's a concept of monthly meetup of any skill level artists from the city, who’d meet at a cafe or similar place for a few hours, to sit and draw on some themes, while chatting, and having food/drink. It’s a great way to meet new people, make friends, get some break from your life routine, and end with memorable time and drawings (that can sometimes even add to portfolio!).
After moving to Barcelona, I started SketchBomb Barcelona, and it made it a lot easier for me to know fellow artists from the new city.
What do you like about participating in things like Inktober and Art Drop?
I love that in both of these activities, the artists from around the world engage in something common. I like being part of it, and enjoy it very much. Jake Parker is an innovator, and I really admire him for these creations which have now become a tradition and mass movement. INKtober helps me bring in discipline of drawing everyday, and improve my inking skills. Art Drop lets me make new friends, and kind of feel like an adventure, on the day I am out for Art Drops.
Tell us about some of the things you've started such as "Draw or Die" and the "Anti-Social Sketchbook".
I wanted to bring in a discipline of practicing art everyday, and thus challenged myself with a routine of drawing everyday without a miss. I did some small branding around it, a logo and a name, so I can set that up as a wallpaper on my computer and phone which could remind me of this challenge. Last Year, I did this for some 20-25 days, but it got irregular towards the end, and I couldn’t do like I wished for. This year, I started the same challenge, but with social features. It’s like the same DRAWorDIE but with friends. In short, it’s a knockout tournament between artists, where a theme to draw on is posted every day at a specific time, and each of us gets 24 hours to draw something around it to survive in the challenge. If you miss, you are knocked out, and the last surviving artist will win. There are more things inside this challenge, but I am currently beta testing it, and will make it public when I think it's foolproof and ready.
Anti-Social Sketchbook is a sketchbook in which whatever I’ll draw should never be posted on social media or be seen by anyone in person. I draw on it for myself, with a strong realization that it’s only for my eyes, and I have the freedom and scope for failing and experimenting. I always had this problem of liking my work in the middle of creating it, that urges me to finish it in my sorted process, so I can end well, and I can post to social media. But you can’t learn and discover, if you won’t go away from your comfort zone, and try things you never did before. Anti-Social Sketchbook is like a room with mirror walls, where you can do nude dance, and only you will see.
You're at a level that most people aspire to but are there things about your art that you want to improve or a level you'd like to reach?
I am a very ordinary artist, and have many things to learn. I am not running after anything, but yes, I want to grow my skills more and more. There is no peak, so it’d be tough to name a level I am trying to reach, but I am working towards pushing it as much as I can.
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
Do a lot of practice, and have a lot of patience. And have fun, when you are making something.