Interview with Barnali Bagchi
Barnali Bagchi, an CG artist from India, tells us about her way in digital painting
Hi, Barnali. Please, tell us a few words about yourself. Tell our readers how you became a CG artist?
I am from Jamshedpur, a small industrial town in India. I was born in a family where almost everyone has some artistic gift – painting, sculpting, singing, photography. My father was an automobile engineer working in the senior management of India’s biggest truck factory, but in his spare time he is a sculptor and clay modeler. I guess my interest in art grew from watching him. He is now retired and devotes almost his entire day to his hobby.
It was understood in my home, however, that we would not make our artistic inclinations our life’s pursuits. They were to be kept as hobbies only and we were encouraged to go to college, get degrees and become professionals. So I never went to art school, even though I had always wanted to. Instead I took a degree in Computer Science and Programming in college and started working in Bangalore at Infosys – one of India’s biggest IT companies.
But I continued my study of art on the side and obtained a Diploma in fine arts – traditional pencil, brush, water colour, oil paint and canvass art. But I soon discovered digital art on my own and since then I have taught myself all the basics and improved with practice. That is how I came to be a CG artist. Now my art is almost totally in the digital medium.
What was the reason for your choosing this occupation? Did it start as a hobby or was your aim to build a career in this field? Do you remember your first work? Was it challenging?
I always wanted to paint and draw over everything else. It’s the thing I enjoy doing the most. I didn’t choose this as an occupation; it started purely as a hobby. The career bit came much later. In fact, it was actually marriage that made things happen for me. My husband is very supportive of my art and encouraged me to explore my artistic limits further. It was he who thought my work should be known and recognized and gave me the confidence and support to take the next step – of making my hobby my profession. I think he remains the best fan and worst critic of my art rolled into one.
My fist digital work was some two-and-a-half years back. It was a mobile phone wall paper and it became the most-downloaded one on a site I submitted it to. I can’t say it was challenging because I was just trying to make the best use of the few tools I knew at that time. But since then my knowledge of the software I use has grown with practice, experimentation and reading – and now my work is more complex than those initial simple mobile wallpapers.
Let’s talk about your works. Where do you get ideas and inspiration? Please tell us a few words about your workflow. What do you usually do first when you start creating a work?
I get my ideas from no fixed place. It could be anything in the world around me – a photograph, a painting, a sculpture, something I saw on the internet, something that grew out of a thought that occurred to me while reading a magazine, or even something I saw outside my window – like a cloud formation.
I always start with a basic pencil and paper sketch of the image, mainly it’s outlines and sometimes more details. Then I scan it into my computer and use it as the base layer, adding colour, texture, embellishments, ornamentation, etc.
I think it will be interesting for our readers to learn about your work “Mother Nature”. What stage was the most difficult for you? How long did you work on it? What software did you use?
I use mainly Photoshop and Illustrator. For “Mother Nature”, though, I used only Photoshop. My most difficult aspect of the work was choosing the colour palette – it had to go well with the softness of the theme. I spent almost a fortnight working on it and had to change the colour scheme thrice because I was not satisfied with it. Also, I use only a mouse for all my digital work, rather than any tablet – so that is another reason for the time consumed, as this was an intricately detailed piece.
What kind of work are you doing now? What characters, ideas and themes are prevailing? What are your plans for the future?
At present I’m involved with a couple of commercial projects so I’m not really pursuing any personal ideas. I plan to soon open my own commercial website to sell my work and where I will be available for commissioning. So that’s what will take up most of my time in the immediate future.
What work do you enjoy more: personal or commercial projects? When you are working on personal projects what type of work do you like to do?
I definitely enjoy personal projects more. They give me more emotional happiness. But it’s the commercial work that gives me financial happiness and enables me to keep doing personal projects. The ideal combination would be when a cherished personal project becomes acclaimed by people and also becomes a commercial success. To answer the second part of the question, there is actually no particular type of work that I prefer to do as personal projects – and that’s the beauty of doing things for your own self: you can do what you please instead of being bound by customers’ requirements.
Are you a perfectionist? Does it take you long to achieve that final perfect result you are happy with?
Yes I am. And that is why it does take me a very long time to finish projects. Often when working on commercial work for and according to a customer’s requirements, I don’t have the luxury of time to be so perfect; therefore I try to concentrate on delivery deadlines while keeping up the best quality possible. On personal work, I keep tweaking and tweaking until I am satisfied, and that can take a really long time. The most frustrating part is that even after all this effort, when I look at the finished piece after maybe a couple of months, I spot several mistakes and things I could have done better. So I’m never really satisfied with what I do.
Have you any tricks and your own “know-hows” which you gained with experience during your work? What do you think is the most important thing in the creation of any work?
There is no particular trick or know-how. In my opinion, a simple thing needs to be kept in mind – there are no shortcuts. The most important things in the creation of a work are the two Ps: practice and patience.
How do you manage to combine your personal life and work? Do you have any hobbies? Is it easy for you to find time for your family, friends?
Since I work from home, there is no fixed line between my personal and professional lives. However, I choose not to work on weekends, when my husband is at home, so that I can spend more time with him. It so happens that art itself is my hobby and I am lucky that I can even contemplate making a living out of my hobby. Besides art, I also love music. And that is easily solved – I usually have some of my favourite music playing in the background all day long while I’m working. Since I am an Indian expatriate in Dubai, my family is not with me – that is to say my parents, in-laws, etc. My cousin also works in Dubai and he is the only family member I occasionally meet. And I’m more reserved by nature than gregarious; so there are not too many friends I have here. All this allows me to devote more time to my art.
What can you say to inspire those newbies who are just starting to work in CG? What do you think is the most important in this field?
To do good work, the most important thing is to be an artist. In this medium, too many people just master the software and then rehash old stuff. For example, almost everyone is churning out fantasy creatures, manga and game art. Most of it is pretty boring and sub-standard. Only those who are real artists, and not software or photo manipulators, are the ones who have shined. So be original, be artistic, first learn your traditional art before venturing into the digital, and practice, practice, practice. And of course have lots of patience (Note to self: I need more patience as well!)