Learning through Community
Tell us about your journey as an artist and illustrator.
Manish D3mon: Well, I have been drawing digitally for 7+ years now. I have always loved drawing as far as I can remember. Everything started from the backbench of my school days. I used to make funny and inappropriate drawings, short comics at the back of my school copies, and make my classmates read them. When they would laugh or react, it would really make my day. Soon it became a regular thing and they would always wait for my short comics. I would do that even during classes and the teacher would notice and yell at me often but I kept doing it anyway. I think it was then that I decided I would become a comic artist.
So, after high school, I went to an art and animation institute where I got introduced to the bigger world of digital art. I met like-minded people and got the opportunity to learn more about this field. My curriculum in the art institute had everything else like 3D, VFX, etc. But I was solely interested in 2D illustrations, so no matter what they taught in the class when I would come home, I would only do illustrations. I scoured every place I could learn from – Youtube, Artstation, Deviantart, you name it; watched thousands of tutorials and followed so many pro artists’ works just to get a drop of info and tips from them.
I have honestly not worked so hard for anything else in my entire life. I got introduced to so many art forms and my mind kept blowing up every time. I wanted to try all of them out. That’s why you would see varieties of art styles in my portfolio. All of them have, like, a fixed timeline. A year ago, I was just drawing fan art and, recently, I have been more into quick-paced concept artworks and epic scale illustrations with slight humor elements in them.
I don’t honestly know what my mind would divert to next but I’m looking forward to it. I worked as a freelancer for 2-3 years before I joined my current company in Bangalore. I work as a lead concept artist here and try to do personal and freelance works during the weekends or whenever I get free time.
Your love for Manga can be seen in your artworks. Can you tell us how Manga has inspired your work?
Manish D3mon: So, it was during the days when I was in the art institute that one of my friends introduced me to anime. I had heard my school friends always discuss it but didn’t really care about it then. The first anime I ever watched was Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and it slingshot me to the edge of the universe; dragged my face through burning asteroids and space rocks and disintegrated me and rearranged my molecules through time and space. My mind was blown. Sorry, my analogy was a bit extreme but that’s how it was, more or less. I loved the art, the story, the aesthetics, the whole craft was just crazy.
Then I read the manga. It’s a simple craft, honestly – no colors at all – but with just the monochromatic illustrations and screen tones, the emotions it expresses and the storytelling it does, it’s one of the most beautiful art forms ever. Then I watched more anime; read more manga and that’s when I thought I’m doing this art form, no matter what. It was really difficult in the beginning but, after thousands of tutorials and research, I think I got pretty good at it. At some point, I had my own manga, which I don’t continue anymore but I’m planning to make something soon.
I got influenced by a lot of manga and its artists and I would study their artworks often. Had I started with something else, I don’t know what my art form would have looked like.
What would be a dream project or artwork to work on and why?
Manish D3mon: Well, one of my dream projects is to have a comic/manga of my own – a world that I can call my own by just introducing characters, making them likable, and then killing them off. Kidding… But, yeah, a fictional world of my own would be awesome. This is, of course, due to the manga influence at the start of my career. But, other than that, I would love to work in a Witcher game with CD Projekt Red.
I want to learn more about concept art from an industry standard. I love medieval-themed games and Witcher 3 has been one of my favorites, so being involved in one of their Projekts would be lovely. To be honest, I don’t have a fixed dream project or anything. I am just excited about most things in general and actually have a lot of ideas and projects I would love to work on. I’m always looking for interesting opportunities flung my way.
You have a love for Comic-Con as well, and you do seem to be active with cosplay. What role do you think this plays in your creative artwork?
Manish: I love comic con but don’t know if it has catered enough to the artists. Yes, it is an opportunity for the artists to showcase their work but the expense to do so is so high that most artists simply can’t afford it. We’re called starving artists for a reason. I have put up art stalls twice in comic con and, in both of them, I had to share it with 3-4 artists.
“Putting effort into meeting other artists and being a part of the community is just as important as creating beautiful artworks.”
