Babrus Khan never excelled in his academics. He was constantly bullied throughout his school era and was sort of a socially awkward person in college. Furthermore, some family problems and financial issues forced him to leave his education and find a job instead. Today, he is one of the top visual artists and animators of Pakistan. By the age of 21, Babrus Khan “The Babman” was awarded the Youngest Art Director of Pakistan. Babrus is considered a pioneer in 3D animation in Pakistan, for being an animator of Commander Safeguard. Moreover, he has a lot of other impressive achievements and work under his belt. He has worked as a concept artist, art director and a digital artist at different points in his career. We recently got a chance to talk with him about his art and life, what he had to say was quite interesting. Read on and see for yourself!
Q1. TechJuice: You have a unique little name. What’s the story behind your name ‘Babman’?
Babrus is actually one of the many versions of the name of a Persian strategist, Babrak. People are often curious about my name, I tell them yes, it’s my real name and yes, I’m a Muslim. In fact, there was a very good friend of mine who asked about my real name from another mutual friend, after an entire year of us knowing each other.
I’m a big fan of the Batman universe. One day I just randomly posted a tweet in which I referred to myself as The Babman, the name has stuck with me since then. Now everywhere I go people recognize me as The Babman.
Q2. TechJuice: Tell us a little about your early life. Were you always a star child?
In my school years I was sort of a loser kid with not-so-good grades. I was constantly bullied. The worst part was that the kid who bullied me was a star child and a teachers’ favorite so there was nothing I could do about it. As I got into college, I was a relatively silent person, and people often mistook that for a guy with an attitude. My interests didn’t align with other in my peer group.
Q3. TechJuice: You started working at a very young age, what circumstances led up to that?
Just around the time when my second year at college was about to end, I quit my education due to some family problems and started working at the age of 17.
The only thing I loved was drawing and playing video games. Back in those days, the information was limited and so was the Internet access. I, initially, had no clue about the career possibilities that matched my interests. Fortunately, I wasn’t lost and the doors opened up for me, one at a time, and I worked my way through different stages.
In my late teens, I heard about game engines, it sounded interesting so I researched it further.I came across a free game engine which I used to make my own version of the Pacman game in which a ninja was stealing data from an office. My friends liked the game a lot.
Later, my cousin helped me land an internship at an advertising agency. They used to provide equipment and people to shoot advertisements. The footage was then cleaned and forwarded to big production houses. During my free time there I used to take 3D Studio Max tutorials. One day my manager offered me a project on an advertisement that was rejected. I worked on it and the results were good enough to impress the two major production houses of the country at the time. I got a job offer from one of them and I said yeas. On the new job I often doodled in my spare time while the long process of 3D rendering went on. My boss was just passing by one day when he saw my doodles and told me that my potential would be better utilized among the artists of the company. So I moved into 2D art design section. The rest is history.
In short, I didn’t really plan for any of this. I just tried to make the best of my time and abilities and one thing always led to another.
Q5. TechJuice: Is your family supportive of you work? Have they always been so?
It’s often hard for anyone to convince the parents that one wants to become an artist. Although my family is quite liberal, they didn’t really understand my interests and choices. They had concerns, since I was not a very bright child, that I wouldn’t ever find the path to success. Things are much better now that I’ve proven myself and am supporting my family. My dad who once used to criticize me for reading novels and comics, is now a bit more accepting of my interests. In fact, our conversations now even include him asking me things like the release date for the next Spider-Man movie.
Q6. TechJuice: Do you ever regret not continuing your education?
(Babrus goes silent for a while and looks lost in deep thought before he continues) I have mixed feelings about this matter. School for me was always an intimidating place because of the bullying and my troubles with academics so I was a bit relieved to be out that environment.
On the other hand, when I visit art institutes like Indus Valley and NCA, and I look at all those students paying to get formal training in arts I get a bit sad over how I never got to be a part of all that.
I’m still not sure if leaving my education was a good thing or a bad. I did get a head-start and some extra years of experience as compared to my age fellows by diving into the professional world at an early time. Today, I visit the top arts schools of Pakistan to conduct workshops and be a part of the jury for art contests, so that’s something! Meanwhile, that doesn’t mean I don’t have occasional wishful thoughts about how I could’ve gotten a proper education.
Q7. TechJuice: You’re apparently a huge fan of Manga and Anime. What is it you like so much about them?
I like their use of expression, these genres are not confined. Whereas the Western Media is targeted towards younger audience so it’s quite limited and doesn’t dare touch the more sensitive themes.
Asian artists are mostly experimental in their art. I love their whacky sci-fi themes, which might seem ridiculous but are in fact backed with great concepts. I love how sci-fi artists have a theory behind their work. One of my favorite series is Blame! It is a sci-fi based 66 books.The main story is about Japan in some future era where the entire city is automated the entire city with A.I. robots. All the robots of the city are linked with one frame in a huge tower in the middle of city. A bug somehow enters the mainframes and the the machines randomly start building things. This results in construction of totally separated worlds on the top of each other. It’s totally fascinating.
Q8. TechJuice: Name an artist that is an inspiration of yours?
