An engineering dropout, who gave in to the surreal subconscious mind, Santanu Hazarika is a self-taught artist whose artworks are mostly inspired by surrealistic and symbolic approach to nature and science. He a spiritual person, who is heavily influenced by Hindu mythology (the vedas and the tantras); the philosophical interpretations and the subjective reality portrayed in them, starting from the tiniest of atom till the infinite cosmos. Metaphoric symbols and psychedelia can also be seen in his works.
Right now he is working on projects with Red Bull, Austria, as the reigning Red Bull World doodle art champion and one of the graphic designers. Apart from this, Santanu conducts interactive workshops on doodle art around the globe. He also has his own online apparel store called Dilate ink, all bearing my designs. Currently he is freelancing but he had Worked for the Ministry of Culture,India. He says “I prefer freelancing because I like to work independently. But mostly because I love travelling I don’t want to be tied down to a job, at least for now. I have handled multiple projects for Harper’s, Red Bull, Aaromya tea, Utsah, Metropolis Asia, Mojarto(NDTV) etc to name a few. Yes, I will be publishing few books towards the end of this year. These books will be in English. Few of them will be Illustrative books with my artworks and doodles sort of like a mini art journal that you can buy. Another one will be much deeper in the sense that it will be dealing with Art, the sub-conscious mind, Physics and Meta Physics. And finally the current one that I’m working on, with One of my writer friend, which is based on the Hindu epic Mahabharata.”
When asked about his passion for doodling, Santanu says “At first I doodled for fun. It was my escape from reality, I could draw anything I wanted, it didn’t matter if those things existed or not. It was like playing with my fragments of imagination. But when I grew older drawing became more of a meditation process. Now mostly I doodle to channel my subconscious thoughts and also purge my mind of all memories and prejudices. I do it to attain pure blankness of the mind. As a kid all my textbooks and notebooks were my sketchbooks. I would go crazy and always mix very contrasting elements in all my scribbles. It always had a very twisted or or maybe a bit surrealistic touch to it. I used to scribble day and night, in every surface I got, from papers to desks to refrigerators, I would go berserk with a pen.”
His career started off by making illustrations and logos for local bands in his home town. But his professional career as an illustrator/designer began after winning Red Bull Doodle Art 2014, where he got my first ever corporate contract as a designer. He had designed a limited edition RBDA t-shirt which was up for sale in Red Bull store.
Image – Santanu’s championship winning doodle
Santanu states the endlessness of human imagination as the spark to his inspiration. His ultimate dream is to be an artist who can show the people what dwells in the deepest corners of his/her imagination, a different perception of the universe around him and make them realize how every observer has the limitless gift of imagination. As for challenges, overcoming social stigmas and stereotypes, and finding the confidence in himself to follow his vision was prominent.
Team UniTreed interviewed Santanu with special reference to Red Bull Doodle Art Competition and got the following insights.
UniTreed: When did you first hear about the Red Bull Doodle Art Competition?
Santanu: Well it was almost a year back, in the month of September, when a good friend of mine, Spondan, tagged me in the official Red Bull World Doodle art Gallery’s post about the competition.
UniTreed: You’re the champion! How’s the feeling before, during, and after the day of proclamation? Can you share your winning piece?
Santanu: I was very calm, and I was very grateful that I had come so far for my art. Winning or losing didn’t matter to me, the fact that people appreciated my art and my thoughts,was all that I needed. But to my surprise, out of more than 32,000 doodles from across the globe my doodle was crowned the best. The feeling was very surrealistic, a dream suspended in form of a beautiful trophy and every time I look at it , I know this is the reality. This recognition gifted me the confidence to follow my passion and gave me a hope that I will make it! And this year again Red bull Doodle Art 2017 Is happening !! And it’s bigger ,better and a lot more competitive.
UniTreed: Tell us about this year’s RBDA (Red Bull Doodle Art) 17.
Santanu: Well this year Red Bull World Doodle Art championship is happening again, and guess what Red Bull has raised the bar to a new level!!More than 40 countries are participating this time and all the country winners will be invited to The Global Gallery, which is always in an exotic location (laughs), to work on a collaborative piece which is not even “REAL”! The artwork will be done completely on Virtual Reality!! Isn’t that amazing!! Go doodlers get your pens ready and get doodling. Log on to doodleart.redbull.com (click here) to register and know more details about the competition.
UniTreed: How are you involved with RBDA 17?
Santanu: I worked with the Red Bull, Austria team in making all the creatives used in this year’s competition. Starting from the key visuals, the template to the drop box where the doodles will be submitted was designed by me. I must say, even though the pressure was intense owing to the deadlines it was really fun working for them !Very co-operative and chilled scene it was.
UniTreed: Because exposure and likes are a factor in winning the competition (is it really?), what sort of marketing efforts have you put into promoting your work? What has worked and what hasn’t?
