Interview with Quasi Yasin Billah
Exploring Animation and the Meaning of Home with Artist Quasi Yasin Billah
Quazi Yasin Billah, the cover artist for the 4th issue of Entheoscope Magazine, is a New York-based graphic designer and website developer, who works primarily with Adobe Photoshop and Visual Studio Code. He creates art that is meant to evoke feelings and spark conversations, while pushing the boundaries of art, technology and personal proficiency. To find Yasin, visit his website: yasin.design
How did you initially discover and develop an interest in animation?
My first exposure to animation was when we went on a field trip to the Museum of Moving Images in Manhattan. There was an interactive exhibition where you had an overhead camera, a little computer screen, and a few characters like a frog with hinges for its parts. You would click the shutter button, make a frame, move the frog around, and take pictures. After you finished, let's say 12 or 24 frames, the computer would play it back as a finished animation. I remember doing it with a friend and thinking, "Wow, this is so cool!" As a kid, I went home and forgot about it, getting involved in other activities. But for some reason, that moment stuck with me. It was a special day, realizing that you could make things move, even things you wouldn't expect to move, and make them act in certain ways.
"When I sit there with my thoughts and the influence of the edibles, it allows me to realize that I can just jump out of the box and walk around the room. It opens up my thinking in a positive way, where I'm not dwelling on negative things or overthinking small life situations."
How does space operate for you, or in general, in a two-dimensional space? How does our interaction with space change when something is flat as opposed to being directly in it? Additionally, considering Entheoscope's focus on psychedelics and the expansion of creativity and artistic production, do psychedelics play a role in your work? Is there something inherently psychedelic about animation or art in general, beyond the use of substances?
First, I have to say that I've never done psychedelics, although I've always wanted to. I haven't had the opportunity to properly try them. However, I do like to take a non-healthy amount of edibles and sit and contemplate. In that state, everything feels more open, and I feel more open. It's hard for me to relate it directly to psychedelics, but there's a sense of openness that I experience. I made an animation that reflects this feeling, where a man is pushing a box from a cross-section view. I can't fully describe that feeling in words. It's not the best feeling, but it's a sensation of being somewhat constricted or boxed in.
When I sit there with my thoughts and the influence of the edibles, it allows me to realize that I can just jump out of the box and walk around the room. It opens up my thinking in a positive way, where I'm not dwelling on negative things or overthinking small life situations. Sometimes, I'll text my friends and say, "Have you ever really looked at a tree?" Not in a stoner way, but genuinely appreciating the beauty of a tree. Being in a great outdoor space, looking at a tree, and maybe finding a favorite one, adds something positive to me.
So, while I haven't directly explored psychedelics, this experience of openness and expanding my perspective in a positive manner is something I relate to.
What inspired the creation of your piece, “Warm”? How long did it take you? Was it a burst of inspiration or a more deliberate process?
I have a fascination with the simplest drawing of a house. There's something special about it that I really enjoy. In this piece, I wanted something vibrant that could also appear lifeless at first glance, but with something that ties it all together and gives it life.
Originally, the glowing person walking in the door wasn't part of the piece, and I don't think the smoke was there either. It started as a rough sketch in one of my notebooks, one of those messy sketches where I quickly jot down the idea before I forget it.
From the sketch, I moved into Blender to model the house and give it character. I went through a process of choosing colors, testing different textures, and perfecting the fuzzy, blurry effect that I wanted. This took about a week or two to get right, including the lighting. After that, it took a few days to get the animation running. Overall, it took around three to four weeks to set everything up. But then, I felt something was missing, and it turned out to be the light. I decided to add the glowing person as a source of light, which tied the whole piece together. The glowing person can represent anything to the viewer, whether it's an object or a person. It completes the composition and adds that final touch.
What does the glowing person mean to you?
That glowing person represents my mom to me. She is the one who ties our whole family together and keeps everything in check. She's an incredible and amazing person who has done a lot for us. Many of my artistic endeavors are a way for me to honor and remember her. Just to clarify, she's alive and well, in case you were wondering. The significance of a mother is a mystery in itself.
"I like to think of it as trying to recall a dream where you're passing through different scenes. Like trying to remember bits and pieces of a dream after waking up, where some parts are clear while others are like passing lights."
You mentioned the appearance of your works in animation, the grayness, and fuzziness. Please continue talking about that sensation.
Yeah, I love that nostalgic feeling in my animations, that warm and fuzzy aesthetic. It's a bit blurry, but it captures the general concept. I like to think of it as trying to recall a dream where you're passing through different scenes. Like trying to remember bits and pieces of a dream after waking up, where some parts are clear while others are like passing lights. That's what I aim to convey in my animations.
Interestingly enough, I was initially hesitant about doing animations for a long time. I felt intimidated and scared of the idea of making things move. I already felt that I was barely good at creating things that remain still. But then I discovered this childlike joy in animation. It feels like remembering a dream for me. I love turning off all the lights and projecting my animations onto a wall, just sitting there and watching them for hours. There's something about it that reminds me of home, the people I care about, my family, and all those things.
Your artwork is featured on both the front and back covers of the magazine, with the back cover saying "go home." What kind of conversations are you hoping to initiate with these bookends?
I'm interested in knowing how people feel about home. It's such a common word, yet everyone has their own unique idea of what it means. There's a societal perception of what home should be, but it varies for each individual. Home is like your DNA; it's something that is specific to you. Through these bookends, I want to explore and encourage discussions about home. I want people to think about what home means to them and explore that concept further. It's like taking a vacation and coming home with your mom.
I don't believe that home necessarily needs to be a traditional setup with parents, a significant other, or anything like that. It could be something as simple as a pet rock. I don't care what it is; it could be home to someone. I want people to reflect on their own idea of home and go there because it holds significance. Without home, we are nothing. So find what home means to you. Personally, as I work on these pieces, I gain a deeper understanding of what home means to me.
For me, home means my art, the people around me, how they perceive me and my work, and the moments we share together. Home is coming back to stacks of random stuff I've bought on eBay, the excitement of discovering vintage magazines from the 1930s and 1940s, and spending the night going through them to find something interesting.
Geographically, New York is home to me. There's no other place like it. We have a mix of nature, a poorly maintained city, and Long Island, which offers even more natural beauty. It's the perfect balance of awe-inspiring scenery and peculiar encounters. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. Even if they created a utopian society with no issues, I would still choose New York because it's my home. It holds all my memories and everything I've done here.