Sunday, 10 April 2016

Illustrators Arise: Aufa Aqil Ghani

Hiya there, art lovers! How's it going this fine morning? It's going to get better 'cause I've got some great news: it's time for another edition of Illustrators Arise! Woohoo! In case you're unfamiliar with it, it is where I introduce my favourite illustrators from all over the world every month through an interview so you guys can read along and get to know them too. This month the Indonesian feature introduces a VisCom student who already has quite a following and tremendous artwork. I first found him in a passing, possibly at Pasar Seni ITB two years ago. But it definitely struck a chord as I would remember his style anywhere. Please give it up for Aufa Aqil Ghani! Born in Serang and raised in Tangerang, now Aufa pursues his dreams at Institut Teknologi Bandung, where he spends his free time exploring and finding new things. His hope is to keep on growing as an artist.

Hi there, Aufa! Shall we start with what introduced you to the world of illustration and why you keep on doing it?

Hi! Actually, it all started with my fondness for drawing since grade school up to high school and my drawings used to be very different from my style now. It used to look more manga-ish, since I used to copy from scenes of comic books, such as Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, Doraemon, etc. But, since I entered high school, I started getting acquainted with Instagram where I started to discover artists and change my course—so to speak—from drawing manga to trying out many different styles, starting with realism, abstract, etc. Since then on, my curiosity grew bigger and bigger until I decided to apply for the Visual Communication major to explore it further. The reason I keep at it is actually rather simple: I've been swallowed into this world ever since I was a kid and became a daily activity for me. You can say I'm quite ambitious, with the "if they can do it, why can't I?" mindset. If there's someone with better skills than me, I start to learn their technique and take away what I can. From there, I start to develop and grow and, because I love to draw, I really want to become an illustrator. I never do it halfway; I'd like to be one of the best ones in the future.

You are currently pursuing your Bachelor’s degree on Visual Communication Design at Institut Teknologi Bandung, right? What have you learnt from the experience so far, aside from art?
Yes, indeed. Here I study, as the name suggest, visual communication design. How does the visual communicate? I've learnt a lot here: design thinking, concept and other incredibly new things, because I used to be quite blind in terms of design.

What kind of materials do you usually use?
Watercolour, gouache, pen, digital drawing using pen tablet are amongst those which I use most frequently, but I never limit myself and like to explore new media.

Your style is quite significant, mixing colours and black-and-white, with prominent black lines and soft touch of paint. Is there a story behind how you developed this style?

Oh yes, there is. My tool of trade used to be a ballpoint pen, from grade school to high school. I loved black-and-white pieces and never really gravitated towards colourful media, such as coloured pencils, watercolour, etc. However, since high school and I was introduced to Instagram, I found Paula Bonet and Carne Griffiths, who work with paint, I was greatly influenced. I also felt like I could relate to them as I felt I could imitate their techniques with the media I was already using—the pen. From then on, I became entranced in art. At first, I copied other people's style, because by copying there is a degree of quality that you would want to achieve. By doing so, we can get the feel of how the artist uses the media to create their artwork. Aside from Bonet and Griffiths, I also started liking Sha'an d'Anthes's watercolour work. By copying her style, I started getting used to watercolour—along with other watercolour artists I've observed. Do not simply copy from one person, because it would qualify as imitating/stealing, but you should also observe other techniques that you like and develop your own style from there—apart from other styles. In conclusion, my style was developed from my own experience in drawing all this time and combining all the things I've tried out and the media I've explored. I don't think I will stop here, I will keep exploring and find out where my limits are.
Girls and fashion seem to appear quite a lot on your illustrations. What interests/intrigues you about them? Would you consider ever pursuing fashion on a professional level?
Yup, I quite enjoy people's fashion sense, especially since in my campus everyone around me seems to be very fashionable. Actually, it is just one of my explorations in drawing. To be honest, I only draw what I like, whatever that is. Fashion is just one of the things that I enjoy, because I don't want to be stuck in just one thing that I have to draw. I want to be able to draw anything and I hope that I will develop several different styles and do anything in this field of illustration, one of which I hope will be fashion.

Speaking of which, recently, you turned to textile to produce your work. How did this come to be and what are your thoughts on the experience working with this new medium?
It was actually a collaboration with a friend of mine, Atika Rahmi. We have mutual interest in illustration and exploring media. Coincidentally, there was an exhibition using our own products with the theme of design in everyday life and we both thought to implement our illustration into everyday objects, one of them being a scarf, with two designs—one from each of us. You can see one of the designs on my Instagram. I'm very happy to be able to apply my work into a solid, useable object, as opposed to simply letting it hang on the wall. Although it wasn't made to be sold, if there is a demand for it, we wouldn't mind considering to put them up for sale.

For a student, you have gained quite a following on social media. Do you have any tips on how to grow your network or get recognised?
Yeah, I also didn't expect that. I created an Instagram account when I was in 12th grade (2012-2013), which was quite a long time ago, I guess. Unexpectedly, it's gotten this much exposure and following. I'm so happy, because many people like what I draw. Hmm...the tip is to maybe be consistent in posting your work and start getting involved in such events, be it exhibitions or anything. Honestly, I feel quite sad that I haven't uploaded much lately due to my own swamped schedule.
Have you ever done commission work? If yes, what is your most memorable memory of it?
I have, but I don't do it very often. I only do it when I really, really have time to get to it, but I still want to focus first on my studies. Hmm...the most memorable thing, I suppose, is having to draw someone's significant other, when you don't have a girlfriend yourself? Yep, very memorable.

What does the future look like for Aufa Aqil Ghani?
To become one of the greatest illustrator there is, not only domestically but also internationally. And I hope to be able to inspire and help others.

What kind of tips would you give a newbie illustrator out there (such as myself)?
Don't be shy if there is someone who has more skills than you. We can all do it! Explore more, be it with media or style and don't get stuck on just one thing. Keep being creative and do what you like.

A little note from me

There is a certain serenity in Aufa's artworks. He uses the contrast of colour and ink very beautifully, creating a mixed feeling of cheer and calm. The element of nature, which keeps popping up in his illustrations, also offers an organic feel to his pieces. Their disorderly nature quietly disrupts the subtle background of his work, again creating a wonderful contrast. Aufa's openness toward new media and style development is really refreshing. It allows his followers to note that his growth is happening slowly but sure, although he doesn't stray away from things which make up his style at the very core—and also himself, ultimately. The layout of his illustrations offer an aesthetic which can only be found in traditional media paintings, transforming beauty and ideas into something you can only imagine—but he successfully executes. I love how he draw faces in such a way that it generates beauty but not necessarily identity, taking away skin colour and specific characteristics making it seem more general and relatable for everyone who sees it. I'm really intrigued to see more of his growth, because God knows he's capable of it.

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