Sishir stands in front of a piece of his artwork, hung on a plain cream wall. He wears a charcoal suitcoat, a light blue pinstripe dress shirt, and glasses. He's giving the viewer a thumbs up.
Sishir stands in front of a piece of his artwork, hung on a plain cream wall. He wears a charcoal suitcoat, a light blue pinstripe dress shirt, and glasses. He's giving the viewer a thumbs up.
MFA in Visual Studies
Freelance Illustrator
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Sishir Bommakanti makes visual narratives. He is a freelance illustrator from Minneapolis working in illustration, animation, 3D modeling and experimental visuals.

Which year did you graduate and what brought you to MCAD for your MFA? Could you speak a little bit about your background?

I am part of the class of 2018. I initially joined the program because I was at a point in my life where I had no discipline in my studio practice, and I felt no real foundation to the work I made. I focused on painting and illustration, and although I was confident in my skills and process, there was a lack of substance to the work I was producing. So it felt like the perfect time to go to school before my artistic practice fell out of favor completely. Of all the other programs I explored, I was drawn to the fact that the master of fine arts in visual studies program has both studio practice elements as well as a heavy critical theory element. The combination of the two allowed me to explore and improve my practice through the lens of writing and build discipline in my studio.

How did your art change while you were at MCAD?

I initially wished to pursue a career in illustration. However, during my experimentations and critiques over the course of two years, I discovered that instead of becoming a commercial illustrator, I wanted to infuse my illustration and painting with a practice of worldbuilding and mythology. My thesis is a good example of looking at world events through a mythological lens. I also learned animation and 3D in the middle of my program, independent from my thesis. This was just in its experimental phases of learning and practicing the technicalities of rendering and modeling within a 3D digital space. After I got to the point of confidence with this newfound practice, I started applying the same practices I learned during my MFA, so I can now build it into another substantial path. Currently my body of work is split into two parts. The first part is traditional Illustration, using topographic narratives to build a series of manuscript- like illustrations. The second part is 3D animation, which allows me to pursue the more absurd and comical elements of my practice.

How has your work evolved since your time at MCAD?

The biggest thing that changed during the program was my approach and attitude. The program allowed me to build confidence in my work again. Before the program, approaching an idea, project, animation, painting or whatever was a daunting task because I would approach it in a reactive manner. This would result in massive trial and error. I learned the value of research and planning, and that allowed me to approach things in a more technical manner. That said, I always balance this with sketchbook-based and digital experiments.

What is next? Any new projects or jobs that are in the pipeline?

2020 was not a good year, as I lost my job along with many others due to the pandemic. I used that year to really build up and ramp up my animation portfolio and also learn game development, music and audio engineering. I had a lot of time on my hands and aside from a few freelance projects, I solely focused on animation. I was fortunate to get my old position back just very recently. So once I’m able to recuperate, I am planning on investing in resources to improve my animation process. Although I love illustration, I find myself becoming more of a director. I’m planning on making more surreal animations and potentially learning game design so I can build multiple levels and interactive narratives.

You donated work for the MCAD Art Sale to support our MFA 2020 Fund, which benefits future Black, Indigenous, and People of Color MFA students – thank you! What motivated you to contribute to this scholarship effort?

If my work’s value can be of benefit to a positive cause, I would much rather donate my work to help that cause.