Traditional Indian Art Enhancing the World of Virtual Reality

An amalgamation of traditional and digital art is bound to create magic and that is exactly what Vinay Hegde, founder and head of Vinay Hegde Creations, Bangalore does. Hailing from Sirsi, Karnataka, Vinay has sourced inspiration from various pockets of his life to pursue art. Having dabbled in both traditional and digital art, Vinay has worked his magic with Dreamworks studios and many other big production agencies, setting him apart from many artists. 

CSP was in conversation with Vinay Hegde who gave us insights into his journey as an artist, and the significance of Indian traditional art.

The challenge for an artist is to see, in his mind, what cannot be seen with the naked eye- Vinay Hegde

That is how Glue Art came into existence. Vinay created three beautiful forms of art- Glue Art, Glow Art and Cosmic Splash. With respect to the latter two, he visualised the creation and drew on thin air with the help of a torch, or with playstation controls. Glow worms are his inspiration for glow art. He also used the entire cosmos as his canvas and created Cosmic Splash. Three wonderful and unique artforms that use aspects from the nature to create colourful magic.

  • How did you develop an interest in art? Can you tell us a bit about your education in art?

I am from a small town in the Malnad area known as Sirsi in Karnataka. My sister was into arts and crafts and would create handmade items. My uncles were photographers, and these two inspired me to pursue art. Furthermore, when we were kids, the only form of entertainment for us was Yakshaghana, Karnataka’s folk dance. That also influenced me to become an artist. The spontaneity of the artform inspired me. 

When I completed my tenth grade, my parents supported my decision to take up art education. I pursued art in Kent school of Art in Bangalore. My Guru, Prof. S.K.Ramachandra Rao, taught me the theoretical aspects of Indian sculpture, paintings and even the philosophy behind it. Following that, I decided to learn Tabla. I went to Benares to learn under a Guru. But, I came back to my native after a while, unable to bear the weather. 

I have worked on several mediums such as stone, clay, fiberglass, plaster of Paris and more. I once came across an article that spoke about the rise in technology, and how it might supersede traditional art. I got a bit wary and thought that if I do not update myself and upgrade my skills, I’ll be out of the field in no time. That is when I began to explore the field of animation, where I can put my knowledge of traditional art into the digital platform. 

Then, I went to Vancouver to study further in animation. I completed the course (animation and visual effects) in one year. I got the opportunity to work in Lucas Film Animation, the company known for Star wars and Avatar. I was also selected for their famous internship program called Jedi masters program. I worked for them for a while in Singapore, and  I landed my next project in Dreamworks Animation. I was there until 2017 following when the company shut down. I then learned UX research and user experience, and worked for Accenture for a while. Now, I have opened my own firm, Vinay Hegde Creations, where I provide design services and solutions. 

  • You authored a book Dhyana Chitravali, that talks about invocations used in traditional Indian sculpting. In your experience, how has that helped you with your work? Do you think this sets India apart in its art making from the rest of the world?

Dhyana Chitravali is a Sanskrit term. Dhyana slokas are chanted by a sadhaka or before any sadhana. In sculpting, before the sculptor begins, he has to visualise the form of the deity in his head. Dhyana slokas describe the Lakshanas of the deity- how many faces, arms, and weapons they hold and many more. I compiled all the dhyana slokas into this book, Dhyana Chitravali.

Dhyana is contemplation. When I begin a project, be it sculpting or visual art, I have to visualise the concept in my head and dhyana really helps.

Artists across the world make art in their own way or visualise the art they are going to create in their own way. In India, we have dhyana slokas that we chant before we begin and that definitely is something very unique. That serenity or divinity, if you want to call it, can be seen in the deity or in anything we create. Whatever may be the medium of making art, the end product is to be blissful and that bliss can be felt within us. 

  • Having worked with both traditional and digital art, which do you prefer working with more? How did you integrate the two styles together? What were the challenges you faced?

Both have their own pros and cons. When I work with clay, it is a totally different experience, because I am directly working with the medium. With digital art, I can feel the art through the digital tools. It is not like I am holding the actual art and it does not come anywhere close to it. 

But when you work with digital art, there is a tool called Ctrl C (copy). While sculpting in real life, if I make the wrong move with my chisel and hammer, the entire artwork goes to waste. With virtual art, that becomes easy, and with just a click of a button, I can correct the errors. 

I began as a painter and then went on to sculpting. So, I moved on from 2D to 3D. The two are very different. From sculpting, I moved to the world of Computer Graphics (CG). Since I am not from a technical background, it was difficult to understand the tools. Initially when I learnt the tools, it was confusing. To get the hang of the software, it took a while. Now, I work with the most advanced forms of digital art- Virtual Reality (VR). 

  • How did your education in traditional art help you make digital art? 

In my experience, jumping into digital art without a good understanding of the form, shape, lines and colour combinations can be confusing. Artists are now directly working with many digital platforms. But making art on a piece of paper or a canvas, or sculpting clay or stone gives you a clear view of the shape and colours. So when I moved to making digital art, it was easy to visualise the structure and made it convenient for me to use the tools. 

Also, like I mentioned before about the dhyana slokas, that too helped me visualise the concept of the art. So I can definitely say that my education in traditional art has made it easy for me to work with digital art. 

  • You have worked with Dreamworks and many other film productions. Did your education in traditional art help you in these projects? If yes, can you tell us how?

In a way, yes. I got the opportunity to explore many areas. When they looked at my application, they saw my background in traditional art, and these are the areas they actually look for. They felt this was a rare combination. Most of those who get into digital art these days are from a technical or an engineering background. When it comes to the area of animation, I have also studied the anatomy of the body, to understand the structure. Having the knowledge of the real world provides us with a better understanding of the functionality in the digital world. 

(Vinay showed us a model of a human body that he made, where one half of the body was the muscular structure, and the other half was the skeleton. He emphasised on the need to acquire real world knowledge to make it easier in the virtual world. )

Some of the projects in Dreamworks dealt with Indian culture. So, at the time, my background in traditional art came to use. The project involved temple architecture, and they consulted me and took my advice on the structure and the reason behind the thought process of our temple architecture. 

  • With digital art on the rise (especially during the pandemic), does this put traditional art under threat? In this digital age, how can we preserve traditional art? Further, how can we integrate the two to create better art? Is that the future of art? 

Definitely, this is the flow of the world. This is Kala, time is changing. When I was studying, I remember learning hand painting from very skilled artists. They could start from right to left or from left to right. When computers came into the mainstream, we also had photoshop at the time. At this particular period of time, many artists disappeared. Computers were slowly taking over, it could do much more than an artist, and it is difficult to compete with computers, production wise. That is how the art of banner-writing vanished. Screen printing technology also came to a halt. 

3D printing is in the market and it can replicate anything. It is hard to believe, but many of the Hollywood actors and actresses are also CG made. If they are able to take a print of a real world item, it makes things very simple. 

However, in my opinion, learning both forms of art is necessary, and further integrating them will create art that is class apart. It is the future of art. Many art colleges now have both traditional and digital art studies. And in this day and age, everything is open source, and it has made it easy for anyone to acquire any form of knowledge. One must put in hard work. That’s all. The combination gives better results. I am an example.