Inter­view with Sajan Rai

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A short inter­view with my friend, illus­trat­or Sajan Rai. I first met Sajan when we were assigned adjoin­ing tables at a zine fair, and he was offer­ing to draw people as sloths for £5. This clearly being a sign that he was the right kind of person, we became friends. You can find his website here

1. Tell us a little bit about who you are, and what you do

I’m an illus­trat­or dipping my fingers into differ­ent projects, but for the past 3+ years I’ve largely been devel­op­ing my work by writ­ing and illus­trat­ing haiku poetry. It’s a nice way of creat­ing small one-shot scenes inhab­it­ing the same world. The project  gives me free­dom to exper­i­ment artist­ic­ally, and create narrat­ives I can revis­it at my own comfort.

2. What are some of your influ­ences and inspir­a­tions?

I think Gary Larson’s influ­ence has been pretty consist­ent, from when I was solely making slap-and-dash absurd­ist comics to the more illus­trat­ive stuff I’m produ­cing now – I really love scenes born out of single-panel stuff. Brad Neely has done some great stuff in the same vein too (unfor­tu­nately they’re not on his website anymore but some are on his instagram.

Visu­ally, I grew up look­ing at lots of Paul Klee, and I really admire the vari­ety of his work. Jean-Michael Basquiat’s also took a lot of those elements I love and put them in single pieces – large strokes, textures and annota­tions all in vary­ing propor­tions. Watch­ing lots of old TV and film, tech­ni­col­our stuff like origin­al Star Trek and 60’s Batman, may be to blame for my palettes. I’m grate­ful my parents and broth­er showed me all these things! They’re also creat­ive (and all good artists too) – having that kind of envir­on­ment as well as encour­aging grand­par­ents has been a massive priv­ilege.

3. What are you currently work­ing on?

Mostly some commis­sions, I’m also tent­at­ively craft­ing a short art workshop/​course I could teach in small groups over zoom – but need to gauge interest and actu­ally devel­op it.

I’ve also made an online exhib­i­tion with Kinga Dukaj (I drew it, she’s done all the tricky stuff) for the CBA magazine I was main edit­or for. Other than that, I have quite a few project ideas but I’m not sure which to pursue – I’m rather good at bambooz­ling myself. I might finally start a webcom­ic? I star­ted last year, but found myself overthink­ing and over­work­ing the first couple of pages and shelved it.

I’ve also been having fun doing some very lazy/​relaxed anim­at­ing and would like to keep that up and see if I can do some­thing with it down the line.

4. How have things been for you with the pandem­ic?

Other than miss­ing my family/​feeling demor­al­ised by people’s compla­cency, surpris­ingly okay. I’m grate­ful that commis­sions and freel­ance have been relat­ively steady, which is just as well consid­er­ing the lack of comic conven­tions. Doing those were also nice way for me to grow as an artist – they provided dead­lines for my own projects,  and I miss having nice conver­sa­tions with custom­ers. That said, It’s also been nice to have a break. I’ve been doing those for a while, and combined with other circum­stances I found myself trav­el­ling a lot more than was prob­ably healthy for me in ’19.

5. Are there any new medi­ums or meth­ods you’d like to try with your work?

I’d like to learn Blender prop­erly, so that I can consider more unusu­al and obnox­ious ways of  incor­por­at­ing 3d assets into my illus­tra­tion. I think mess­ing around with soft­ware other than Procreate/​Photoshop is some­thing I haven’t done in a while – colla­ging elements made in seper­ate programs is a solid way to get weird and unique results.

6. What do you find are the biggest barri­ers prevent­ing you from doing all the projects you’d like to?

The person­al labour that comes with being a single person – stuff like time and energy – which all boils down to being one person rather than a studio of clones. And even more than that: concen­tra­tion –  focus­ing on one project at a time. Which is hard when I’m constantly distract­ing myself with new ideas. One hurdle I’ve managed to get over recently was collab­or­at­ing! In the past I’ve honestly found it frus­trat­ing, but I managed to work with Nanami Takeu­chi on a comic for the CBA magazine which was just released! which was still chal­len­ging but really fun. So, It’s some­thing I’m (tent­at­ively) more open to now.

7. What projects are you hoping to work on in the future?

I have a bunch of differ­ent ideas I could pursue right now! Afore­men­tioned webcom­ic, poster designs, some off-shoot projects based off the world­build­ing I’ve done through my illus­trated haiku project. Also, I’d like to neatly pack­age some pitch­able stuff and attempt to throw it at some publish­ers, as that’s not some­thing I’ve tried.

8. Recom­mend some things for the blog read­ers to check out

I like learn­ing about and look­ing at all the small things scur­ry­ing about in the world. A photo­graph­er called Andy Murray (not the tennis play­er) has a nice site called Chaos of Delight, and there’s a great and relax­ing youtube chan­nel called Jour­ney to the Micro­cos­mos which features amaz­ing micro­scop­ic foot­age and is really digest­ible.

There’s also a couple of browser games I’d recom­mend – I’ve only played the trial of Nath­alie Lawhead’s Tetra­ged­don but its seems like this geni­us master­work that lets you surf through a night­mare version of an old-style inter­net laden with occult-like computer viruses. I haven’t even tried the full version yet, but I love everything about it. They’ve writ­ten up quite a bit about it here. It’s a vastly artist­ic project, executed amaz­ingly, and I’m look­ing forward to explor­ing it.

On a slightly more more lo-fi side, there’s a deeply NSFW choose-your-own-adven­ture Star Wars fanfic made by Terome Mcnally (and pals?) which I think about a lot. It’s called ‘How did Chew­bacca get his WOOKIE BOWCASTER?’ and it’s really good, hilari­ous and utterly naus­eat­ing. I adore it.

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