Many growing artists want to showcase their works out there; get feedbacks, appreciation and meet other artists; learn from each other and be a part of the larger art community but, because of the expense, they shy away hoping maybe they’d be able to afford it next year, only to realize the cost is almost twice then. I really hope at some point in time, comic con decides to slide down the stall rates and make it more pocket-friendly.
Other than that, I love comic con. I get to see really great artists come as guests; admire the merchandise; meet pop culture fans from all over the country; see all those marvelous cosplays at work, etc. It’s a great platform for artists. My work got much more visibility; I met lots of artists because of Comic-Con and I’m grateful. I think, as an artist, putting effort into meeting other artists and being a part of the community is just as important as creating beautiful artworks.
Talking about cosplay, it has grown so much amongst the Indian fan communities in the past decade, it’s crazy. It has become an art form and you can see professional Indian cosplayers these days putting so much effort and working hard on creating props and costumes of their favorite characters. I’m not a pro at all; I just like to dress up as a character that I really like and walk around with my other cosplaying buddies yelling ridiculous catchphrases at each other. I have done just 3 cosplays till now and I already have cross-dressed in one of them.
I don’t know if it has any direct relation with my art thing. It’s just something that I like to do on the side but I love every moment of it. It’s like when we were kids, we’d tie drapes on the back of our neck and pretend to be superman or rotate like Shaktimaan because we love the characters so much and we try to see ourselves in their shoes.
Artists and creators struggle with mental blocks sometimes. How do you overcome this creative slump?
Manish D3mon: Hmm… I’m just gonna be straightforward. Mental blocks can be a pain in the ass sometimes. It drains your spirit and eats you up inside slowly and breaks down the last piece of self-confidence you have. To make peace with this, an artist has to accept that it’s okay to not do anything once in a while and just live. Here’s how I deal with this.
As I said before, I have a lot of different art styles and one of them is my comfort style and, by that, I mean, a style that I find relatively easier to do with lesser effort and concentration. I call it drawing with 0% mind. It’s not actually like using none of your minds, it just sounds cool this way.
So, whenever I hit a block, I just start scribbling things – maybe it’s just a flower or a cat or just a rock in the comfort style that I just spoke about. Eventually, I have a full canvas and I feel productive and that rejuvenates my spirit and I’m content. The idea is to fill the whole canvas, even though it’s just random things. It’s because regularly working in an art environment has trained my mind to see a filled canvas as a complete art piece. If you think about it, it’s very scientific as well. I do that until I get an idea or a sudden gush of inspiration punches me in the face.
Also, sometimes, just taking a break helps. Freshening up my mind by doing other things like talking with friends; doing things I have missed out on; playing games; seeing the outside world, etc. And before I realize, I now have a plethora of ideas jumping around in my mind. I like going out a lot. It helps me keep a balance between overworking and losing myself over creative blocks and getting inspired from exposing myself to the outside environment. I have to isolate myself from the art environment because, at the end of the day, I’m not just a drawing person, I’m also a regular person.
What are some of these tools that you use to create your work?
Manish D3mon: Well, I currently use Wacom Intuos Pro M Tablet. I named it Jessica. My first pen tablet was Wacom Bamboo and I’m planning to buy a CINTIQ soon unless WACOM notices that I have been using their products for so long and they decide to sponsor me by giving me the said CINTIQ. Haha. It’s WACOM CINTIQ PRO 24, DTK-2420 creative pen display. – Just in case WACOM is reading this.
What are your plans as an artist in the future?
Manish D3mon: That’s the toughest question to answer of all. I have not planned anything for the future. I want to see where the waves take me. Maybe, I’ll be working in a gaming company; maybe, l I’ll have my own comic universe or working in animated movies, who knows.
But the final place I want to grow in, and this might sound corny when I say it, but I would like to be an artist who growing artists look up to. I want to inspire people. I say this because I grew up looking up to these great artists with awe and respect that made me think, “I want that too.”