Animation: The new way of art and connection

Sakshi Sharma
New Update


We talked to creators Gokul Prasad, Adhithi Harikumar, Suresh Eriyat, and Sabari Venu to learn more about animation and how it is becoming a new way to connect people with art! 

Words can mean so much but they aren’t the only form of expression. There are many other ways in which you can express yourself, art being one of them. Given that we live in a digital world where visuals and motion are a major attraction, animation is gaining a lot of popularity. While animated characters and films have always been a part of our lives, lately there are animators on Instagram, who, with their unique voice, focus on daily life. They’ve found a new way of expressing and connecting with their audience. We talked to some of these talented animators about their journey so far and more! 

It’s astonishing how a single piece of art can mean different things to different people. Some can find themselves in someone else’s work while others find an outlet for themselves. For Gokul Prasad, a designer whose animation on Instagram offers the magic and mysticism of real life, animation serves as a medium for expressing thoughts, emotions, and perspectives in a visually engaging manner. It enables effective communication of ideas in many ways, it's more engaging than traditional cinema with being able to play with different styles and mediums. Adhithi Harikumar, another artist on Instagram, offers an exploration of self and mind as well as cute interactions with her Patti. Animation has given her the power to create her world, bring characters to life, and even connect with people that way. Not just animation, but any art she makes helps her channelise her thoughts and questions and put them on paper. On the other hand, Suresh Eriyat, a well-celebrated, National award-winning animation filmmaker talks about himself, his life, and his thoughts on Instagram. Animation serves as his vehicle for manifesting his thoughts, expressing his views, and bringing out his stories. Sabari Venu, with his comic strips and animation on Instagram, gives a comedic twist to daily life. Animation serves different purposes for him based on the platform. Through Instagram, he likes to be silly and play around with his work, occasionally using that to address socially relevant issues. But with his commissioned work, he is more focused on deconstructing social academic topics and simplifying them into fun and informative pieces. 

Also Read: How to manage your small business on Instagram ft. Isha Malhotra aka RunwayBaby

Cultivating one’s own niche

Having a passion for something is great but converting it into something professional and developing your style takes guts, but more than that it takes an entire journey. Gokul’s journey into animation began with a passion for storytelling and visual arts. “Over time, I cultivated a unique style through experimentation, drawing inspiration from various artists and my own experiences, but my style is constantly evolving as I grow as an artist. I feel that the moment you start to stagnate, the industry passes you by and you'll be left playing catch up.” Adhithi always had a thing for drawing and knew she wanted to do this ever since she could remember but as she became an adult she didn’t know what to do exactly. “So I dabbled in a bit of illustration, typography, design, photography, and mixed media art, and also started making comics. Later, I tried to add motion and my comics evolved into short animated loops/GIFs. Since then, I cultivated an aggressive interest in the animation space and wanted to explore it further.” 

The feeling of watching your drawings move and spring to life is a ‘high’ that Adhithi cannot ever forget! She has always been driven by idea-based art. “So the idea is what usually drives my visual style. I’m trying not to fixate on one. But predominantly, my work has been in the 2D space, keeping it surreal and silly. My best-known project of relatable storytelling, which did the rounds on social media, was the animated Paati!” Suresh was given animation at NID because his teachers believed that he would thrive in creating films independently, free from external dependencies. “Their good intentions stemmed from the perception that, as an introvert, collaborating with many people might be challenging for me. Despite this, the necessity to bring my animation dreams to life led me to work with various teams. I realized that working with a large number of people was the key to making my dreams a reality. Working solo has its limitations. When I work with a team, I find joy in inspiring others with my ideas and seeing them come alive. It's always exciting to have many people believe in the seed of an idea I've had. Aligning with that idea contributes to a larger vision, transforming even my simple vision of making a film into something much bigger and impactful.” 

His approach to animation has always been rooted in the belief that one can transform the impossible into reality. “I draw inspiration from various illustrations and painting styles, knowing deep down that we can animate almost any art form. This is why, even today, I explore different animation styles. The excitement lies in the possibilities of bringing something entirely new to life, and witnessing the final result come alive—a creative endeavor I've always yearned to give life to.” Sabari discovered animation during his college years at the Srishti Institute. “I was very unfamiliar with the field and college allowed me to explore different styles - and even though I had zero experience, I had the most fun playing around with animation. It continues to be a source of joy.” He is still exploring his style of animation! “I try not to restrict myself to a comfortable format and try to play around as much as I can. I am nowhere near a level of comparison to the arsenal of amazing animators on Instagram and in the industry, and I’m constantly in awe of the work that is around - channeling that inspiration into my art.”

