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Updated: January 23, 2014 19:34 IST

Looking beyond dimensions

ALLAN MOSES RODRICKS
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In animate form Animator: Siddarth John believes art is a lifelong process. Photo Bhagya Prakash K.
In animate form Animator: Siddarth John believes art is a lifelong process. Photo Bhagya Prakash K.

For freelance animator and CG artist Siddarth John, having a strong artistic base is essential to paint one’s own niche in a career in animation

With animation centres springing up in almost every nook and corner of the city, it’s easy to wonder if the computer craft is becoming mainstream. However, Chennai-based freelance animator and CG artist Siddarth John believes animation needs a strong artistic base. “If only we had more people who were actually artists and training centres that teach art along with technology, we would be going a long way in this field.”

Passing through Bangalore on a casual visit, the multi-faceted animator and award-winning filmmaker catches up with Metro Plus over a cup of coffee on animation and how it has shaped his life.

On what he thinks is the scope for the career in India, he says the country is highly dependent on outsourcing. “We should try to get out of this outsourcing mindset. If the outside industry collapses, we also fall. On the creative side, if we create a native market, it will help people think outside the box and encourage animators.”

Siddarth believes the subcontinent also lacks places that teach animation from the artistic point of view. “A strong artistic base goes a long way in making animation what it is. If we start doing our own stuff collectively, we would also artistically start creating our own style like the Japanese Anime.”

Bangalore is not new to the 30-year-old computer buff. “I actually did my fourth and fifth grade here before we moved to Chennai. Bangalore has changed a lot. I heard Whitefield has become part of the city – back then it was just a barren piece of land,” he recollects.

His dad, the frontrunner of new age world music band kARNATRiix, guitarist John Anthony played a good part in nurturing Siddarth’s creative background, which emerged when he was quite young. As a child he remembers that instead of paying attention in school, he used to doodle . “If you flip it, you will get a kind of childish motion animation. I enjoyed watching cartoons and still do love them. I also realised that people are really doing this as a career and its fun. However, it was hard to do research. People did not think of it as a career option back then.”

After his schooling in Chennai, Siddarth went on to do a double UG degree in visual communication and computer science. “Except for some arena multimedia courses, there were very few options in animation so I took up vis. com. I also went for art classes as well as took up a small animation course, which unfortunately was very technical. That’s when I heard about the Savannah College of Art and Design in the U.S. where I went to complete my masters in animation. From that point, there was no turning back. I worked in New York for a while and started freelancing and doing projects. That’s how I started making short films.”

Siddarth’s famous animation short film Enso was born in his college days. “Even though it’s an art course, I needed to write a thesis and back it up with a visual component. I was interested in Zen philosophy and worked on the Kôan which is a short story concept. I wanted to give the Kôan, which is traditionally spoken or written, a more visual perspective. Inspired by an artist who illustrated the Zen stories humorously in a comic book, I decided to take it a step further and created a story based on the Zen concept of Enso which means a full circle.”

Talking about his other works, Siddarth elaborates that ‘Monifa’s Lucky Day’ was done for an NGO in tie with U.S. Aid as a public service announcement for disaster management. “So three of us worked on the concept of giving money instead of clothes or food and did a short animation. It was well received and won an award. ‘Hambushed’ is about a brave pig and was done to appeal to children so was made very kid-friendly.” Siddarth also worked on the in-game cut scenes for the Skylanders video game among several other projects.

Looking ahead, Siddarth says he wants to continue freelancing, make more short films and really understand the medium. “I hope to eventually venture into making a full-fledged film. I believe I still have quite a bit of the journey ahead.”

Is it easy or difficult to learn animation? Siddarth says it’s a continuous process. “I know people who have over 20-30 years of experience and they say they’re still learning. It’s like learning music – you never stop improvising. Of course, it’s also about reaching the stage where you have the satisfaction that people enjoy your work. That should push you forward because honestly, it’s a lifelong process.”

For more on the animator check his website www.siddarthjohn.com.

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