From Gond Art to Animation: Masterclasses at NLF

By Shashank Pai, Grade 11

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘master’ as ‘someone having or showing great proficiency’. This proficiency was on full display during the masterclasses at the Neev Literature Festival 2023. I had the pleasure of attending three masterclasses discussing topics such as Gond art, graphic novels and animation.

The first masterclass about creating Gond art was held by the highly acclaimed pardhan Gond artist Venkat Raman Singh Shyam. An art tradition that is practised by the Gonds, one of the biggest adivasi communities in central India, Gond art takes inspiration from nature and much of it is based on birds and animals. Venkat was trained by his uncle, Jangarh Singh Shyam, one of the pioneers of Gond art. During the masterclass, Venkat simplified the entire process of creating an artwork into 5 steps namely the concept, the drawing, the colouring, the pattern, and the dots. We were also told that the eye was the last thing drawn and once the eye was completed nothing else could be added to the artwork. Venkat also emphasised that the concept, which was thinking about and choosing what to draw, was a very personal choice and that the artist had full control over it. The session was highly interactive and a large part of it was given to the students to draw, paint, and create wonderful patterns. Venkat guided the students through the whole process and gave a step-by-step guide on how to draw a bird in the Gond art style. He also showcased his skills by showing us how one shape could be transformed into different things. He used the example of an oval to transform it into a tortoise and a fish. The feedback from participants was incredibly positive and they were all happy to have learned so much about a new art form.

The second masterclass was led by Nikhil Gulati, the author of the highly acclaimed, Neev Book Award winning nonfiction graphic novel, The People of the Indus, and was centred on comics and graphic novels. During the course of the session, Gulati talked about the power of comics, why he likes to show history through comics, and finally he showed us the steps involved in making a comic. He told us that his favourite part about comics was that the combination of text and visuals allowed him to be more expressive and made it easier to describe things that he may not have been able to find the words for. He also enjoys being able to use sequences of panels to show movement in the scene. According to Gulati, graphic novels are an incredible way to talk about history as the depiction of historical scenes through visual methods can transport the audience to another era. Gulati discussed his method of creating a comic which focuses more on building an interesting story than the quality of the drawings, after which the audience sat down to create their own comics. 

The last masterclass I attended was on animation, held by national-award winning filmmaker Suresh Eriyat who founded the award-winning animation studio Studio Eeksaurus. He began with the screening of some of his award winning short films such as Tokri, and even showed the audience some behind the scenes action which went into creating it such as the making of physical models of everything. This 15-minute short film took his studio a whopping 8 years to create! We were also shown some of his comics and Eriyat talked about how he came up with the ideas for his stories. He loves to create stories about things he has seen in his life and a lot of his comics are about his experiences with his family. He encouraged his audience to travel and see the world to find stories. 

The masterclasses were a great learning experience and a good starting point to get into subjects that I didn’t usually think about.

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