This is artist Ravinder Kundi. For more about this artist visit their CTN Profile: CLICK HERE
How did you get started on your path towards your current passion?
Art has played a central role in my life. I was born in Nairobi, Kenya and ever since I was a child, I would become so absorbed in creating that I would lose all sense of the world around me. I felt such a natural and complete connection with it.
Living in Kenya meant that my access to art resources was very limited. To make up for that I drew inspiration from the world and the people around me, it was through art that I found a way to pour out the observations of my young mind onto paper. My parents were always encouraging and they helped me to find direction as I learned how I could use creativity to articulate my feelings.
At 12 years old, I was given a box of watercolors. The world suddenly took on new colors and shades. Shortly after that I received a box of Play-Doh/Plasticine. I had been creating characters in my mind and on paper, but to be able to hold sculptures in my hands was a revelation. I was instantly captivated. My sisters and I spent hours dreaming up stories, then creating sculpted characters to act them out. This brought the magic and charm of our imaginations out into the real world.
Working as an artist wasn't something that many people did where I grew up. There was this idea that pursuing a career in 'Art' would somehow render you a failure, it wasn't considered a respectable profession. Despite this prevailing notion, growing up I felt strongly that I wanted my work to be my passion, not something that met society's standards for success.
My ideas and appreciation of more advanced art began to take shape as I moved through Kenya's British high school education system. This provided me with traditional training and access to a world of art I'd never been able to explore. I immersed myself in studying the works of Chardin, Paul Cezanne, and Michelangelo. At the age of 17, I moved to Loughborough University in England to pursue my education in Art and illustration. Even though my studies required me to also learn about more contemporary artwork and artists, it was always realism and Renaissance art that made the strongest impression on me.
It was around this time that I happened to meet a girl, who told me something that would change the course of my life forever. She told me about a Canadian college that had an animation program. My thoughts immediately flew back to my childhood fascination with the Jungle Book, and I suddenly realized that animation was an actual career!
I began researching the animation program, the deadline for the application was fast approaching. I didn't for a moment think anything would come of it, but decided to go ahead and complete my application drawings in one afternoon and apply to Sheridan College.
When I found out that I had been accepted, I knew my life was about to change in ways I could hardly imagine. I visited Toronto and toured Sheridan's campus. I saw the art that was on display there I felt right away that this was where I belonged. I no longer had to make sense out of abstract cubes and circles in the classroom, I could now tap into that childhood fascination with stories and characters.
As if my introduction to Animation as a career wasn't enough, I was approached by a documentary director who liked my voice of all things. He asked me to narrate his documentary, Children of Asia. While it went on to win a silver medal at the New York Film Festival, I left the experience even more determined to somehow be a part of this magic.
Where did your path go from there?
After studying Classical Animation at Sheridan, my first job was as a Production Designer for a Stop Motion Animation studio in Toronto called Cuppa Coffee. After a short stint there, I returned to London and started applying for jobs all over. I did a test for a studio in Berlin and was offered a job working as a 2D Character and Layout Designer on Happily Never After at Hahn Film. I was excited that my childhood dream of finding success as an artist was suddenly becoming a reality. I never in my life imagined that I would ever end up living and working in Berlin. It was then that I realized my career could take me anywhere in the world.
Little did I know, that dreamy excitement would soon meet the reality of the modern animation marketplace. Finding Nemo came out around this time and talented artists around the world felt that 2D animation was on its way out. We were all suddenly informed one day that our current project was no longer to be done in 2D, but now everything would change to 3D. If we didn't know how to work in 3D and Maya, we would be laid off. I was experiencing first-hand the tough reality of this fast-paced career.
My Production Manager didn't sugarcoat the issue. "There is a computer," She said. "You have two weeks to learn Maya." I didn't hesitate. I spent two weeks poring over Gnomon tutorials to learn the basics of Maya. I felt desperate to hold on to this amazing opportunity, but it was this crash course that would once again change the course of my career.
I learned enough to stay on my feet throughout the project and after that things really opened up for me professionally. I worked on a feature with a company that was small enough to allow me to fully explore and understand every avenue of the production process. I made sure to have my hands on every aspect. You name it, I was working on it. Modeling, previz/layout, storyboarding, texturing, and even matte paintings; nothing escaped my reach.
It was after this that I was asked to work on a little German 2D animated film called Kleiner DODO. They wanted me to create 3D environments, make camera renders and then have other artists paint over them instead of drawing every single layout. It occurred to me then that I wanted to be a 3D Visual Development Artist and design straight in Maya, even though not many people in the industry were doing it back in 2005.
With the knowledge I had gained in Maya and my understanding for traditional art, I felt this was the best way forward for me to stand out as an artist. Designing sets in 3D offered the ability to put in cameras and build or design only what was necessary seemed to be far better approach than doing extensive drawings of things that will never even be seen on screen. Reaching this point took some self-discipline and some effort to convince other people as well, but ultimately it was the best path.