Santanu: Well exposure and likes were a factor only at the initial stage of selection, but ultimately each country winner was selected by well-established and influential artists from their respective countries. I’m really grateful for the people who helped me and thought that my art had the potential to be one of the best in the world. I promoted my work through all my social networks. My motive was not to reach a large audience but to reach quality audience who could relate and understand my art. A constant social media presence is required to always expand appreciation for the art, for example- work in progress images, daily doodles etc posted in social networking sites keeps the flow of appreciation going. And of course, collaborations with other artists is also a very good way of improving and promoting yourself.
UniTreed: Tell us a little about how you arrived on your winning piece.
Santanu: My inspiration was spirituality. At the time of this competition, I was doing some research on Hinduism, not the religious aspects but the spiritual ones, starting from the concepts behind creation and existence, to every symbol that are depicted in ancient Hindu scriptures and art. So these things were constantly in my mind, subconsciously. In my doodle, I have unknowingly channeled some of my interpretations. This doodle depicts the realization of nature and existence by humans. A human embodying the universe, symbolizes that we humans are the creator of our own universe. The universe is not outward but inward. Through science and technology, we create our universe, a material reality, framed through measurements and calculations, an objective reality, we tame nature and try to predict the uncertainties in our life. When we realize that these are mere tools through which we create our universe and we are the supreme creators itself, all there is left is a void, a void of not knowing, it’s this curiosity that pushes us to the spiritual reality. And realizing nature is a part of this spiritual awakening. I have used symbolism in every character visible in the doodle, just like in ancient Hindu calendar art, where random things are put into the frame, with each thing having a relation to the whole frame of art, through a deeper concept and imagery. So in a way these calendar arts are also a form of doodle itself. For example, you can see six snakes sprouting out, these snakes symbolize ‘Adi-sesha-ananta’, a six headed snake depicted in hindusim. ‘Adi’ means one or primal, ‘sesha’ being zero or nothingness and ‘ananta’ being the infinite or endless. This generally symbolizes the co-ordinates of space and time, hence on top of it lies nature and creation, the snake sustains both nature and mankind. This was one example in a nutshell; there are a few more analogies in the doodle. Other examples like, an owl sits below a deity which is a metaphor for a supreme consciousness, and Owls are a symbol of wisdom in Hindu mythology. So, as the phrase goes ‘where does the mind go?’, this is where my mind went, it took a form of a six headed snake.
UniTreed: How was the Cape Town experience?
Santanu: Cape town was super fun.I got to experience a whole new culture, a whole new paradise guarded by the scenic Table Top Mountain. A beautiful city filled with vibrant and intricate details. The best part was, I got to meet super talented doodle artist from all across the world. An international doodle art gallery which showcased talented doodle artist’s from around the world was like a dream come true. Every day was exciting, starting from sightseeing to late night parties, to public interactions, the Red Bull team did an awesome job. Doodles all around.
UniTreed: How has your life changed after this event?
Santanu: My life completely changed after this event. I had the confidence in me to move forward. It inspired me to do better and made me more passionate about my art. Now I’m doing what I love doing the most – making art and travelling, inspiring people to be creative, meeting new people, getting inspired every day.
UniTreed: Some artists underestimate an artist’s style in illustration. To give our readers a better understanding of the term, how do you define the word “style” and how does it affect an artist’s overall individuality?
Santanu: According to me “style” is what defines an artist. An artist’s individuality is reflected in his style. To develop your own style, it requires a lot of maturity and clarity of your comfort zone. Your style is your perception of, both the world around you and what is inside you and the way you balance them both and create something your own. That creation is style for me. Your style will only make you stand out, and your style should never be affected by anyone’s perception of it.
UniTreed: An artist’s style says a lot more than what others think. What do you consider to be the most important factor to find your own style? Also, where and how did you find your own style in illustration?
Santanu: I found my style in fluidity and intricacy. I love observing patterns and the way they progress. And the details give it the required depth. I use very less colours, but the ones I use are mostly contrasting. Since doodling is more of a meditative thing for me, it made me more patient and hence I turned towards highly detailed work. And the fluidity helped me guide the details.
UniTreed: Any tips on how to find your style?
Santanu: Experiment, draw whatever you feel like. There shouldn’t be any preconception nor any rules and regulations. Always start your flow of imagination from complete zero, from pure blankness. Observe, always have good observational skills. Observe patterns and repetitions around you. Even basic shapes and curves that catches your attention the most and when you find your flow always remember to make it better everyday. Finally, always respect your art.
UniTreed: How do you go about picking up a new creative skill to improve your style?
Santanu: I often try to come up with two opposite skills or try to learn two or more different skill sets and try to combine them; take it as a way to challenge yourself. Try to observe other things rather than the ones you mostly observe.
UniTreed: With all these different things going on, what about your work/life balance? How do you fit it in all in?
Santanu: It’s perfectly balanced. Because I’m doing what I love doing. I always try to keep a clear head and have a logical approach to work and life.
UniTreed: Also a great way to end this interview is to give your piece of advice to all aspiring artists.
Santanu: Don’t be afraid to express or think differently. Your style lies in your individuality and your perception of reality.
So, all the doodle artists out there, here is your opportunity to make it big.
Click here and register yourself soon.