Hi Samji, let’s start about your background, where did you study? What did you study at university? I began my venture into the creative field first through animation. It was not particularly a successful stint. I then began doing a few odd jobs to keep myself afloat. I took up BFA in Applied Art as a degree course, although I had to drop out from that course in my fourth year, putting a full stop to my formal education.
Can you briefly explain your creative process, medium etc.? I started practising through the traditional way. Digital medium only came late into my illustration career. I first used a non-display tab. I felt uncomfortable using it because unlike the conventional way of drawing where the eyes and the pen-point focuses on one place, your hands will be on the tab and your eyes will be on the monitor. When I could finally get my hands on an iPad, it completely changed the whole digital game to me. It has been my constant companion since. I started my career as a designer and I later on realised it was not my cup of tea. When it came to illustration, I didn’t want it turning the same way. So I always make sure that I put myself into a good mood before beginning an illustration. If I need to develop a symbolic idea, I do mind-mapping. I try to make a coherent picture out of the numerous detached ideas through mind-mapping. It is also not the only way. I also start by scribbling something first, to kick-start the process and would then go with the flow and see where it leads me. Often, thankfully, it has led me to the right end-product.
Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking? That is a very tough question. My perspective was largely influenced by the impressionist Claude Monet. I stumbled upon Monet and his principles while I was trying to perfect my fundamentals. Monet made me realise the importance of letting down my hair and not to be so tight wound when it comes to being a perfectionist. I love that about him; how he defied the societal norms and enjoyed painting with freedom, not paying the slightest attention to what people would say and just enjoying the process of making art. That was such an influencing part of my life.
What type of illustration projects do you enjoy working on? From what little experience I have gained working as an illustrator, I have understood that there are always two types of clients: One who has an idea about the message the illustration should convey and gives me the full creative freedom to manifest that message, and the other who doesn’t have a clue what the illustration must signify and still gives me the full freedom to do whatever I want. I like the former kind of projects. It’s easier to give our skills a nudge here and a push there when you can streamline with the client about the result. However, when clients don’t know what they want, they tend to be discontented with everything we produce. That’s tedious and exhausting.
How is your commercial work different than your personal work? I pour in so much of my emotions into my personal works that I have always been shy about publicising my personal works. They have always remained locked up, away from the prying eyes of others. Commercial works are mostly done for monetary benefits, not for emotional benefits. You approach it through a professional lens. There is a detachment there.
How many times do you tend to draw a character until it is right and also how do you know it is right? It depends on the situation. Human anatomy is not my strongest suit. So I keep a dynamic visual in my mind and strive to reach that mental image. If I don’t see myself reaching that goal, I would convince myself to push a little further. It has usually worked for me and I have ended up with a satisfactory result.
How do you think online design resources have influenced the art being produced today? I personally think all the online classes and free YouTube videos are a blessing for budding artists. I myself was benefitted greatly by them. It opens up a whole new world for struggling artists who cannot afford paid courses and tuition fees, but yet want pointers and professional guidance. I think it is great to see artists helping out fellow artists. Having said that certain apps and resources that provides templates, have made this whole process easier. I believe it does not throw many challenges into the way of someone wanting to learn these skills. I believe without challenges we will not get room to grow and explore. We would mindlessly consume what has been fed to us.
Do you ever have creative slumps? What do you do then? I do have creative slumps. When I get into a creative block, I stop the illustration work, step back, and will busy myself in other works. I would make sure I have completed everything there is to do apart from the illustration. That way there will be nothing left for me to do but the illustration itself. In commercial works, I also think about the reward, which will be waiting for me at the other end. I think that is a common way to outsmart procrastination, is not it? All those times when I have pushed myself despite reaching a saturation, I have found that I could produce some really good output. Now my mind is somehow wired to think that way. My mind will automatically push myself knowing that I will strike gold when I do that. That has definitely improved in reducing my creative slumps.
What would you say is your strongest skill? My endurance to push myself. My mind-set to keep going despite the odds is something I have always felt like a strong skillset. Developing it was not easy. It came from years of experience.
Do you have any superstitious beliefs or rules that you live by? I don’t think I have any superstitions. I do strongly live by one principle though: by creating a more positive mind-set, by looking at things through an optimistic lens, we can control our emotions and bring it more in line within our control. We shouldn’t let the reign of our emotions rest with anyone else, it must be tightly knotted around one’s own hand.
5 things inspiring you/your work right now? • The number of mind-blowing works that I see on social media. • Encouragement and appreciation from everyone around me. • I do find inspiration in the things that surround me. • When people come to me for pointers and they work on it with so much passion, improving their crafts, it inspires me to better myself. Seeing other work hard is always the best inspiration
Best/ most fun part of your job. It has never crossed my mind that this is a “job” and doesn’t everyone aspire to do earn from their passion.
What’s on your horizon? I would love to open up an online store for my illustrations. That’s one of the immediate goals I have right now.
Any future projects and plans/dreams you can share with us? My future projects are currently under the wraps right now. I will definitely let you guys know once it is the right time. My ultimate dream is to move from this frenzied survival mode to actually ‘living’ my life to the fullest. I want to be able to throw away the rulebooks and paint with no constrictions whatsoever, enjoying the freedom of expression.