Sarana’s set of eye-catching works doesn’t fall into what we know as “paintings”. These have been made using computer graphics and are digitally printed. Sarana Shrestha, who is a second-year art student at Kathmandu University School of Arts got into digital art just as a hobby at the age of 18. The lure came from the idea of being able to create a new art form, to explore and experiment. In this issue of WOW, the 20 year old artist takes us through her creative process while talking about her personal journey.
What attracted you towards digital art?
As a hobbyist, I wasn’t well aware of the digital media and digital art in general, so I mostly worked on traditional art forms. It was my friend, Saksham Shrestha who encouraged me to explore digital art. And when I did, I was extremely fascinated by the amazing artworks one could create. I was 18 years old when I started dabbling in digital art; it was later that I got serious about pursuing it as my career. I love being able to experiment and create new styles of work blending my knowledge of traditional skills. It’s fascinating, it’s efficient, and it comes with infinite possibilities.
Why do your artworks focus around K-pop groups?
I am heavily influenced by my interests. I was into K-pop and I loved art so it was inevitable that these two interests came together. I was introduced to a whole new community of like-minded artists who drew a lot of fan-art so I tagged along with the crowd. There’s definitely some sort of attachment, finding people with similar interests and working on various collaborations as well as building up an audience that appreciates such artwork. Moreover, I think that working on K-pop groups made me experiment more with realism, semi-realism, and stylised art. I was questioned a lot, people around me asking what I was going to get out of drawing Korean people, but for me, this was purely for self-satisfaction and a sense of belonging to a wider community. It also definitely helped me improve my skills.
For a generation born into technology, digital art is the natural destination. What are your thoughts…
We live in a digital world. The rise of technology in the 21st century has completely transformed how we think, create and consume art. To some extent, it may be true that the population born into an era of technological advancement may naturally be attracted towards digital art, however I believe that it differs from person to person. While one may try and experiment with digital art there’s a different feel that traditional art provides. There are so many varieties and forms to art that I think it’d be a waste to limit yourself to digital art. Taking myself and my friends as examples, I may leave the impression that I only work on digital but personally I like both digital and traditional art forms and go back and forth between the two mediums. I say that being born into technology doesn’t mean artists are restricted to digital art as their natural destination.
How creative is digital art as a medium?
Usually when people think of art, traditional medium such as pencil drawings and paintings are some of the first forms of art that come to mind. Art can get as creative as one can get. Art that is created digitally is becoming more widely used and accepted. Despite this, many people debate that anything created in a digital format is not considered art or is less creative. However, creating artwork in a digital form provides endless possibilities for creativity, starting from digital art, illustration, image manipulation, animation, and so on. It also allows experiencing the combined benefits of both digital and traditional art tools. The key element is being able to use pen, pencils and paint as well as to easily undo, move and create and delete layers. There are no boundaries to how creative one can get using a tool, digital can be just as creative as traditional art, and in some places even better like hyperrealism is also possible for some artists. What we should take into consideration is that creativity comes from the person and not just the medium.
Is digital art a different genre or substitute for traditional art?
Digital art is needless to say a different genre rather than a substitute. Although digital art has been making its mark in the digital age, it will not be a substitute or a replacement for traditional art, especially in the fine art world. Also, there is obviously a huge gap in how digital and traditional art is valued. While digital is being widely used throughout the world, the discovery or rise of a new medium does not mean that the old mediums cease to exist. Throughout history, artists have used various tools and mediums to create art; similarly digital art is a new tool for creating art.
What software do you use?
I dominantly used Adobe Photoshop for my artwork. However, I also use a bunch of other software like Clip studio, Paintool Sai, and Adobe Illustrator.
Is digital art the future of art?
There is so much to art that one cannot define the purpose of art. I believe that both digital and traditional art will continue to co-exist. However, it is well recognized that digital art has already replaced traditional art in most creative industries around the world. For instance, concept art, animation, gaming industry, VFX, etc. While traditional art still has its place in those industries, they aren’t used as widely as digital mediums are today.
Could you describe an effective complex graphic or animation which you designed?
I always try to take a new approach while making art. One of the complex yet simple-looking illustrations I made was an illustration of two girls one being inside a cafe and other as a reflection on the window. There was a lot of light manipulation to centralise the focus on the two characters. There are over 120 layers in this particular artwork and I chose not to use lines or line-art so I had to distinguish each shape with just values, shadows, and highlights. There was a lot of playing with colour, tones, opacity to bring the effect of transparency and reflection. The rest of the characters within the frame were blobs of cool colour and another thing I added to them was a motion to show movement and also to give a blur effect as this make it easy on the eye and help retain focus on the main subject. In this particular work, I have paid attention to very small details such as the refection of the building across and the interior of the cafe along with the furniture, books, etc. As for animation, I have been doing small animation personal projects but I haven’t published them on my social handles yet as I feel I need to further improve.
Please take us through your creative process
Like any other artist, my work processes start with small ideas and pictures in my head that I try to create and elaborate. I am yet to find my art style. It is very inconsistent and the ideas are never static so developing and experimenting with my art style is a huge part of my process. I am influenced by other artists that I see online and I like to analyse their artwork and learn from their techniques to create something that’s uniquely mine. Usually, when I start my work I have this idea or inspiration in my head which I usually make a rough sketch of in a sketchbook or directly start a project on Photoshop. The composition and the rough sketch is the first step to my artwork which is followed by a cleaner line art. There are instances where I have a palette in mind but I mostly don’t start with a palette or follow it till the end. There is a lot of playing with colours until it feels right to me. I prefer the freedom to play with colour rather than have a particular palette which makes me feel restricted to those colours. The way I colour also varies according to the look and feel I am going for. I tend to experiment more with lines colours, effects, textures on illustrative drawings whereas I tend to use more of the traditionally learnt techniques such as under painting, values, and such for realistic artworks. I follow a structured process of starting from the base colours, shadows, and highlight and finally layer overlays and grains and final touch-ups until the outcome.
What inspires you to do what you do?
Inspiration can be taken from all kinds of things. I am mostly inspired by my current interests, everyday life, moods, nostalgic glimpses, self-experiences and movies. I explore and experiment to create visual narratives and tend to be influenced by a lot of works by other artists. I tend to gather inspirations from real-life photography, references and try to mix reality with imagination. I yet have to learn a lot about storytelling through illustration. I try to bring about a vibe of certain moods in my artwork which maybe be based on imagination or realism. My journey as an artist began once I decided to pursue art. I feel like I am still in the nascent stage when it comes to art. I want to experiment and constantly improve myself to make art that’s truly worthwhile.
At the moment I am fully devoted to art and I am studying as a second-year art student at Kathmandu University School of Arts.