Udara Chinthaka works as a digital artist, illustrator, and matte painter for games and websites. He lives and works in Colombo, Sri Lanka. His website is udarachinthaka.com.
You’re from Sri Lanka: Tell us about the tradition of science fiction/fantasy art and illustration in Sri Lanka. Does it have a flavor that is distinct from art and illustration coming out of India or elsewhere in South Asia? How would you describe the difference?
Sri Lanka has a rich heritage of art and culture strongly influenced by our neighbor India. Ancient Lanka was influenced by different forms of art from different eras of Indian history and therefore a lot of it still remains in our art styles. One can find the influence of Indian art in Sri Lankan art, from colour to brush strokes. However, Sri Lankan art has a tendency to show more subtle blends in colour tones, as opposed to the harsh brightness in colour found in Indian art. Indian art is known to feature more tones of red, whereas Sri Lankan art tends to blend in shades of brown to make the colour schemes seem more neutral. In addition, with the numerous invasions by nations such as the Dutch and Portuguese, Sri Lankan art has been strongly influenced by cultures other than India and evolved to blend in all these cultures.
Many of the characters in your work feature super-deformed dimensions on the characters, yet they look very different from Japanese super-deformed anime/manga characters. Are you consciously trying to achieve a different look and is this part of a larger Sri Lankan/South Asian traditional of drawing?
My work is mainly based in historical and contemporary Sri Lankan styles of art. I spent my childhood watching anime, manga, and cartoons, including Japanese examples. However, my style wasn’t directly influenced by the Japanese styles. I am consciously trying to achieve my own style of illustration while blending in the color schemes of my country’s heritage.
What about the issue of race in your works? Western viewers who are used to seeing only Western and Japanese illustration might look at the characters in works like the girl in the red dress in Evil Soul and the scientist with the frog in New Species and glance over them assuming they are white, when in fact, on closer examination, they appear to be of South Asian heritage. Do you consciously consider the race of your characters when you draw them? Or does it depend on the project?
I do not tend to use color differentiation in skin tone to define the race of the characters I paint. That said, my art generally portrays the people of the region of Asia that I am from, as I was raised with a strong sense of Sinhalese culture here in Sri Lanka.
The character in Evil Soul was necessarily South Asian because this piece was specifically portraying a character who still engages in ancient Sri Lankan folkloric magical traditions, as are still practiced in rural parts of my country. In New Species, I tried to emphasize the more cartoonish side of my work. That is the reason for the somewhat brighter skin tone. Also, I think that my childhood spent watching Warner Brothers and Loony Tunes cartoons seeps in in unintentional assumptions about what color schemes to use to represent human skin when working in a cartoon style.
It is clear from your work that you are not afraid to interject wild color schemes into your work. Several of your works are blue and orange, a color combination that sounds garish on paper, but creates a sense of vibrancy and excitement in the actual works. It seems almost like you are saying, “What is the most unlikely color scheme I can think of and how can I make it work?” Are these color challenges that you throw at yourself, just to see if you can do it?
I do not consciously plan out a specific color theme, but just go with the flow of my thoughts and get drowned in my art. As I continue to work on a piece, I start to understand what points in the piece I want to emphasize. I will often use an unusual color to draw the viewer’s eye toward that area of the piece and make sure it stands out from the rest.
A large part of your work is images for younger viewers. Were these projects for games, books, or other products for younger players?
My work does not specifically target a certain audience, it is more an expression of what I watch, see, imagine and am drawn towards personally.
What were some of your early visual influences as a child?
My childhood was spent watching a lot of animation. Warner Bros, MGM, and Disney played key roles in my life. I was enthralled by the physical processes of creation of this animation.
What sorts of projects are you working on presently?
I work on designing landscapes and characters for games, matte painting for websites, and other aspects of digital design for a leading design company called We Are Designers in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
What is your dream project?
To one day be part of a world-renowned team of artists working on a feature film animation production.
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