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Saumin Patel On Art School, American Comics and Being A Comic Artist

Saumin Patel On Art School, American Comics and Being A Comic Artist

Practice makes perfect, this saying has frequented the lips of our mentors innumerable number of times. So why not take this advice and perfect our work, meet Saumin Patel, the artist who learned to perfect. To find his grounding in a field less explored in India, it took the comic artist a great deal of courage to pursue what makes him the happiest.

Highlights of the Episode

  • Only when the world of American Comics was revealed to him, Saumin found his true calling.
  • Of one thing he was sure, he wanted to create art through his comics, irrespective of all the barriers.
  • Good company and inspirations go down a long way.
  • Thumbnails, that’s where the real thinking takes place.

Quotes and Takeaways

  • “The art I create for comics is essentially narrating a story.”
  • ” These are very tiny sketches of each page where I decide how the story will unfold.”
  • “Images should not be saying only the things said through words.”
  • “Experiment and practice your art as there is no other way to get to awesomeness.”

Do you recall any incident from your childhood which inspired you to become a comic artist? What are the memories you recall which influenced you to pursue comics?

I never enjoyed reading books as a kid. It was only during my art college years that I came across the term American Comics and as a student of illustration, I really loved the dynamism of the medium. As an art student pursuing Illustration as my major, comics seemed like a great high watermark to aspire for mainly as this was an illustrated world which was filled with over the top characters and hyper dynamic action and designs. I liked the artwork in such comics and that’s what pulled me towards the medium. As I started reading comics, I realized that as a medium it allowed to tell any and every kind of story. I was fascinated and this was the beginning of an inkling to work in this medium. However, back then I was not sure how to approach this avenue of career  it. One thing I was sure about and that was that  I wanted to create art through comics.

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How has been your journey so far? Were you mentored by any individual or company in the initial days of your career?

I was working with a very accomplished illustrator – Vinay Brahmania much before I joined Art college. He is the elder son of Govind Brahmania the legendary illustrator of Bahadur comics and covers for Phantom. Getting to see him work on various projects was a great way to understand the realities of how an illustrator creates compared to the assignments given in college. His art and his approach has been a driving force for me to push myself through my studies and work. Also till this very day I consult him regarding all my work decisions and ongoing projects along with taking his advice on art in general.  I was lucky that I got to be around him during my early years as it provided me with an opportunity to understand and discuss work and taught me how to approach my assignments.
Later I  became a part of an animation studio where a lot of my seniors from art college were also working. These guys were the best of the  lot around and people we aspired to become like. Each one better than the next, they were not only awesome artists but also very passionate about their work. Aditya Chari, Vaibhav More, Aniket Khanolkar and many more. Aditya is one of the top illustrators in India. Vaibhav and Aniket both have been creating animation for some of the very big clients here in India. Interaction with all these guys has been very important for my own learning.

From your craftsmanship, which one would you recall as your best creation? Can you tell us why?

The art I create for comics is essentially narrating a story. Now with each of my projects I first try to think in terms of what kind of art can narrate that story in the best possible manner. This leads me to tweak bits about my art in terms of line art and colours and lets me create art which is unique for that particular story. I get lot of joy doing this, as this allows me to set a visual tone for that story.
After this I move on to thumbnails. These are very tiny sketches of each page where I decide how the story will unfold. Here a lot of options are tried and lot of ideas are infused or removed. This part is where most of the thinking takes place and it’s the part where I enjoy the most while working on any comic project.

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What is the process which you follow to edit your panel of comics? Do you follow any specific procedure or do you have a more spontaneous take?

There is no process per say but you are generally following your instincts to create moments and design of the page where the reader’s eye needs to travel in a smooth manner without getting disoriented.
So the first part is mainly about what the character is feeling or going though and if visually we can present his/her state of mind. here the beauty is that you are creating each image so you are very much in full control of what you want the viewer to see or experience. How you wish to pace any scene. Where you wish to speed things up and how you wish to slow down some parts. Through wide – long shots you are trying to take your reader to new places and new worlds so what you wish them to see there etc. Comics is an art form which relies heavily on images, before any story is read, its seen. The images should not be saying only the things said through words but should be going beyond that.
When it comes to me I spend quite a bit of time during my thumbnailing process as I like to think the story through thoroughly. Sometimes I change a few things here and there but mostly my decisions are made as I am thumbnailing any story. During this process I am also discard many ideas and images. So I can say that my process is less spontaneous as far as changes at the last minute are concerned but its more instinct driven so if I feel something can improve the storytelling, I will not shy away from changing things at the last minute. However this rarely happens.

Who has been your greatest source of inspiration in your journey so far?

This will remain an incomplete answer as there are just too many giants I absolutely love. I will tell only about a few here. I love lots of filmmakers, the top tier is reserved by Guillermo del Toro who is a visual master and a well rounded storyteller, Terry Gilliam as his Brazil is never going to be old. Tarsem Singh for his way of creating poetic imagery. Amir kusturika for the characters and nuances and madness and music. Ridley Scott because no one today is creating and reinventing sci Fi stories like him. There are many animation film directors I love as well. In terms of art I think gustav klimt will always be awesome for me as he was a master of sensual image making and design. Caravaggio i love for his intense drama and execution. Gustav dore and Goya for their wicked and ghastly portrayal of subjects. And from comics I love Mike mignola the most he is creator of hellboy and I love his art as well as his storytelling. There is Frank miller again for his art and more for his storytelling. Moebius who was a French artist and a huge sci Fi artist. There are more but I think overall I am gravited more towards fantasy element in the art of these artists. I think that is the common thread what binds these all for me.

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What is your message our readers who aspire to become comic artists?

If you are a student and want to create art then the first thing I would suggest is not to waste your time at all. When you are studying, you have a huge amount of time of about more than a couple of years during which you must constantly keep experimenting with your work. You must absolutely try out as many different mediums as you can. work with acrylics, inks, crayons, water colours, sketch pens, charcoal, mix media with anything and everything you can lay your hands on to create art. Working like this will reveal to you what you love the most to create your art. You must create art without worrying that it has to end up looking awesome. Many a times you will discover awesome things even when you make mistakes or screw up an artwork. Do this, use photography as a tool to gather references. Ask your friends to model for you and click images and sketch from these. Pay a lot of attention as to what lighting does to an object. How it creates various kinds of moods and how this can help you tell your story even better. Also remember there are no short cuts at all. You will have to go thought a circle of creating lots of bad drawings before something good is created. And always keep a sketchbook and draw draw draw…the more you do this the more insanely awesome you will be at just drawing.
No one told me these things when I was studying and now when I think about the five years of my art college, I feel I had so much time to do so many things which I did not do and now as a professional I don’t  find enough time to do any of that. So the one thing I want to tell any student is that if you have time do not waste it at all…Experiment and practice your art as there is no other way to get to awesomeness.

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