Step into the wild world of Green Humour6 min readReading Time: 5 minutes
Narwhals discussing climate change, bats explaining man-animal conflict, fireflies urging you to go pollution-free this Diwali – welcome to the world of Rohan Chakravarty and his ‘wildly’ popular cartoon strip Green Humour.
The Nagpur-based wildlife cartoonist merges art and humour to spread the message of conservation, which has brought him recognition in India and overseas as well. Apart from his comic strip featuring in various publications, Rohan has worked with organisations such as WWF India, the Wildlife Trust of India, Pratham Books and the Save Our Seas, as well as with state forest departments.
Rohan caught up with Owliver to talk about his journey. Read on…
He studied to become a dentist before realising art was his passion. So what made him switch careers?
I’m from a small town, Nagpur, and when I was studying I didn’t think of art as a viable career option. People still don’t see art as a profession, so I happened to follow the rat race and joined a medicine course.
In the middle of the course, I decided to switch paths. I’d always been drawing cartoons, and I decided to practice and discover how this could lead to a career. After finishing dentistry, I took up animation – designing characters, stories, etc, and worked with a firm in Bengaluru for four years. During this time, I started to moonlight as a cartoonist, and started Green Humour. In 2014, I started to focus entirely on cartooning and building Green Humour.
How do the worlds of conservation and art come together?
Traditionally, there has always been a confluence between art and wildlife. Wildlife art has been a very prosperous branch of fine art. In the last decade, in my opinion, the time for fine art has gone now. Artists have had to go beyond just the beauty of the natural world.
I have always felt the need for wildlife art to evolve and involve or engage the viewer on different levels. I made a very conscious decision to take what already exists and take it to another level of communication. That’s why I chose cartooning. When I started out, there wasn’t much creative communication happening on this front. There was a huge knowledge gap between the layman and wildlife scientists – this is something I try to address through my work.
What is his process? He often discusses difficult subjects and breaks them down into engaging content for everyone.
To be honest, I don’t really have the audience in mind when I set out drawing my comics. It’s more a tool for me to grasp and retain things. What I draw has to first entertain, educate and engage me before I put it up for the world to see. And other people relate to it too.
Who are some of Rohan’s influences?
Charley Harper, Bill Watterson, RK Laxman, Satish Acharya and Gary Larson, McDonnell are some artists and cartoonists Rohan admires. Have a look at their work!
How has social media helped in spreading the message and in putting Green Humour on the map?
Though I’m not a big fan of being on social media, I can’t deny how much it has helped in popularising Green Humour. It has definitely opened my work to a very vast audience of all ages and backgrounds. It has also given me an international readership and the opportunity to collaborate with organisations abroad.
However, social media also has many perils – polarisation of opinions and information being misunderstood.
His brother is a wildlife scientist who specialises in bats. He also grew up around nature. How important is it for children to be around nature to become more compassionate and informed adults?
I don’t think it’s possible to live any other way now as the very collapse of the world is related to environmental issues. But exposing a child to nature doesn’t necessarily mean taking him/her to a forest or national park. That kind of education can start at home in backyards and gardens. Much to my dismay, there are children I know who can identify a random car but not a common bird that visits their balcony – this is something I want to change with my work.
“Exposing a child to nature doesn’t necessarily mean taking him/her to a forest or national park. That kind of education can start at home, in backyards and gardens”Rohan Chakravarty, Green Humour
What are some his biggest takeaways from the pandemic? Many have attributed the pandemic to growing man-animal interactions…
I think the existing parameters of growth are not conducive to tackling such pandemics. Current forms of governance and development don’t take well-being into account and that is something that needs to change. I’ve even drawn about it.
Any words of wisdom for our young readers who would like to take up art and cartooning?
Don’t let anyone stop you from day dreaming!
You can check out Rohan’s work under Green Humour on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or on his website. He is also regularly featured in newspapers like The Hindu and Mid-Day.
(Trailblazers 2.0 is a bi-monthly column that celebrates grown-ups who look at the world around them with wonder by charting their own unconventional paths with success)
Photos and comics: Rohan Chakravarty, Green Humour