Walking the path from concept to final artwork

From inception to the final artwork requires an enormous amount of time, patience, and hard work. For Gokul, the time commitment for his animations varies based on complexity. “Short projects might take a few days, while more intricate ones could extend over weeks or even months.” Adhithi had a unique way to describe her creative process. She describes it like her mom describes it - blinking, thinking, and inking. “I always start by sketching out rough ideas on paper. But before that, the idea typically lingers in my head for days or weeks and goes through an internal feedback process. When I sit to execute, if it's an animation, it would take between 2 days to a few months depending on scope and duration.” The process of seeing your rough idea evolve and come to life as time passes is quite satisfying. “I should also mention that my brain is most active post 5 pm. Yes, I’m a night owl and I’ve produced some of my best work when the whole town was sleeping. One of the things that I’ve learned is to be quick while I’m in the zone.” 

Suresh mentions that the time required for each of his films varies significantly. “Each project is unique, influenced by factors like duration, style complexity, storyline, the number of characters, and worlds involved. There's no specific format for this but for a 30-second animation in 2D, 3D, or clay, featuring a couple of characters and a single world, a good estimate would be around two months.” Sabari adds that walking this path is very contextual and treatment-dependent. “There are some pieces that I finish within a couple of hours and others that I spend weeks on. For Instagram though, in the excitement to see the idea come to life, the timelines are much shorter. And sometimes the passion for an idea is short-lived, so I try to maximize that burst of productivity and execute it before the drive fizzles out.”

It’s all about inspiration 

Gokul finds inspiration in everyday life, capturing moments that resonate emotionally or convey a specific message. “My choice of subject matter is often influenced by personal experiences, culture, and memories.” He draws inspiration from a diverse array of artists, both classic and contemporary. “Icons like Hayao Miyazaki and Makoto Shinkai influence my work, encouraging me to explore new techniques and styles. If you think about it in a way, video games are a medium of real-time animation, and story-driven hence games like Red Dead Redemption, The Last of Us, Uncharted, and more also inspire me a lot as well.” Adhithi, as an artist, is quite sensitive, which helps her notice things and build stories around them. “I draw inspiration for my work from behaviors, conversations, and gestures. I realize that a huge part of my work revolves around the mind and self. Thoughts and feelings constantly flow in our minds every day and it can be quite exhausting if we don’t find an outlet. I try to stitch a feeling with a metaphor and then literally express it, and this helps me understand my mind better. The “meen-while” comic for instance, is a funny take on the idea-cracking process that mimics fishing.” There are lots whose work Adhithi studies, observes, and obsesses over. “To name a few off the top of my head (not limited to animation artists) - Jonathan Djob Nkondo, Joana Quinn, Sylvain Chomet, Hayao Miyazaki, Felix Colgrave, Studio Eeksaurus, Masanobu Hiraoka, Appupen, Christoph Niemann,” She laughingly added her dad also in this list! 

Suresh feels inspiration is all around us. Perceptions from things around really give him insights and ideas. “When I see something, somebody, or any incident, it creates a thread in my head, which becomes a storyline. I believe that a storyline can appeal to anyone if it is presented in the right manner.” This approach works for all the stories. “I'm familiar with local and I'm not comfortable with something I'm not exposed to. So, I prefer taking inspiration from the locals. What would genuinely work or not is directly proportional to how excited I am about the thread that I come up with. That's the real logic. The most exciting elements/threads form the basis on which I would develop it into an artwork, a film, or a storyboard.” Suresh’s long list of artists who inspire him include Paul Dreissen, Miyazaki, Tatahata, Michal Dudok de wit, Egon Schiele, Van Gogh. Sabari doesn’t have plans and is very dependent on what the environment offers him. “When I spent time in Kerala, I realized that most of the ideas that come to me are in Malayalam or in the context of Kerala. Compared to when I’m back in Bangalore, my ideas are mostly in English. I like to pick up on little things from conversations and build on the insights from what I see and experience around me.” Sabari’s list is far too long and it’s very difficult to pick from that. “But Vaibhav Kumaresh’s work was one of the earlier sources of inspiration for me, and Adithi Krishnadas’ fantastic work has been a more recent discovery. Now, through Instagram, I stumble upon a new artist almost every day, and their work never ceases to amaze me.”

Maintaining consistency and handling pressure 

Animation is a time-consuming process and in this fast-paced world, one can take societal pressure to maintain consistency. Gokul thinks it is essential to strike a balance between consistency and quality. “While there's always pressure, especially on social media, to produce content quickly, I prioritize maintaining a high standard that aligns with my artistic vision. More than that, it's about growth. You always want your latest work to be your best, to not feel like you're running behind, to improve on something with every piece that you create.” Adhithi confesses that she has not been that consistent on social media lately. “Yes, I did feel that pressure last year but I gradually stopped giving in. I’m trying to find the balance between posting work for the gram and creating for myself. Animation is time-intensive and it’s very easy to burn out if you try to churn out a lot of work without giving yourself a breather. The moment you hit ‘play’, to see it all come together is what makes all the exhaustion worth it. How fascinating it is to see your drawings go through an actual thinking process! You created life. You’re God! That joy… is the fuel that keeps me going.” 

