This Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we asked five teachers from the Skillshare community to identify a word of personal significance from their culture and create new artwork based on that word. We invite you to experience these powerful introspections in our month-long series and celebrate these creatives by learning more about their respective backgrounds.

Discover how a word, a memory, a tradition can manifest into something uniquely meaningful for each individual — and maybe even spark your own idea along the way.

Meet Smitesh Mistry

Smitesh Mistry is an illustrator, designer, and creative style chameleon who can create simple, hand-drawn animations as expertly as abstract, brightly-colored scenes that convey deeper themes. In our conversation, Smitesh touches on the intersection of food, family, and culture and welcomes us in by sharing a dinner table tradition. 

What word did you choose to animate for this project and why?

My chosen word is ‘chai.’ Chai is an Indian Masala tea which I grew up drinking. Being Gujarati, there is a traditional way that chai is made, and it has always been associated with family and a way of bringing us all together. This drink was always present in my household and constantly offered to guests and family when they came over. Chai was one of the staples I was taught to make along with other foods like roti (Indian bread) and daal (lentils). 

Why did you want to animate ‘chai’ in this way?

I chose to animate a cup of chai being poured from a height and, then, seeing the drink sipped away. I kept the animation fairly simple as it relates nicely to my Skillshare class, Hand-Drawn Animation: The Beginner’s Guide to Animating with Procreate. My color palette is from the Indian flag: green, white, and orange. The reason for choosing the textured background and moving texture within the chai was firstly because I teach this in my class, but secondly, I feel texture is a huge part of the Indian culture from the intricate patterns and embroidery on Sari paired with the silk material to the constant in textures within Indian cuisine.

How has your heritage influenced your creative process and style?  

Coming from an Indian background, colour has always been an important part of my style — incorporating many colours into my illustrations and animations. I take heavy inspiration from Indian clothing like Sari and Indian sweets as they are both extremely colourful. With regard to my creative process, it always starts with a story and [it’s] visually very rough and loose, but as I get deeper into any piece of art I create, it always ends with the intricate detail which ties the piece together. This intricate detail has been inspired by the craftsmanship that goes into creating sculptures and architecture within the Indian temples and furniture. 

Join Smitesh in Class!

Hand-Drawn Animation: The Beginner’s Guide to Animating with Procreate

About the author

Evan Neuhoff (he/they) is a non-binary Filipino-American writer living in Houston, Texas. Evan writes at the intersection of gender and racial identity, generational trauma, and the queer experience.