A lion-tailed macaque and an Indian tiger are seeking answers. Their piercing eyes have sensed betrayal and demand immediate attention.
Joining them are a golden-backed frog, a long-billed vulture and a herd of elephants; all seemingly fleeing from a host of destructive activities that lurk in the background. A JCB is busy at work while many electric poles continue to spring up, as a train runs past.
With the conversation around the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2020, issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change that in principle sanctions developmental activities in the Western Ghats, gaining momentum like never before, this poster by wildlife illustrator Rohan Dahotre, speaks volumes.
This is one of the many works by Rohan that has grabbed eyeballs for its detailing in technique and purpose in content.
The Pune-based wildlife illustrator, by his own admission, “draws all things wild” in a bid to raise awareness on environmental issues that specifically concern India’s wildlife. More recently his works have reflected on the ongoing COVID-19 crisis as well: either by advocating for his animal friends or contributing to public awareness by borrowing their voices. For instance, Rohan has been advocating for bats through a poster titled We Support Bats that features many animals wearing Batman masks in solidarity.
“When COVID-19 was raging outside India, there were a lot of memes going around which belittled the crisis. I wanted to make something positive,” says Rohan Dahotre over phone from Pune. Thus, the poster series called Animal Advice took form four months back. It is a series of posters featuring animals who spell out basic precautions that need to be taken. For instance, a tiger advises how to self-quarantine; similarly a poster on personal hygiene has seals swimming about in glee. And, a couple of pandas, lounging about, asks you to avoid quarantine laziness.
Another recent work titled ‘Save Mollem’ voiced the concerns of many environmental activists and scientists: The work focusses on the recent decision of diverting land belonging to Goa’s Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park to proposed projects that would in effect convert many hectares forest land. The poster depicts a tiger’s face juxtaposed with an approaching train, against a pink-and-blue colour palette.
As diverse as Nature
“By drawing animals, I am also educating myself. There is so much to learn from Nature,” says Rohan adding that while working for Chumbak (a lifestyle brand known for their animal-themed design) as an illustrator in 2015, illustrating animals and birds is what he enjoyed the most.
“I started playing with forms and patterns, and brought in animal behaviours into my work and later started breaking them down,” says the artist who graduated from Symbiosis Institute of Design, Pune with a degree in Animation. Somewhere along the process of research, he realised that there is hardly any good news surrounding animals: he was bombarded by reports on extinction, habitat loss and encroachments. “This is when I decided that I have to concentrate more on wildlife, not just by drawing them in a colourful way; but by imparting information.”
Rohan quit Chumbak in 2018 and decided to pursue his own personal work. He has his own merchandise line as well: Buu Luu Shop. For research, Rohan follows updates by WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) and National Geographic, then follows it up with news articles regarding the issue at hand.
Why doesn’t he stick to a particular illustrative style? “If you see a chameleon’s skin texture and pattern, it is so different from any other animal’s. They are all unique in their own ways. So, following a specific style would not justify this.”
From rough sketches to doodles and minimalist logos, he has tried them all with animals as protagonists. Animal faces fascinate him. Interestingly, tribal art and motifs have also influenced his work. “All tribal communities coexist with animals and a lot of the patterns they use are inspired from animals. They blend in so well,” says Rohan. India’s Gond art often finds place in Rohan’s animal portraits: the intricacy and detailing of the faces, patterns and textures result in striking portraits.
The artist is currently working on many commissioned short projects apart from a children’s book on sloths.
Find Rohan’s work on Instagram: @rohandahotre