P19 Interview @ AOD 2015
While in attendance at Anime on Display (AOD) 2015 in San Francisco, we had an exclusive opportunity to interview the up-and-coming Japanese illustrator P19. Known for her rich and colorful character design work with the visual novel company Light, she has served under their Sweetlight brand and has also done numerous illustrations for their series of novels. This includes Vamp on the Dead Line with author Madoka Igami and Himegitsune no Servant with author Kasuga Mikage, as well as doujinshi under the circle name, "practice." Learn all about her inspirations behind her upcoming Elements artbook, as well as her thoughts on being a professional artist in Japan!
T-ONO: First of all, thank you for coming to San Francisco. Is this your first time here?
P19: Thank you very much! Yes, this is my first time in the United States! There are a lot of places that I would like to visit like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon but that will be hard since we'll only be here for a few extra days. We'll see what happens!
T-ONO: Could you tell us a little bit about your appearance at Anime on Display (AOD)?
P19: I personally haven't had a whole lot experience at any anime-related overseas events, but when I came here I realized that it has a very similar feel to other similar events in Japan. Seeing everyone here together and enjoying themselves really leaves me with a happy feeling.
T-ONO: In a related question, now that you've had a chance to meet some of your fans at your panel and autograph session, how would you say the fans here compare to the ones in Japan at say Comiket?
P19: To be honest, I think there are a lot of similarities between fans in the United States and fans in Japan, as they have a very pure interest in the otaku culture. This makes me very happy. During the panel, one of my fans gave me a gift which made me excited. It was sort of like, "oh it's the same way that Japanese fans do it!"
P19: After I first received the art request from AOD to create their mascot, I was kind of unsure how to go about doing it. However, I was really excited to come. When I first came to the convention, I noticed the huge tapestry hanging outside in the foyer and this made me really happy. Seeing people walking around with the badges, pamphlets, etc. made me really excited and I came away thinking that this was something they would treasure as a one-of-a-kind item. It made me really excited, to me, that is one of the best thing that could happen to an artist.
T-ONO: The mascot character is a really cute, moe-style character. What was your source of inspiration behind your decision to create her as a nekomimi character?
P19: So normally, I like to draw original animal-style girl characters in my books; like the ones that you'll see in my book Select 3. A lot of them will often have fox-ears or cat ears. So I thought that I could what I normally do and blend that together with the theme of something/someone coming to San Francisco for the first time. Hence the theme with the character carrying a mailbag with the postcards and everything else.
T-ONO: So expanding upon that, how do you decide upon the character's eye colors, hair color, etc. when designing the outfits or designs?
P19: Well mostly just comes from top of my head... I usually just put the stuff I like into the character I am making. When you draw something that you like, you put more time and effort on it right? That's pretty much how I draw my characters. I love white hair with red eyes.
Are you familiar with the Japanese expression "jitome"? They're kind of like expressionless or deadpan eyes. I'm a really big fan of the jitome look. [Proceeds to do a quick doodle as an example shown below]
T-ONO: During the panel, you mentioned that there were some things that you could do only through drawing with pen and paper that you couldn't with digital artwork. Could you elaborate a little bit on that?
P19: I guess that this would be a basic way of explaining things, but with digital artwork you could erase and redo your technique as many time as you want as there's no real penalty to doing so. However with pen and paper, the drawings tend to smear so you have to focus more than you usually would as opposed to digital so it's a bit more of a challenge.
With pen and paper, lines just happen to go together and the outcome sometimes turns out differently than I originally expected. For example, when you combine colors with paint, it comes out differently than you expected so there is this trial and error aspect. This is different compared to digital where you know what to expect in the end.
Another thing, while digital drawings are often sharp and clean with pen and paper you can really see the artist's emotions and effort that they poured into their work even if the artist themselves consider it a failure. As opposed to digital, where you basically get what you see.
T-ONO: Do you often find inspiration from real life? For example, drawing in a café, magazine, etc.
P19: So starting with clothing, a lot of the inspiration comes from interactions within daily life like fashion magazines or stuff that I would like to wear myself. Since it's real people who are looking at my work, I can't go too far from using clothes that would be considered normal. Also following the fashion trend is important too. I try to implement what most people like into the fashion of my drawings.
P19: As for the ears, since I live at a place where I can't own a pet, I ask my friends who own rabbits, dogs or cats to send me pictures. I'll look at a picture and then say, "aaaw I feel a lot of warmth from this" and then say that's the one. So I'll draw that and cycle through that. For the mascot character, the inspiration for the ears came from a photo from my friend who owns a lot of cats. I also take inspiration from fans who send me photos.
T-ONO: If you could have a pet, what kind of pet would you like?
P19: Either a cat or a hedgehog!
T-ONO: If you were to draw yourself as one of your characters, what kind of ears would you draw yourself with?
P19: Well, earlier today, I bought some cat ears that I thought were really cute and had been wearing them all morning. So I guess if were to draw myself, then I would draw myself with cat ears!
T-ONO: We know that at the panel you mentioned that you spend a great deal of time working on your art, particularly from 8am to 10pm drawing. However, we noticed on your Twitter that you have a lot of interest in Gunpla and MMOs. How do you find the time to balance the two in your schedule?
P19: Well, I'm often told that I must get more rest given my work schedule so I do try to find time to play games on Steam. However, when work really starts building up sometimes I only play around two hours in a week. So while it does state that I like Gunpla and MMOs, the Gunpla never gets finished and often, I'm left behind really fast in MMOs. They tell me, "well, you can't really play since you're lower level," so I kind of stop playing since I'm holding everyone behind since I'm a casual player.
My friends and I all start at equal levels, but then the minute everyone starts to really level up and get into it, I'm left alone and everyone else keeps going. So while it's unfortunate that I don't have a lot of time to spend with my hobbies, but I'm even more thankful that I have work to keep me busy!
T-ONO: Specifically, what were the last Gunplas that you did not finish?
P19: I only have two that I have not finished, but these are last two from December 2013. A Master Grade Gundam RX-0 and MSN-06S Sinanju Stein. I'm hoping to work on these this year with my little brother so hopefully we'll finish it! Usually, we work together to finish each kit.
T-ONO: Are you currently working on anything that you can share with us?
P19: On February 27th I'm going to have an artbook published by Kadokawa.
T-ONO: Is it an artbook of just your own original artwork or is it in collaboration with another project?
P19: Yes, it is featuring my own original artwork and not related to other projects. There are three new images. Particularly, on the cover there will be a fox-eared girl. I wanted to give thanks to all of the people I've worked with that's given me inspiration, like friends and family. Basically, everyone who's helped make it happen.
The pinup image was sort of created through fan requests and will feature multiple characters with cat ears, rabbit ears and fox ears living together in harmony producing a warm feeling. The last image conveys me feelings of happiness putting all of this together and to give a "glowing smile" sort of feeling. This book is really packed with all of my feelings like that.
T-ONO: So then we're guessing that the theme behind this book is to give thanks to supporters, that sort of thing.
T-ONO: Finally, is there anything that you would like to add to the interview?
P19: I hope that fans will continue to love animation and manga and to please always have those feelings!
To purchase or pre-order P19's upcoming Elements artbook, please visit Amazon Japan.
All images published with consent from artist and publisher.
Images from Elements are copyrighted: Kadokawa / ASCII Media Works
Special thanks to Sekai Project and Crenter