At this point in my life I was open to every opportunity, no matter where it took me on the globe. I moved on to London to work on Tale of Despereaux as a 3D set designer at Universal Studios in London. After finishing the art there I moved on to FramestoreCFc to do the rough layout and final layout. When this job was finished I moved on to Sydney, Australia to work with Zack Snyder on Legend of the Guardians as a 3D visual development artist. Working like this was a whirlwind, but I wouldn't trade those experiences for the world.
What countries have you worked in? You seem to move to work in studios all over the world, which must be exciting. Can you tell us where?
My experience working in different locations and with different cultures has been a crucial element to my growth as an artist. I've worked in Toronto, Kenya, Berlin, London, Sydney, Bristol, and now Los Angeles. At times, I felt like a ping pong ball bouncing from place to place like that.
From Sydney I was offered a role on Arthur Christmas at Aardman Animation Studios in Bristol, England, it was a wonderful studio in which to work. After the story and concepts, designs of characters/environments were ready for full production, we were relocated to Los Angeles to continue the film at Sony Imageworks. A year and a half later I headed back to Sydney to work on Happy Feet 2 at Dr D Studios. However, Los Angeles would call me back again by way of an offer from Dreamworks Animation to join the Art department. It was an amazing opportunity I couldn't pass up.
It was there that I was able to work on Penguins of Madagascar, Home, and Bollywood Monkey Superstar, allowing me the opportunity to work with Kevin Lima, which I loved. Unfortunately the project was shelved before production began, however the chance to design characters and Environments with such great Artists was exciting for me.
All of that really brings us up to now. After three and a half years at Dreamworks I'm now working at Paramount Studios. I'm involved with various projects and I'm also working with Locksmith Animation Studios in London, who have recently signed a deal with Paramount Studios.
How has your work day to day changed over the years?
I've reached a great point in my career where I'm confident enough to realize a design without struggling with too much of its technical details. There are times where I feel like a one man band, doing everything from initial design and modeling to the surfacing, texturing, Previz and lighting for both environments and characters. In many ways, I'm like a child again. I have control over any ideas and environments I can dream up.
I feel empowered and humbled to have worked so closely with some great Directors, Production Designers, and Story Artists.
Are there artists that influence you?
There is so much great artwork out there. I am constantly discovering new work by some really talented artists and that's a real inspiration for me. I still take a very childlike approach to art, so I take in all of my experiences and the people I meet with equal awe.
Lately it's been Production Designers, Art Directors, and my colleagues that have really been impressing and inspiring me. I'm still really moved by Renaissance art, but I also love attending events like CTN where I get to meet artists that are cranking out some incredible work.
What advice do you have for artists that are starting out?
If my travels and diverse experiences have taught me anything, it's that as artists we must always keep an open mind and be willing to learning new skills and techniques. No matter how much you think you know, there is always someone out there that can teach you something new.
An artist that's just starting out won't make it without equal parts perseverance and patience. It sounds trite, but there's no doubt that it's true. Artists have to be humble enough to explore many different avenues to grow their talent. This allows skills to really bloom and makes you much more employable as a result.
How do you find ways to balance keeping up with the technology and at the same time, study and expand your art skills/craft?
The foundation of success in this industry is being proactive, not reactive. That means that as artists we have an obligation to not only keep up with the new tools and technologies that are out there, but also stay one step ahead of the game by being innovative ourselves.
I'm always exploring tutorials online, reading industry publications, and attending events like CTN to stay on pace with everything. Participating in the courses offered by the Animation Guild has also really helped.
What do you find to be the best part of participating with CTN?
It's easy for artists to stay in and be too focused on what's on the computer screen. Events like CTN help me to see that making networking connections is just as important. There are so many great artists at this event. There's just no way that I would have ever been able to meet them if CTN had not created this community.
Concept sketches Ravinder Kundi did for his student film in Sheridan college. the left drawing was done in 2002 and in 2006 he picked this character again and did more exploration.
What has CTN brought to you as an artist?
It's great to see this community of established artists and new talent all get together in one place. I meet people at CTN that not only have great skill, but also tremendous drive and determination. I always leave feeling motivated.
How have you been involved with CTN?
Doing portfolio reviews at CTN has allowed me to give guidance to artists just starting out in the industry. I was fortunate to have some very influential people guide me when I was starting out, so it's wonderful to give back in the same way. As a community, artists are always advising and supporting each other, and I'm grateful to be a part of that. If I can just say even one small thing that helps or inspires someone to keep innovating and pursuing their dreams, I feel like I've done my part.
Thank you Ravinder for sharing your talent with us. For more information and to connect with Ravinder visit his CTN portal at http://membership.creativetalentnetwork.com/ravinder-kundi
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