Thursday, 31 October 2013


ABHISHEK SINGH interview conducted by smoky man via email in August 2013. Bao Publishing recently released the Italian edition of his Krishna graphic novel (originally published by Image Comics).

For more info about ABHISHEK SINGH, visit his blog.
Furthermore, Abhishek Singh's letter to Sergio Toppi can be read here.

Can you tell us something about the genesis behind Krishna? Sure it is a very personal project for you. So I am interested to know when and especially why you decided to do it.
I worked on a project, Ramayana Reborn, where I dwelled into a lot of research, overall related to Indian mythology, theology and related subjects. The realization that there is so much embedded about the self and the universe in these stories, accentuated my curiosity to a different level. This marked a long relationship of investigating these meta stories with my Art, in a more aware sense.
While on Ramayana I did the research, I did not write the story, but each book evoked me to produce something which aligned the narrative and Art more cohesively, more personally, something which was my meditation of the whole.
I wanted to color my own work, which I did on Kali, a book which is very dear to me, and my last with Virgin Comics. Then I left to Art direct an animation feature film for a couple of months, eventually leaving it to pursue what became an uncontrollable urge, to do my own book.
I had tons of sketch books chronicling my parallel life of documenting several ideas I had about these stories. Finally there came a time, where I choose to pursue that resilient dream, to tell the story in the way it swirled in my mind and heart.
Thus The journey within began. 
On the technical and storytelling side, you decided to adopt different styles and tones, sometimes opting for a cartoon, animated approach, in other part of the story you preferred a more realistic one. Also the colors play an important role. Could you explain a little on this approach?
I look at Art or any creative act for that matter as a growing living entity, and like any other pulsating with energy entity it is bound by the forces of inevitable change. Art is a testament of the changes we go through, both socially and spiritually, and likewise it's representation too. I will change so will do my Art. At the same time I like to study about various visual languages which have come before me or are around me. The transformation forces working though them inspire ways of perception and simulation in our concrete worlds.
Not only as an artist but as an observer of the world I’m interested in that language of the image.
In the context of Krishna, beyond comic books and fine Art, I also have a background in animation film design, and at a some point I wanted to make my own animation film, which still stands as one of the things I would love to do.
So Krishna is my animated film with no budget constraints :) and an ode to all the animation influences I've had as a kid. Stylistically trying something new was important to learn new approaches and techniques, so I deliberately kept the look of Krishna little different than my previous projects. I learnt a great deal about color, how it helps to tell a story, to accentuate the effect of a moment. I studied a lot of scripts for movies, because I was writing it too, it was really insightful to understand their beautiful connections.
In the last part of the project I started to work on other stories and on my exhibitions, where most of the work was done traditionally. I love working traditionally, and a lot of learning from that area gravitated into Krishna's art approach.
I use to think I'm an artist doing a comic book, and not a comic book artist drawing a comic book. Now, over last few years, my Art has become a way to discover the world, "to draw what one seeks" 
It guess it was your first experience as writer & artist, especially on a "graphic novel". Basically it seems to be a biography of the Hindu deity, but it's more than that, isn't it?
I think a creative expression is an extension of one's own individuality, a bridge to express one's conflicts, beliefs and realizations.
The beauty of a creative process is that - even if you think you have a blank slate about who you are and what the world really is like around you - it will orient you to such ideas, it'll make you face them with a bent of mind only harassed by warriors and adventures.
Creating is to understand why we are here and what use our manifestations might hold. The deeper one gets into it, more one discovers. Mostly the discovery of self remains in the silent plane of feeling, but some surfaces up, breaching the premeditated notions of ourselves, letting that felt silence becomes a profound statement of who we are. This is what a creative process does, whether one is aware about it or not.

In a more rational way, for sure, things get far more demanding by the virtue of doing everything on the book. Even though Krishna took four years, many things happened beside the life on the drawing board: a test to one's perseverance, to one's patience, or else one does not own the telling of the story, that's at least what I believe.
I learnt to cull from what I was going through, it made my pursuit more interesting. Not that I did not find myself in despair but I also found a way to morph that despair into something more constructive. Drawing and writing the story relieved me off my everyday worries. The line, like a loyal friend, took me to bliss each time. I created something i found myself enveloped in peace.

