Illustrator Ardhira Putra talks enjoying the creative process, accepting change, and working on Epik High's 'Super Rare'

Illustrator Ardhira Putra talks enjoying the creative process, accepting change, and working on Epik High's 'Super Rare'

It was a couple of days before 2021 drew to a close and just when he thought that the year couldn't bring in any more surprises, Ardhira Putra got a Twitter message from someone he never expected—Epik High's Tablo

"I checked [my phone] and I got a DM from Tablo, he wanted to speak to me about commissioning an animation. At that point, I thought it was a scam so I checked his profile and got really shocked, like 'oh this is real'," said the Indonesian illustrator, sharing how he and his wife were big fans of the Korean hip-hop trio. 

"I told my wife about this and she literally cried. We're really into Korean pop culture; I watched a lot of Korean movies and my wife has been listening to Epik High since college. It was all like a big dream."

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After getting over the initial shock, Ardhira quickly got to work creating the art music video for Epik High's 'Super Rare' off their latest album Epik High Is Here下 (Part 2).

Given full creative freedom, the Singapore-based artist translated the meaningful track—which talks about authenticity in the time of virality—into his vivid art style that takes inspiration from old school Japanese cartoons and retro MTV music videos.

"There was no visual direction at that time, he just liked some of the animations I did on Instagram. I read the lyrics and tried to understand what the song was about, I came out with a simple storyboard and a rough coloured and sent it to him," said Ardhira. 

While the creative process was seamless and simple, only expected to do what he usually does, Ardhira couldn't help but feel nervous collaborating with one of his favourite musicians. Interpreting the song in more ways than one, the artist made sure to be authentically himself despite everything else.

"I was really nervous at that time because the responsibility was bigger, Epik High is really big. So, I read the lyrics and I tried to overcome my fear and just be myself so that I can bring authenticity into my work," he shared. 

"I really respect Tablo as well, he didn't push me to do anything. [His message] was really comforting, he did not give me any pressure and gave me full creative freedom. I didn't even have to change my style, he supported me to do just be myself. That's a precious moment to me," he added. 

Describing his journey through art as a giant chain of events, 'Super Rare' comes as the latest domino to topple over in Ardhira's art career. 

Since creating his own band posters and magazine covers on DeviantArt in 2010, the artist has been pursuing his passion for illustration while combining it with his deep-rooted love for music, starting with an animation he created for Barefood, an independent band based in Jakarta. 

"I used to work in a motion graphic production company and I felt that I didn't want to do commercial work so I just started practising my own illustration style and some animation. Then, my friend asked me if I was interested in creating an animated for Barefood," he shared. 

"There was no budget at that time so I was purely supporting friends. I created a motion graphic for the melody guitar scene. I had pure freedom and I created whatever that I liked, so I put in my 100%, I went all out."

From there, Ardhira's art career only grew bigger. He got invited to do participate in the Singaporean art exhibition Giffest, did a commission for Tiger Beer, got recognised by one of his favourite acts Macross 82-99, created album covers and vinyl sleeves for the likes of Yung Bae and DJ Didilong, and so on.

"I think the most important thing is ‘creating what you love’ or ‘freedom in creation'. It's always been my number one [rule] and also the very first trigger for this journey, I'm grateful," he said. 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Ardhira Putra (@ardhiraputra)

Ardhira's art style is a culmination of his childhood favourite games, cartoons, and movies. From Japanese cartoons to vintage Nintendo games, his recognisable brand of art is embellished with tinges of nostalgia, old school pop references, and retro music. 

"My style is like stepping back in time with a combination of ’80s and ’90s graphic design and poppy colour palettes, with nostalgic references to boomboxes and cassette tapes," he described.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Ardhira Putra (@ardhiraputra)

Taking us through his creative process, Ardhira shared that he sets the artistic mood by creating a vision board of everything that inspires him, be it comic books, movies, or random images he finds online. Armed with everything on his trusty workstation adorned with old school Game Boys and Japanese art books, he gets to work, creating a magical and colourful world. 

Following 'Super Rare', Ardhira is looking to embark on bigger projects and have his art reach people all over the world. In his most recent adventure, he dived into the NFT space where he's been creating vibrant pieces to share in a whole new way. 

"I think it's one of the best artist communities that I've ever had, I never seem artists really support other artists [in such a massive way] in this space. It's really happening on Twitter; now I know a lot of new artists in different genres and we become friends. It's been a wonderful journey so far," said Ardhira who's has been selling his art on the Ethereum-based NFT marketplace Foundation.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Ardhira Putra (@ardhiraputra)

"As a digital artist, I think the NFT scene is like a dream. I've always accepted new things with positivity, I like how the space supports artists, and how artists support each other. There are some issues like NFTs not being environment friendly, but I believe it's because it just started—the platform is always evolving to find better solutions," he added.

"What really amazed me about this space is that a lot of digital artists can go independent and they really can survive financially by creating art. It's really amazing and it never happened back then."

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Ardhira Putra (@ardhiraputra)

When asked if had any advice for aspiring illustrators, Ardhira shared a line from Epik High's 'Super Rare'.

No fun left in all these trending things
Now everybody famous, empty branding
Fame easily earned and hashtag galore 
But not one says #rare

"Everything in the world moves really faster—technology, art, trends—but you have to still respect the process in every creation. Every artist has their own pace, so it's really okay to take it slow and enjoy every moment of the process. The longer you do the process, the greater results come," said Ardhira.