Gradwatch 2023: Neha Viswanath, Arts University Bournemouth

Illustrator and animator Neha Viswanath was chosen as part of our annual Gradwatch showcase, where we celebrate the next generation of talent in the creative industries

Taking inspiration from childhood, illustrator and animator Neha Viswanath has developed a colourful style packed full of intricate linework and expressive characters. Adopting a playful, whimsical tone, Viswanath’s work explores themes of nostalgia, solitude, mythology.

Viswanath studied illustration at Arts University Bournemouth and the course allowed her to explore an array of different approaches. “It was a very fun, contemporary course that really let us explore all possibilities within illustration, whether that be 3D modelling, animation, print etc,” says the illustrator. 

“I personally surprised myself on the course, discovering in my final year that animation was something I was very interested in and spent my time animating music videos, something I never knew I would enjoy.”   

These videos take the form of vivid, 2D animation and provide Viswanath with the opportunity to demonstrate her skills not only in animation but also in storytelling. One nugget of advice that has helped the creative in her work overall has been to “keep sketching, don’t stop at the first good thumbnail, and keep experimenting”. This has been especially useful in animation where Viswanath has made a point of playing around with different angles, perspectives and ideas. 

Other highlights for Viswanath have been a poetry book called Capsule, in which she had to illustrate the cover and ten spreads. “Being in a professional environment, communicating with the publisher and the author was an insightful experience and I really enjoyed it,” she says. 

Making new work and trying new things is one of the biggest pressures that comes with graduating but Viswanath is keen to keep up the same pace. “Being constantly surrounded by creative people at university makes it easier to stay inspired,” she reflects.

“I will need to make an effort now that university is over, to find spaces with creative people and take more initiative to stay creating even when I don’t feel like it.” 

The positive impact of being surrounded by her peers and fellow creatives came to light when Viswanath started university during the pandemic. Thankfully she only lost a year of in-person learning, but her second year opened up the possibility of events, networking and sitting side by side with friends.

“I definitely noticed a leap in my work once I was able to go into the studios in person and surround myself with other illustrators,” she says. “But I was lucky enough to be confined in a house full of creatives during the pandemic, and we all did our bit to motivate each other.” 

Ultimately Viswanath’s dream is to support herself financially entirely through her creative work, and the hope will be to do this via commercial and editorial work. “I’d like to create playful animations for well recognised clients and hopefully find freelance projects that align with my interests and what I enjoy drawing,” she says.