Suresh doesn’t take that sort of pressure from social media. “We take out the required time to make a film to our expectations hence we maintain consistency.” Sabari has developed different treatments for different kinds of work. “I employ different strategies for the work I put out on Instagram compared to what I employ for longer commissioned animated films. The production quality therefore varies. For Instagram, I like to keep it simple and focus on getting the idea out without too much compromise on the quality of animation of course.” One thing he’s quite happy applying to his work is not letting the pressure of posting on social media influence his work. “My whole relationship with animation is based on how it’s a source of joy for me and I don’t want to risk losing that by changing my approach in an attempt to cater to others. I enjoy making things, and I like that people seem to enjoy it.” When someone creates for social media, adapting to the pressures that come with it, it reflects in their work. “I am not suggesting that it’s not a valid approach; it’s just not what works for me. I also personally love it when anybody is their true unhinged self on social media with their content or otherwise. I feel the best work comes out when you unleash your raw self, surveillance notwithstanding, into your art.”

Instagram and professional work 

Instagram is a great platform to express yourself but with it growing, it has also become a tool that comes in handy for professionals. Instagram plays a crucial role in Gokul’s artistic journey. “It not only provides a platform to share my work with a broader audience but has also opened up professional opportunities and collaborations, contributing significantly to my career. I feel like as a creator, if you’re not on Instagram then you’re gonna lose a significant amount of opportunities. There are many connections and people I have met that I would never have a chance to come across if not through Instagram. And to also constantly create, the more content you put out the more points of contact you create for yourself and a potential client.” 

Adhithi exclaims that Instagram has helped her immensely in growing professionally. “My 2016 Instagrammer self would have never thought she would be able to leverage the platform to do what she loves, grow her following, and also professionally network. Especially when the “Paati” animation took off, it opened up a lot of work opportunities for me. I got to collaborate with brands like Amazon Prime, Netflix, and ITC Classmate, work on commercials for Google, TATA tea, Ajio and more and indie music videos.” But she also thinks that Instagram is a rabbit hole and one can easily be tempted by instant gratification. “I cannot deny the fact that it's an effective platform, especially for someone like me who prefers to put my work out there and let it do the job. It's also a brilliant channel to find inspiration and connect with even your favorite artists.” Suresh, on the other hand, is not entirely sure whether Instagram has helped him professionally but he feels that the platform is great for voicing out opinions. “Our real intent is to make more people understand what Indian animators are truly capable of. We often face questions about why Indians can't produce world-class animation. Platforms like Instagram help me spread awareness about the capabilities of Indians, focusing on what we can do rather than what we might not be doing.” Instagram has helped Sabari a great deal, especially in reaching a wider audience, which includes industry professionals. “The more I grew on Instagram the more project proposals I received. This helped me transition from a full-time job to freelance.” But he also thinks that the platform's volatility and unpredictability pose challenges as active engagement correlates with increased opportunities for securing work.

Future of animation in India

With the growing fascination of animation, especially when you see a whole group of Anime fans, the future seems even brighter for animators in India. Gokul is optimistic about this. “With a growing interest in the industry and advancements in technology, Indian animators have the potential to make substantial contributions globally, bringing diverse stories and styles to the forefront. Now more than ever, it's easier for a person to start animating. The tech and skill that were once gatekept by a few in the industry, have been democratized by free and low-cost software like Procreate Dreams and all the online courses available for the same.” Adhithi remembers that for a long time, animation in India hadn’t moved away from kids and mythology. But our vision and interests have grown today and many artists/storytellers want to try out different things with the medium and evolve with the world. “As humans, nothing is ever enough. We want to think big, extend our possibilities, and dream. We sometimes even want to escape reality and temporarily transcend into a virtual world. And animation lets us do that. Animation pacifies the inner cry and teleports us to a different world. Moreover, people’s perception of animation is also slowly changing from the cartoonish image they’ve had. So I strongly believe that the scope and avenues for animation in India are expanding and it’s only going to get better!” 

Suresh would like to announce that the future of Indian animation has to be original content coming out from bright Indian minds. “A self-sustainable ecosystem with a robust audience, makers, backers, educators—all building that future would be my dream come true situation.” Sabari thinks that the future looks quite exciting with the many brilliant independent studios and amazing young talent coming out of India. “I think, with social media, we all have access to the work of these younger talented artists, which helps connect them to the right people who can help maximize their potential.” Something that was maybe previously missing.

For more such content, follow us @socialketchup

Gokul Prasad Adhithi Harikumar Suresh Eriyat Sabari Venu