Welcome to our new series Youngerworld: Born Digi, profiling rising artists who've yet to don a graduate cap.
3D illustrator and animator Harry Bhalerao has been on our radar since we caught a delightful piece by him reminding Brits to get out and vote in the last UK election.
Turns out, his fuzzy, textured art has been on the radar for a lot of other people, including big names like John Bond, Dan Woodger and Cabeza Patata. Remarkably though Harry's yet to graduate from his BA Illustration course at Arts University Bournemouth, and as such is a great choice to begin our new series profiling sensational students in art and design.
We'll be casting our net far and wide for these features, so those studying in and out of the UK can drop us an email if interested.
For now we start with Harry, who thoughtfully answered our questions and sent over great examples of his already distinctive portfolio. Each of the little animals, humanoids and aliens he creates can already be identified as a 'Bhalerao character' in much the same way one can recognise a Burgerman or a Sachs. Don't believe us? Check out Harry's work below or gawp at more on Instagram.
How has your style changed since starting your studies?
"All of my background is in 2D drawing and a little animation, and that’s what I saw myself doing when I began the course – until I decided to learn 3D in Blender over the Christmas break in 2018.
"Since then, my work has become almost entirely 3D, and I’ve developed a love for a textured look, reminiscent of old stop motion."
What does a typical day look like for you? Do you get a lot of time for personal work among course work?
"Because of the open nature of the course, I have the freedom to choose what I am doing most days. Often I will tend towards creating personal work every day (sometimes to the detriment of my grades), but I do manage to finish university projects in-between things."
Does your course every put an emphasis on self-promotion online?
"There isn’t so much emphasis put on it, at least in what I’ve done so far, but the tutors are always available to give us advice on it if we need it."
Do you post course work on social?
"I do sometimes if I’m happy with the results, but most of my feed tends to personal work."
Do your peers 'hustle' a lot on social too?
"I think a lot of us realise how vital a social media presence can be for breaking out in the industry, and most people are active in posting their work to social media. One of my course mates has also already begun a successful freelance career from a follower count in the millions across social media for her art."
Is it hard to balance studies with social media?
"Often yes, since there is a pressure to always be making new work to post online rather than coursework, but I think there is a symbiotic relationship between the two, and both inform and improve each other."
How does it feel to already be followed by big names before you've even graduated?
"I think it’s great that platforms like Instagram allow connections between newcomers and established names in the industry, and it’s wonderful and very surreal that many people who’s work I’m inspired and influenced by are interested in seeing what I am making too.
"Being able to talk to and learn from so many great people is a real privilege, and I'm very grateful for it."
When did you notice your following spike?
"It was around August last year. I had been posting every day or every other day for about 10 months, and for some reason my rate of growth suddenly spiked, and has been growing exponentially ever since.
"I’d like to think it was because of a refinement and improvement in my work, but I really have no idea why."
What about your art do you think appeals online?
"I think a lot of what I create feels novel but also nostalgic, and it’s a way of approaching 3D art that feel fresh.
"As long as there is a barrier to entry to learning 3D software, there is an instant appeal to the appearance of complexity in creating something 3D (despite how simple it can be), and that is probably an element of my success."
What do you think your future will hold, and will your social following have any say in it?
"I’m hoping that I will be able to have a somewhat successful and stable freelance career, and since so far all of my success has been a direct or indirect result of having a reasonable following online, I’m sure it will continue to help."
Some artists go straight from personal work to making their name popular online, skipping art school in-between. I wonder why did you decide to do a course – and do you think it remains a good decision?
"My experience of the way art is taught in the UK at A-Level didn’t really prepare me or give me any knowledge of the way artists actually work for a living, and I didn’t even know if was possible.
"After A-Levels I didn’t have any idea about what I actually wanted to do with my art, so I decided to do the 1 Year Art Foundation course at AUB, and then specialise in Illustration for a degree. Without this, I don’t think I would have the knowledge and understanding of how it’s possible for somebody to actually pay the rent and create art at the same time.
"I’m sure it’s possible for some people to succeed without going to art school, but the structure and environment of a university has really helped."
Youngerworld: Born Digi will continue soon on Digital Arts with more digitally native stars in the making.