The themes of heroism and discovery, are universal themes, but at the same time, we have our own stories: their intersections intrigued me and that's what I've tried to capture in Krishna. It’s a personal account of the state of life and soul.
In Krishna I wanted to present a more cohesive relationship between image and word, representation and underlining philosophy of the revere God.
Every character in the story is a symbol, representing emotional, spiritual, or meta physical nuances. His story is intended to be a gateway into understanding what goes inside the cerebral plane or in the realm of the soul.
My intention was to distill the research and text to a point which is simple yet envelops all the complex thoughts within it, which I'm still figuring out, roping in more as I move along: the vision will keep expanding in my head, till I live.
If it will compel the reader to locate these larger sources and to further their introspection in these philosophies, I would have done my job.
Abhishek Singh and his visions.
How did you end signing for Image? What's about the collaboration with them? You were in direct contact with Eric Stephenson, one of the smartest guys in comics nowadays, imho.... The reviews of the book are pretty good, aren't they?
I just attended SDCC 2013, where I had such a great response to the book, and for my work. I was navigating the place like a nomad with no business cards meeting my favorite artists, passing all the stacks of compliments which were long due. The book was a sold out, which was great. People got to it because it was kept on the Image shelf with way more known Image titles. People picked it up purely because they thought it was captivating, a lot of them actually wrote to me once they were done reading, how it was way more emotional a ride when they were immersed in reading it.
For Image to publish a big 300 page book, by someone unknown (well I'm not counting my earlier work here) was a big step, but it might surprise you that there were no negotiation and not a bit of back and forth in taking that call.
One night I was scrolling through the Image site, and found Eric's e-mail. I was planning to send them a proper pitch through a courier, but I thought that it wouldn't hurt to send him a cover picture and some art from the book.
You will not believe Eric replied in flat 10 minutes (or at least that's the way time it plays in my head). I wasn't even expecting an answer. I mean you are talking about one of the most busiest person in the comic book business. It must be some out of office reply I reckoned, and when I clicked open the mail this is what it said (copying the original mail send by Eric):
"This looks amazing. How close are you to being done? Are there finished pages I can see?" -e.s.

Rest just flowed, but little I knew that it would take me another year and a half, to complete it properly. I was engaged in working on my paintings and was devoting as much time to balance the two. Image scheduled it for 2012 December release, and one must understand that a 30$ book 300 pages cannot be "just" purchased off the shelf, yet Image did a ambitious run, and I duly credit Eric for his foresight and belief in my work.
The whole Image team supported the book with a lot of love and continues to do that, it's really quite a story when I look back.
What's about your artistic education and references, interests in comics and visual Arts?
While at school I got an opportunity to work for a comic book company called Raj Comics. I’d go there every summer vacation from grade 8th till 12th. I was happy to help even by erasing the pencil marks from the final inked artworks just so I could see them up close. It was sheer joy. In my spare time I would aim to make my drawings match those pages. I recall getting an anatomy book as a token of my hard work from a senior artist; I replicated the all the pages in just a week and kept the idea of refining my skills alive.
While at college, i began experimenting with my Art which was set in a comic book mould, found ways to break it and evolved further.
I even did a student short film titled ‘A Hunter's Tale’, where I used an entire year to do pretty much everything on an animated film myself, and alongside refined my visualization skills even further.
After that I longed to explore larger and longer stories, to understand how a story of that scale could be visualized.
This was the time when I landed the Ramayana project, it was really a vague point from where I began, I like vagueness, it provides room for free thoughts, make you feel more alive within the adventure, then the team came and we just count get it together, I started asking what’s the point of producing good Art to a story with no direction at all. But I would come back home and write down the different ways I would like to do this or that, I learnt a great deal working on that project.

I realized the immense amount of patience one needs to manufacture them. The amount of research, exploration and artistic understanding required was no less than building a space shuttle! Patience became the nucleus of my process to comprehend tasks bearing this magnitude. Also I developed a new found respect for ‘time’ and sticking to deadline and by when I found myself working on Krishna I had become even more demanding while working on my own ideas.
And life in totality became a reference point, the inspiration came from everyday incidences, like I could see simple acts extended to me like profound statements of life.

As my experience grew with particular fields, their convergence also became very evident to me. The relationship with Art I have tried to build starting Krishna is to leave all and purely do it for my own sake, somehow it has found a way with people and companies, and everyone is happy to pay to have what was created as one person's bliss.
Abhishek Singh and Mike Mignola at SDCC 2013.
Krishna will be published in Italy by Bao and you will attend Lucca Comics. Which are your feelings about it? Also, any interests about the Italian comics scene, its artists and series? I know you are a huge fan of Sergio Toppi's works...
As we talk the book is already out in Italian. I've made some very special friends through this book, Michele [Foschini] from BAO is one of them. I met him at SDCC: Michele is another visionary in publication, his ideologies for his work and respect for Art and life is unparalleled. I was very humbled to see the way they have done the book, it's translated so well and the presentation is fantastic. I’m so looking forward to attend Lucca, thank everyone who worked on the book and draw in all of them.
Michele knew Toppi personally and he is full of his astonishing stories. My love for the great Master Toppi is no secret to you: I truly owe it to you, for directing me to write to Toppi and express my love. I would never think that I would actually meet you outside your blog in Italy, talk stories about comics and because of you I will actually go all the way to Toppi's house, try my luck, in a spiritual way bid him farewell… so, thank you so much for doing that.
How we are connected and what role we play in each other's life humbles me, surprises me and makes me look out for more adventure.

Over a period of time, I've shed away a lot of  influences. I don't have too many favorites anymore, and because I haven't been working on existing properties I don't follow a scene too closely... maybe individual paintings or works take my attention, but for reason completely independent from who's made them.
That being said, few artists and their body of work has had a profound impact over me. Their deep understanding of their craft and their simplicity of dedication has enthralled me, inspired me to be forever hard-working and keep seeking the universe. So in the context of artists I treat close to my heart are Osamu Tezuka, Moebius, Joe Kubert, Bill Watterson and Toppi, all storytellers of the highest order. I have stacks of books on tribal cultures, myths, history, philosophy, and somewhere in those stacks will be books drawn by these artists.

I'm hoping to discover so much more at Lucca, and I have no doubt when I'll be back, I'll have tons of stories.