‘Digital Brush: CGI Magician’ I am featured in this month’s TempoMagazine.
Read the full article below by Sanah Chauhan:
Only the sky is the limit for 39-year-old Ashraf Ghori! Artist, animation director and CEO of Xpanse CGIin Dubai, Ashraf is originally from India but has lived in Dubai for most of his life.
After getting his graphic design degree from Houston, Texas, Ashraf honed his craft through his work in 3D animation in the USA and the UAE. While in the USA, Ashraf created comic books and worked as a caricature artist for Six Flags Astroworld in Houston. In the UAE Ashraf worked as illustrator for ‘Young Times’ for about 10 years and later designed laser shows for events in the UAE. Ashraf’s digital artwork appeared in publications in the Middle East, the USA and India, and his first short film ‘Xero Error’ is the UAE’s first CGI sci-fi film. Equipped with all that knowledge, Ashraf decided in 2007 to set up his digital design studio, Xpanse CGI in Dubai.
During the early 90’s Ashraf was involved in comic book illustration and fantasy art, heavily influenced by the work of some great artists like Simon Bisley, Frank Frazetta, Barry Windsor-Smith and James Jean. Then games like ‘Mechwarrior 2′ came on to the scene and motivated him to try his hand at 3D animation. Even today, he continues to draw inspiration from comic books, sci-fi and fantasy art, movies and games.
“I’ve always been extremely inspired by the old Marvel and DC comics. The colourful characters jump out at me and have compelled me to create my own. The original Tron is another early inspiration and perhaps the reason I got into 3D,” says Ashraf.
“What I do can probably be divided into two halves: the artist and the entrepreneur” says Ashraf. As business owner he is used to long working hours at Xpanse CGI . Xpanse handles design projects related to websites, animation, TV commercials and film. “I am involved in both the creative side as well as managing the administrative activities of Xpanse. In fact you would find me frequenting cafes in Dubai for my meetings.”
As artist, Ashraf implements some of the projects at Xpanse. Among them is FOBcity, an irreverent web comic series that depicts the shenanigans of a group of expat friends living in an Arab country.
The Creative Process
When asked about the process of creating new characters, Ashraf replies, “Every character begins its life cycle on paper. I either write out a character bio or start sketching out my ideas.” An example of his work is FOBcity characters who were first conceived in a script, and then developed extensively as the storyline developed. Ashraf says he chose their looks to match their personalities. “I’m sure they will develop further as they are realized into 3D characters as well.”
Besides FOBcity, Ashraf has worked on other projects that include two short films and two graphic novels.
“Tempus” is an experimental short film, and is his second role as director. The film incorporates live action and computer generated imagery. Currently in production, it is slated for release in April at Gulf Film Festival 2013.
“The Shortcut” is another short animation, which is in pre –production stage. It is aimed for release later next year, possibly at Dubai International Film Festival 2013.
“Antar” and “Shakspur” are the two graphic novels Ashraf is currently working on. Antar features the story of the warrior and poet from ancient Arabia, while Shakspur was co-written with George Hopkin. It may seem like Ashraf already has a lot on his plate but he doesn’t seem to think so. “I also want to work on a children’s story book for which I am open to collaboration,” he says.
Ashraf’s advice to aspiring graphic artists and animators is, “Hard work pays off! There are no shortcuts to it. You have to pay your dues if you’re in the demanding business of creativity. A designer or animator is only as good as his or her portfolio. It is challenging to deliver great stuff all the time and meet client expectations, but keep at it and practice often to learn and improve.”
Join me at The American Corner of Al Hosn University in Abu Dhabi on Monday December 9th at 4 PM as I’m invited to speak about my personal learning experiences as an Artist / Director in the UAE and in the USA.
I will be sharing insights about my initiatives, screening a few videos, talking about creating comics and animations followed by a Q&A session.