For a class project, we were asked to ‘make’ a self portrait. As I stepped out of the class, some hundred options popped in my brain. From a selfie to something fancy like pasting a cutout from a wrinkled napkin with my finger impressions on it, smelling like ketchup, from the day I ate the best pizza in my life. Well, isn’t self portrait all about Me+Art right? What would define me better I thought. But as the word ‘make’ made its appearance, all my options disappeared like the contents of Recycle Bin after the ‘are you sure’ prompt, except there’s no warning here, since it’s obvious.
2 hours to submission, I sat down, threw those headphones away, because I didn’t want some other artist telling/yelling his story into my ears and influence/spoil my story. My academic degree calls me a Digital Artist, which is a very vague definition. I sneeze on my monitor and take a screenshot of it and can call it a very personal piece of art. Moreover, it’s Digital!
That’s funny, but the project will be graded, and I never like submitting something that I didn’t enjoy doing or put my heart and time into it. What kind of Digital Artist am I? In all the options that came to me, I chose the most definitive and honest kind : a Graphic Designer. Though I (tried) got my hands dirty in several other mediums like Audio, Video, 3D etc., nothing defines me like Graphic Design and nothing feels like Graphic Design to me. The idea of communicating visually through images and words is a passion turned profession through practice.
Alright, at least i’ve got a head start. What’s Graphic Design at it’s most basic nature? Shapes. Yes, visual structures. And what are the most basic shapes?well, I studied Maths for quite a period didn’t I. Line, Circle, Square and Triangle. Fantastic. Now I just draw these 4 shapes with the help of Photoshop and turn in the self portrait of this digital artist. Only if my Professor teaches Maths or unless he finds those 4 shapes extremely interesting.
1 hour to go, Noooooooooooooooowwwwwait. Yesterday Jeevan Vemulapalli, the rockstar among phone photographers took a decent picture of mine. Let me use it. Ta Da! Looks fine and fancy too! And I can use it to introduce my new haircut to people who aren’t wishing me while passing by these days. He took a picture of me standing against the wall in my room which is filled with maps that I bring home from my visits to different places. The largest one is from New York City and the smallest one is from St.Augustine, Florida. I liked the picture a lot, If I have to choose between this picture and me sitting on the throne in Buckingham Palace photographed by Annie Leibovitz, I’ll choose the former any day (You’re welcome Jeevan). Maps tell the story of cities, places, countries minus all the chaos. Simple, elegant and symmetric! The whole of Manhattan sits beautifully on my wall without all the honking horns. That’s very similar to my job, eliminate all the clutter and complexity and design something 1.Useful and 2.Beautiful.
If you’ve come this far in reading what I wrote, I’m sure you’re thinking what the heck is that photo placed inside the circle. Didn’t you just say eliminate all the clutter? Oh Yes, but sometimes we Designers call the clutter as details. Why details? because we need to tell stories. The image that’s embedded into the circle above is the picture of a small part of the super intricate details on the Gopuram (Tower) of the Madurai Meenakshi Temple. Some 2,500 years ago, men without the help of advanced 3D simulation tools built this wonder. And on the Gopuram, as long as your neck permits, you could find almost every character in Indian Mythology. My grandfather used to tell me stories that involved those characters, he was a man of such charm and storytelling abilities that till his death in 2011, people would stand spellbound for hours listening to his stories. And when I look back now, a man who never went to college, nor did travel one percent of what I did in the first 23 years of my life, who never used the internet but had an almost unparalleled abilities in storytelling of all the people I met till date. I’m thankful for all the times I had the chance to spend with him and listen to his stories. He is the most important influence on my creative process as a storyteller.
How many of you see the pencil that almost looks like it is going to pierce (puncture, for its size) my neck? There’s the triangle. The nib of the pencil, I used, I’m using and I will use for the rest of my life. That never is going to update, nor be available to download through pirate websites but will work in my hands like its customized. The only tool I would ever need too.
The square (Yellow) looks it doesn’t hold much importance in the picture, but it holds some of the lines that changed the way I work and the way I look at work. This is a line from the book ‘The Curious case of Benjamin Button’ by F Scott Fitzgerald. Brad Pitt did a decent job in playing it for the movie goers. “My greatest inspiration comes from traveling” sounds cliche but all the great color palettes, typographic inspirations, Visual symmetries in this world can be experienced only through traveling. Believe me.
And finally, the line, though it looks bold enough to be called a rectangle, it’s required. The big black line/rectangle at the bottom of the image has my name in the corner written in three different handwritings. In order, written by my mother, sister and father. The three most important people in my life. They sure don’t help me in my creative process, but their mere existence, anywhere out there, happy and healthy, helps me put my heart into what I do.
Thank you for reading.. oh wait, did I miss anything? Yes! Do you see that half of my arm looks like it’s chopped off and attempted to stitch it back with someone else’s? That’s right, except my own hands made that other half. Sketching. An extension of the person I am. I need to do some after wrapping up this article.
Originally published at medium.com on February 17, 2016.