Rosh, tell us about your art background and your early influencers?
My art education was largely self-taught, but terming it that way wouldn't do justice to all those wonderful people who were kind enough to release free tutorials, discuss tips and critique, over the internet. So, I did practice like any other art student, and I had the best teachers from all over the world, only that they were not physically present.
I started my career as a 3D animator. Thanks to the very slow machines we had back then while rendering tests on Maya, I would doodle away on my sketchbook. This reignited my childhood passion for drawing. Soon, doing bits and pieces of animation scenes grew into this urge to tell bigger stories and my stories. I wanted, to begin with making comics. To make comics, I found it necessary to know how to draw decent panels, faces and well, basically a lot of stuff that I had no clue how to draw! I had to do my homework. I started learning photoshop from various online tutorials and became better at it gradually.
I have observed that a lot of people work on strengthening their drawing foundation initially, learning traditional art first and then using those skills to better their digital works. I did it the other way around. I became a digital artist first, learning to draw things in photoshop and later when I felt like I was losing the spontaneity or 'the life' in my lines, I found myself attracted to the drawing desk, working with pencils, brushes, and paints.
Having many masters, early influences on my art style were many. The hardest part was breaking free from emulating inspiring artists while learning their techniques - learning how they did it and practising how to use a particular method in my work.
I learned to draw observing my uncle Johns at work in his terrace studio, above my grandma's house. We kids used to play with the leftover colours on his palette and draw on every piece of paper lying around. My childhood was filled with children's books and children's magazines, especially the colourful and charming ones like Misha from The Soviet Union, that my dad had collected over the years.
"I believe that anything that strikes you pulls at your heartstrings and evoke an emotion in you as a child, will have a particular influence on your work as an adult."
Luckily, I have had a perfect blend of things, especially books from different cultures, to play with and read from. Most of the influences on my work can be traced back to this beautiful period.
Your work deals with multiple media & unique colours, how do you shift from one medium to another without losing your identity in your work?
The identity of my work does not depend on the medium I work with. I believe that the influences we talked about earlier, has a lot more to do with it. I choose not to be chained to the comfort zone offered by the digital platform, but most of my work goes through it at some point.
I love the errors that happen when I use a sable brush dipped in ink on watercolour paper. I would never want to look at something that is fully perfect, with clean gradients, edges and lines. As a person who appreciates art, I love things with a little imperfection, a dash of asymmetry, a whole lot of spontaneity and some last-minute improvisation that could have gone wrong but was halted just at the right moment.
"I prefer a randomly made ink splash to a perfectly circular dot."
These aesthetic preferences impact the art that I create. May it be digital, paper, canvas or clay, my mind is always looking for these qualities that make my work unique, and I end up being lucky most of the time as I know exactly where to stop. Skills can be developed, improvisations can go wild, but knowing where to stop defines my identity in my work.
I suppose that finding a way to carry this on to a client project, where one has to work within their requirement framework, is always tougher, but I seemed to have escaped unharmed so far!
What is your workspace like and how does your studio influence your work?
My workspace is cluttered like a war zone when a project is going on. I hate to get up once I have settled in with my cup of coffee. So, I would keep everything I need for the project on the desk and around it. I add more and more things to it daily, and with the crumpled paper balls of rejected artworks and the hyperactive cats...well, you can imagine! Fortunately, once in a while the wife drops by and helps with putting everything back in their regular places, she even colors grades the markers, stacks the books alphabetically and at times, even places the cats height-wise! I love how these perfectionists work, but can never relate to it.
"I need my chaos to be creative. Everything has to be within reach, & my studio ambience is never complete without plugging into the sound of rain or white noise."
I love finding and learning new tools and techniques that would help me create better and more, and I am addicted to stationery shopping and collecting comic books. My wife and I share the top floor of our house for our work. We have my studio on one side with all the painting and art materials and her studio a wall away, with all the fabrics, threads, patterns and tailoring machines. Working from home has worked out perfectly for us. I am not a morning person, my work starts after lunch and might go on till the next morning.The good thing about working at night is the absence of traffic sounds and visitors.
Which of your work gives you the most satisfaction & pride?
I am satisfied with the work, like most of the creative people out there, when I enjoy the maximum freedom to experiment with it. That is pretty rare when you are working for a client. In my ten years of working as an animator, art director, creative director, illustrator and comic/children's book artist, there were very few projects where I had the complete freedom on the final output. I had directed a short animated clip for a film production company called Small Town Cinema while I was working with Studio Dreamcatcher. We had gone through a lot of hard work to create the 25-second clip, with a minuscule crew, and that is one piece of work that made me feel completely satisfied. Then, there is a project I did for the Kochi Muziris Biennale, where I was given the complete freedom to create the visuals based on an audio narration track supplied by the director. We went crazy and stayed as far away as we could from my usual styles of art and animation.
"It was also great to work with amazing film directors like Mr Mani Ratnam and Mr Aashiq Abu."
I loved the collaboration and the output we delivered. The crew at Studio Dreamcatcher were the most supportive bunch of people I had ever worked with, always ready to break out of their comfort zone. Another piece of work I am euphoric about is the comic I recently did for an anthology called Black Mumba, written by a good friend and excellent writer, Ram Venkatesan. This is the first comic I have done using real media - inks and brushes.
Tell us more about Lilorosh & how the concept of arties came to your mind?
I have always wanted an art bag. Once, I even tried making one with the help of my Uncle Johns. We were both pretty clueless about bag making. Somehow we put together a 'bag' which ended up resembling a dead rat after a day's use. A year later, I met Lilia who was a fashion designer. She used to dabble in bag-making too! So, I told her about wanting an art bag. So, together we sat down and sketched a bag, and she made our first prototype. I was pretty much in love with the bag. A few of our friends saw it and expressed interest in buying them. That is when the whole idea of making art bags came about.
We made bags for our friends for nearly a year before we decided to go public with it. Then we came up with 'LiloRosh', a platform for all our creative products, but as our Artist's series are pretty popular, we are yet to find the time to venture into new products.
"Luckily, a few months into starting LiloRosh, we ended up catching the attention of Aaron Blaise, the Academy Award nominated co- director of the Disney movie Brother Bear, and he has been the most amazing thing to happen to us!
He has been incredibly kind and supportive and has promoted us greatly. This has resulted in a flux of international orders. People love the fact that the bags can be customised and that Lilia handcrafts each and every piece. Handcrafting each piece does slow down our pace of growth, but we greatly enjoy the process and our rapport with our clients, to do it any other way.
Professionally, what’s your goal?
I started my career working for an animation company, later helped running one, and now I have found peace in freelancing. My first goal is to stay afloat as a freelancing artist, and if I do survive, I'd go on and tell stories. I believe my ancestor was not the caveman that went hunting and killed a mammoth, but the other guy who told stories about his imaginary yet believable fights with dragons and dinosaurs during the campfire.
I love telling stories through various media, and I love working with a small crew. So the goal is to make more comics, more children's books, more little-animated films and do a lot more travelling.
"Seeing the world, enjoy all things beautiful and giving back more stories and art to the world for every single thing I enjoy ... not a bad goal, I suppose."