When Karan Singh was invited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to collaborate for this year’s campaign artwork, he concurred without a second thought. A self-taught illustrator and designer, Karan’s animation art for the 93rd Oscars is one out of the seven that was commissioned by the prestigious organisation.
“It was a huge honour for me to contribute to such an iconic institution. The framework of the campaign was to work with seven different and diverse artists to basically give their interpretation of ‘what movies mean’ to them. We created a visual response to it. We went through a lot of development for the visuals that we made. We had about a month or more to bounce around ideas and work on them. This time frame gave me the flexibility and the freedom to cancel the ‘not so good’ ones. We went through a bunch of different explorations, looking at a lot of compositional ideas about whether we want to show the whole frame of the Oscar or do we want to just focus on a specific area. It was definitely a fun and collaborative process of working and finalising the static image first and then animating it and bringing it to life,” Karan says about coming on board the project and executing it in collaboration with the creative team of the Academy.
Elaborating on the idea behind his Oscars artwork, he says, “For me, movies were a source of inspiration, distraction and reassurance in the past year. An art form that people can unite under. It doesn’t really matter who you are or where you are from, one can appreciate it in a unified way. This formed the basis of my artwork for the campaign. It is under the premise of unity. In the main artwork, there are different bands of colours uniting over a surface. It is referencing to the idea that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the parts’. So the idea of individuals coming together to create this unified icon was my inspiration and it is what I am trying to communicate.”
Karan has lived in various cities including Tokyo, New York, Amsterdam and Melbourne while working as an illustrator, designer and animator. He insists that his Indian heritage is a mainstay behind his art, which uses a splash of vibrant hues.
“Colours are crucial to me. They can make or break a piece. They capture the essence of the message in your piece. There is a dialogue that happens with colour that is subconscious. It is not something that we can verbalise. The colours that I choose are the ones that I gravitate towards the most. I speculate on why I use so many bright colours. I have rationalised it as my Indian heritage and the culture being so synonymous with rich colours. It is something that I change many times over the course of developing one piece and still find myself not being satisfied with it,” he shares touching upon his distinct style.
Talking about the message in the art and his creative process, Karan says, “The overarching sentiment with my work is unity. A lot of the times teams will come up to you and say ‘hey, we like your work but these are the things we want to convey in our project’. I tailor the artwork to fit the campaign and answer the brief. One needs to come up with an idea for the visuals and there needs to be a story behind it. I feel that once you create the narrative and a justification for the design, the design part is actually easy because you have a plan that you are referring back to.”
How does Karan feel about featuring in the Academy’s campaign? “I am so engrossed in answering the brief sometimes that I forget who the client is. But this feels like a massive accomplishment. I feel fortunate to be considered amongst such a talented group of contemporaries. I am flattered and I still feel quite surreal about it. This project has a bit more context to it than my regular commercial collaborations, so it is quite special.”
He also shared tips for upcoming artists. “Make work often and share it. Forcing yourself to be creative can be draining but it is also like a muscle that needs exercise. Challenge yourself to be creative more often and when you do, don’t just hide it. Share it with people. Start a dialogue about it. You understand your work better but it is nice to see people interact with it. They might find meaning in it that you completely overlooked.”