Tsutomu Nihei, he is a Japanese artist. Most popularly known for his series Blame!, the manga that we were just talking about.
Q9. TechJuice: What is your opinion about popular Pakistani comic artists out there?
I support the art and artists of Pakistan. However, I’m a bit disappointed by the lack of understanding of comics in Pakistan. People need to know that a comic is more than just a caricature or a meme, it’s a whole separate genre and a phenomenon. I remember when I worked with Kachee Goliyan on a comic book and we went to a university to hand out some copies of it. People literally came up to me and asked, “How are we supposed to read this thing?”
Q10. TechJuice:Something that you always carry around with you/ Do you sketch out your idea on a paper first or do you directly work with a graphic tablet?
I used to draw with 2B and 4B pencils on A4 or A3 sized sheets mostly. That was just the ideal size and medium for scribbling and making comic thumbnails to blow up later. I also used to draw on tissue papers napkins (tissue papers)a lot. I saved the napkin art I liked and scanned them on to Photoshop to digitally draw over them.
Now a days, I mostly carry a clutch pencil around with me. Since line art is my forte, a clutch pencil is the tool of my choice because it allows me to be precise.
Q11. TechJuice: Let’s talk about your love of Chai (Tea).
My deep love for chai started out very subtly. I remember when we used to work for hours straight and all we needed was something to snack/sip on by our side. Chai was our trusty companion. Later, I was a part of this company where me and my co-workers would stay at the office for weeks (without heading home), working on our projects. Chai dhabas was the place we went for a break and to socialize, back then. Karachi is actually famous for its abundance of tea stalls, you’d find them at every corner. Chai dhabas to us was what coffee shops are to the Westerns. It was the spot to hang out with friends on a daily basis. The good old dhabas were there for us even at the late hours of night, when we had to stay up for work.
Before I knew it, chai became an important part of my daily life, a thing that I can’t even imagine missing now.
Q12. TechJuice: What is your advice for aspiring young Pakistani artists?
- People are often intimidated by tools and softwares. I want them to know that they’re not scary; anyone can get a hang of them with a little practice and a few tutorials.
- Moving forward, I’d like to emphasize on the fact that it is not just about the softwares and the drawing, anyone can master those. The important thing is giving your characters a personality and a story to actually bring them to life.
- Another important thing for young artists is for them to learn how to decipher their observations. This is also one of the main things I focus on during my workshops.
- One more thing I’d like to share here is that when I was young, the comic book superheroes used to be my heroes, I looked up to them and their powers. For example the real power of the Green Lantern was his ability to “will” his way forward, focus on a solution, and find the courage to act in the face of fear. I really admired that.As I grew older, the artists who created those superheroes became my true heroes and inspiration. It is a wonderful thing when the audience can related to the artist’s experiences and feelings. This can only be achieved if an artist is able to honestly translate and incorporate his experiences into his work.
Q13. TechJuice: What made you decide to move to Lahore?
I had never been to Lahore before but my boss (of that time) convinced me to move here. He said that the change would be good for me and I was thinking of it as a break from all the things going on in my life.
As I was on the train to Lahore, I got a message asking me if I was interested in game design, of course I was. Then I was told that the only issue coming between us working together was that their setup was in Lahore. Fortunately, I was already on my way!
Q14. TechJuice: How is Lahore treating you?
People of Lahore are very warm and welcoming. The night life here in Lahore is almost non-existent when compared to Karachi, which is a good thing when it comes to office hours. On the downside my friends here rarely agree to late night meet-up plans. Moreover, I like cold weather and this was the first time I got to enjoy the winter season properly. Overall, I’m enjoying my experience here in Lahore a lot.
Q15. TechJuice: Do you feel that your options limited professionally in Pakistan?
Au contraire, Pakistan is a good place to be for an artist. Everything is just starting here. If you’re good at what you do you get a lot of appreciation. While abroad, the industry is very saturated. With all the recognition comes responsibility and it might feel burdening at times. For instance the other day, a person came up and quoted my own words (that I had said at another workshop) back to me. That was a bit scary for me, I realized that people actually look up to me and that I have to be more responsible about what I say and do.
Q16. TechJuice: Shall we talk about you fan-following now. Female fans
(Babrus laughs at the question) I think that more than half of my Facebook page fans probably joined in in hope of getting personalized artwork to set up as their DPs (profile pictures). Don’t get me wrong, I am honored and overwhelmed by the love and dedication many fans have shown over the years. It’s just that some people think that since I’m an artist it’s a piece of cake for me to fulfill their little artwork requests.
As for the female dilemma, I have no idea as to where it started from but I have some bad stalker issues right now. Once a fan-girl sent me a friend request with the message, “Franship or Death!”. I chose friendship naturally, since I value my life. (laughs)
Q17. TechJuice: What are your plans for the future?
Right now my dream is to have a team of good individuals, with whom I can explore territories. I don’t want my drawing to confine me as an artist. I want to work with a variety of mediums. There are far few books that can actually change you. There are far few songs that can actually levitate you. I want to be able to produce work of that level that would move people.
I believe in letting the life goal be so ridiculously big, that even if you die trying, everyday would seem as an achievement to others.