A bunny in a hoodie, a lion wearing a full armor set, and a suited up gorilla – these are just a few of the many furry creations by Mark Viraj. Aside from the wacky subjects, this Sri Lanka-based artist has grabbed our attention with detailed technique and excellent color compositions. In this week’s On The Spot, we delve deeper into Mark Viraj’s method to find out how his imaginative creatures come to live.
Where do you live and what does your studio look like?
I’m presently based in Colombo which operates as the capital of Sri Lanka. My studio is a little room in my house, with a big desk, a computer, a tablet, a collection of art on the walls, and of course, a few miniature indoor plants. I love working in this space and never get weary of it.
Are you a professional or a self-taught artist?
Since I haven’t been in art school long enough to be able to say my abilities were developed there, I would personally define myself as a self-taught artist.
At first, all of this was supposed to be only a pastime, but eventually, people wanted to compensate me for my work. Of course, I did consider pursuing an art degree – but everyone seemed to enjoy my work already, so I opted to forgo the curriculum in favor of developing my own aesthetic and method. While it might not be the simplest or best approach, it is my approach.
Why (and when) did you decide to become an artist?
Art has always piqued my curiosity. The first time I began drawing more regularly was in primary school. Even back then, I was sketching animals everywhere – they have always been my favorites. My passion grew further when I acquired my first tablet, and being able to sketch in a digital format was a significant shift for me.
I shared my work online and as a result, I joined some online communities and started putting my tries there. I received a lot of helpful advice and criticism, which encouraged me to continue. Then I developed an interest in selling my artworks, so I began producing pieces on commission. This has led me down a new road: from now on, I focused on being a real, full-time artist, and I was certain that this would be my career.
What does your typical day look like?
Most days, I have my activities planned in advance. As a result, I don’t have much time left for other pursuits and just spend most of my days making commission pieces.
Every day, I explore some art albums and go through other artists’ Instagram posts in an effort to look a little deeper and remain open to what’s happening in the art world. My study topics fluctuate according to what I currently believe I need to become better at – whether it be anatomy, colors, etc. – and I then typically produce quick sketches. Once I’m done, I move to other ongoing tasks and attend to my print shop orders.
How do you create your art? Do you use AI?
There are generally four stages of my method: research, sketching, building, and detailing.
When I get an idea, I first write it down, look for references, and then check them. I have to consider a lot of different things, because I primarily create anthropomorphic animal art – animals with human traits.
Second, I utilize Pro Create or AI-generated inspiration to sketch out the artwork’s structure. Using AI as a tool saves me a lot of time these days. Then I experiment with the topic and run it through AI once more to achieve the vision I need, after which I choose 10 to15 photographs (sometimes more, depending on how many I need for my main work), and combine them in Photoshop to create the final composition.
The image is then divided into smaller parts, and each component is carefully examined once again. I fix any particular flaws and usually add further detail, texture, and Photoshop modification. The final stage is general color adjusting.
Most of the time, depending on the level of quality I aim for, these processes take from 2 days up to a full week to accomplish. I never know what I’m going to get when I start – I simply go with the flow!
What are your biggest inspirations?
I am mostly inspired by animals and the world of nature, but I am also quite interested in mythological creatures as well as some random thoughts that cross my mind occasionally and are excellent enough to be turned into an artwork. A lot of my work also incorporates recommendations from the community. The finest experiments should always be maintained, and whatever works, should be tweaked!
Do you think it’s hard to be an artist?
I definitely wouldn’t describe it as impossible. The biggest challenge comes down to the amount of time and perseverance one needs to qualify as an artist.
So it’s not really challenging, more time-consuming. Many individuals never get to the point where they can be called artists. To put it in simple terms, they often get demoralized and turn to chase anything else but art.
Do you have any other hobbies besides art?
I enjoy resting, taking nature walks, watching movies, and playing video games. Or I just chill and listen to music.
What are your artistic plans for the future?
I want to continue producing content, refining my style, and taking on tougher challenges. Mythical character creation is something I’m particularly passionate about right now, but eventually, I’d like to go into 3D modeling and animation. It’s only healthy to pursue your ambitions, so I’m trying to think optimistically.