“Art is what you do when you’re not looking” Vishnu M Nair is an illustrator graphic designer who creates contemplative, surreal and humorous narratives through his artworks spanning a multitude of styles and mediums. Sometimes taking the form of multilayered colourful Illustrations through to minimalist bold linework oosing with personality
KS: Give us a brief backstory of you choosing Illustration as a career?
Vishnu: In the second year of my course in Applied art at College of Art, Delhi I saw a shady A4 notice in the canteen looking for illustrators. Through that I found myself making terrible comics for a weird man who kept requesting changes in the anatomies of female characters.
But I managed to get myself a pen tablet doing that for a while. A friend who had seen my work on Facebook got me work as an editorial illustrator for a children’s magazine called Bodhi Tree, 2013 which when I look back has been the most fun I’ve had as a young illustrator (I ended up illustrating for 16 issues).
At that point in second year (or 3rd I’m not sure) I found myself applying for a PAN card and saving enough money for a scanner and a better monitor, inevitably kick starting my illustration ‘career’.
Seen Here (L-R): Symptoms of Love | Timekeeping through the Ages
Then I took to the internet and started dumping the sketchbooks I’d regularly burn through on tumblr and behance. Soon enough cold calls for work followed.
I’d also managed to intern at an animation studio, an ad agency, a publishing house and work on a shitload of projects and those projects lead to more projects and I kept burning through more sketchbooks and hey it’s 2017 and I’m still moonlighting as an illustrator, drawing when and if I can.
KS: Any key moments or highlights that stood out for you in the last couple of years?
1. I’d have to start with all the work I did for FCB Ulka starting with my 2nd year internship there followed by a pro-bono and freelance stint. These went on to win awards at Goa-fest in 2014 and 2015.
Seen Here (L-R): Bausch+Lomb – Why live with the load? 2013 | Bausch+Lomb – The world see’s you through your glasses 2014 (I was told by my art director Muki Sablania who was my mentor at this point that “if you did something right, do it again”and that’s how the second also ended up winning I guess) | Tata Docomo – “Open up” 2014 was art directed by S Srinath
2. I LOVED painting this mural at Tihar jail for St.Art Delhi 2014. I got to work alongside amazing artists, interact with a ton of people and it was super challenging and tiring. I’d definitely love to do more.
3. Kochi Muziris Biennale, 2016 street art residency : The time spent travelling alone was when I really got into travel sketching and the residency really got me stepping back into the shoes of an over-ambitious art student. Although it rained for 90% of the residency. The rolling hills are still vivid in my head.
This was at Palette People Residency in Vagamon, Kerala.
Mural Above: ‘Withdrawal’ This is one of Vishnu’s favourite works from Palette people residency again, Acrylic. This one is my favourites from the residency – About how isolation and awe in the hills are replaced by the exact opposite when one returns to the city.
4. My first full length graphic novel collaboration with Studio Kokaachi is coming out this February! It took a long time (MantaRay splitting up, me leaving for Masters). The beautiful beautiful story written by Murali Govindan and Krithika Manohar has killed me every single time I’ve read it for the last 3 years. This I’m excited about.
5. The 7 month graduation project at Codesign should be another milestone in the coming years for me. It’s been such a revelatory experience as a designer and more so as an illustrator.
KS: Across the various types of design projects you take up, which medium is your favorite and why?
Vishnu: I don’t have a favourite yet. I get distracted very easily and comfortable isn’t a good place to be. Lately I’ve been into ballpoint and water colours , now switching back to digital illustration for #TwoColourTuesday I’m looking forward to getting back into animation, learning coding again, getting better at being a Graphic Designer, making more comics and in general getting weirder with things.
KS: It’s always exciting to know what an artwork means to the artist, can you talk to us about any one of the works curated by Kulture Shop?
Vishnu: I’d made this around the first year of my Masters course at NID Ahmedabad. Back then Chai was respite – from the intensity of personal scrutiny and deadlines and acted as guilt free oases strewn through the unforgiving/unproductive day.The artwork was meant to represent that warm embrace and the gift of a 15 minute vacation.
Seen Here (L-R): Chai Break
KS: Can you tell us more about Sink? As it is an artwork with your signature long limbed characters and lovely composition.
Vishnu: The composition which was one of the many I did for Inktober 2015 captures that sinking feeling you feel in unusual situations. The one between being nervous and excited. The one in where you weigh a ton in outer space.
Seen Here (L-R): Skin Phone Case | The Woods Laptop Skin | Typefaced Artprint | Tyger Tyger Artprint | Skin Arprint | Long Walk Home Artprint | Melt Artprint | The Woods Greeting Cards | Anyone Home Phone Skin | Obey Little Giant Artprint
KS: What are you up to now ? Any interesting things your fans should watch out for?
Vishnu: As mentioned above The Graphic Novel – 405 Coming out via Studio Kokaachi this February. I have more side projects planned out for 2017.. a graphic novel maybe, collaborate on zines, bring my webcomic back to life, painting, doing somersaults etc. But yeah, flooding the internet with a lot more/much better work.
KS: How would you describe your style of illustration as you do have several variants?
Vishnu: I’m trying my best not to have a ‘my style’ of illustration. It’s too early to get comfortable. So switching it up helps, but when there is something important to say I like saying it in the simplest way with clean thick black lines. Content takes precedent in those situations and I like it that way mostly.
Check out Vishnu Nair’s Behance page for more in the Sketchbook Series
KS: Do you ever sleep ?
Vishnu: Haha, coincidence – how I’m replying to this at 3.30 am. I try and get 7.5 hours of sleep every night. I manage 6 mostly. I’m not putting out as much work anymore though, especially for all these hours spent awake.
View Vishnu M Nair’s Artist Page