Illustration is a powerful medium that businesses are leveraging to make communication quicker, easier and clearer, by explaining concepts that sometimes words can’t !
Girik Jain, our next pathbreaker, Senior Illustrator at Bijak, an Agri Commodity Trading Platform, uses his artistic skills to address product communication hurdles in the Agriculture Tech Department.
Girik talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about his journey in the world of Applied Art, his work with ad agencies/ design studios, and subsequently deciding to explore the tech world to solve specific problems through visual communication.
For students, observe everything you see, and try to bring your observations to life by practicing art, because practice makes you almost perfect !
Girik, tell us about yourself?
As far as I can remember, I used to draw. That’s the oldest memory I have.
A hot summer afternoon in Agra, when everyone was asleep in the house, I was drawing. I never enjoyed sleeping in the afternoon, unlike other kids in the neighbourhood. That was my drawing time, I used to draw entire worlds with characters and dialogues, as well as pages from comics and from stories. That is something that I love the most, even today.
What did you do for graduation/post graduation?
After finishing my 12th, (which took a little while, because I failed in the first attempt in Mathematics, not that I was a weak student, I was just not interested in studying at that point), I knew I wanted to do something in drawing, though I had no idea what to do. I was just roaming around the city on a weary bike the entire day. I did some research and gave all the possible design and art college exams and ended up failing all of them. But it made me realize that I wanted to study Fine Arts. So, I took a year off, prepared myself and finally landed In Rachana Sansad, College of Arts in Mumbai.
What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?
Though I wanted to study Painting as my major, I managed to get into Applied Art, which was a blessing in disguise. Applied Art helped me understand the commercial prospects that art offers. I could apply my creative skills in fields like Advertising and Design, for example, Packaging, Posters, Video ads etc. And when you are studying Applied Art, as a part of the course, you have to get your hands dirty in a lot of things like Typography, Calligraphy, Computer Graphics, Photography etc. And on the side I kept brushing up my painting skills everyday (focusing on it everyday!).
In my final year, I took Illustration as my specialization. Although I lost interest in college, I pushed myself and made a series of satirical comic strips on modern politics and also grabbed the CAG Award for Illustrator of the year, Bronze.
Studying in Mumbai made a huge difference for a small town boy like me. I learned to communicate freely, my mind was more open to experimenting with my art. I started writing stories and poems, practiced a lot, A LOT, around 50-60 sketches a day for years. I started visiting galleries and was mesmerized by works of painters like Souza, Tyeb Mehta and European artists like Ralph Steadman, Kathe Kollowitz and of course Picasso. I was never happy with the structural way of teaching art in India, but I went ahead and finished my course.
How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path
I used to live in a Boy’s hostel in Mumbai. Though I loved that place, I wanted to live alone, to have my space to paint, sculpt and do some more art. After an art degree, somehow I wanted to write, so I made a copywriter’s portfolio and after more than 50 rejections, got a job at DDB Mudra. But a few months later, I realized that I wanted to go back to being an Art person (it’s okay to make mistakes, it’s great to make mistakes, please make mistakes). That job helped me a lot with my writing and storytelling skills. Everything in life is a story.
How did you get your first break?
My first step towards being an art person began by finding the people who were doing big things in the art scene. I was just 5 months out of college, I wanted to be where the actual party was. I contacted people at St. Art India, who were making the first Art District in India, and they needed someone with painting skills to assist the artists. On the next train, the next morning, I bid farewell to lovely Mumbai and left for my new home, New Delhi.
What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?
After assisting some of the best street painters with wall painting, I did some freelance projects for children’s books, understanding child behaviour and psychology, and Illustrating in such a way that the books would please the parents. Though it was quite fun, like every middle class person in this country, I had responsibilities and dreams. I wanted to share my skills and ideas. While exhibiting a Comic-Painting that I had made, I met the founders of Animal (Creative Agency in New Delhi). I knew what I wanted next, I worked hard to compile all the projects I had, my portfolio was filled with personal projects and almost no commercial projects. Please make personal projects, as much as possible. I mailed them and in 10 days I was working where every young designer in the country wanted to be at that time. That is where the real challenge began, I had to speed up my skills, throw in multiple Illustration styles, work with a team and deliver top-notch quality of work. I worked for almost one and a half years doing some amazing work for clients like Google, Nike, Amnesty, One Plus, Keventers etc. I wanted to focus on my personal projects and paintings. During that period, I did a lot of freelance work and Illustrated for an NGO, for a Textile brand and exhibited some of my charcoal drawings at a collaborative exhibition as well.
And after this lovely break, I ran out of money to pay rent (be friends with people who study finance and listen to them). A few weeks later, the founders of a start-up called Foodarketing got in touch with me, they wanted a young person to lead the communication for their clients. For the majority part I led the Design and Communications team and worked on branding projects for F&B brands such as Rasna. On the side, I helped them with Illustrations for their in-house fashion brand, TurnBlack.
But the most interesting project was designing a curriculum to educate undertrials in Tihar Jail. I infact managed to take an Art class inside the prison premises.
My second stint with Advertising was at Cheil, where I majorly worked on Samsung Flagship products. Apart from daily task lists, we did some fun projects like Digital stickers, Instagram gifs and some print Illustrations.
Where do you work now? Tell us about your role at Bijak
After working in Design studios and Ad agencies, I wanted to explore the tech world which focused on solving specific problems by applying my skills in the digital product world. A specific role defined for an Illustrator in a Product is not a common thing in India, it took me a little while before I could find the match I was looking for.
I work as Sr Illustrator at Bijak. Bijak is trying to digitise and organise the agro procurement market by connecting buyers and sellers through a single platform
Working as an Illustrator at Bijak is very different from what I’ve done before. Sure, it requires the same skill set of drawing, but now it’s more about the experience my skill set will provide the users. Bijak is a platform that gives agricultural commodity buyers and sellers better prices, increased working capital, and optimised logistics. It aims to solve a lot of hurdles in transportation, assurity, maintaining records, digitizing the search for buyers and sellers etc.
As an Illustrator with these goals in mind, apart from unique drawing skills, one also needs to learn how to build empathy with your art, how to assure the user to take the step he is skeptical about. With software like Figma coming into the picture, the possibilities of making use of your skills have become immense. We as a team created a library of over 1200 character Illustrations, that can be scaled and adapted into more than 1000 scenarios with just a few clicks.
How does your work benefit society?
An illustrator can make the communication quicker, easier and clearer, by explaining things that sometimes words can’t. And when it comes to Art, you literally get to define the culture and the time you live in. Your art represents the present, the now and the future. You are a part of history! Everything, well most of it that we see around us was once a drawing. Clothes, Buildings, Computers, Cellphones, Apps, Cars, Buses, Roads etc.
Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!
I am in love with all the art I’ve made from when I was a kid till today. It shows how far I’ve come. A personal favourite would be the Comic-Painting I made on a semi fictional story about Kashmir valley that went on to be displayed at London Design Week, Jerusalem Design festival and a few exhibitions in New Delhi.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
Read more, draw more, dance more, hangout more with your friends, live the stories, fall in love, observe everything you see, experience everything around you, fail at things, make mistakes, try again, get bored, be proud of your skills, master them, be so good at it, no one can even think of matching it.
Draw more and more and even some more. Are you even a painter, if you don’t paint everyday?