Creator Interview: sousou

Creator Interview: sousou 0

When asked about when he first started drawing, sousou answers, “I started drawing illustrations five years ago.” One after another, illustrator sousou creates images with such a fine touch that people often think they were drawn by a female. He has completed more than 500 illustrations in the five years he has been in the industry. “There are many people who become more skilled in a shorter period than me. Talented people get monstrously skilled in 2-3 years,” he says modestly, seemingly unaware of the level of his own work. The air is filled with the premonition that he will acquire more illustrator skills and create even more splendid works in the future. How does he draw? What is on his mind when he is engaged in creating? Where does he get the ideas for his work? Through countless questions, we try to get closer to understanding his creative process.

Creator Introduction
Name: sousou
TOM Portfolio Page

––What made you start drawing illustrations?
A video I watched five years ago, when I was in my freshmen year in college. At that time, I entered the a jazz institute , and I would play the saxophone every day. Accidentally, in the winter when I started skipping my classes due to snowfall, I saw a “Try to draw (Kaitemita)” video on Nico Nico Douga 1 posted by Neko Shogun 2. As I watched Neko Shogun complete the drawing, before I knew it, I became obsessed about it, which resulted in my skipping out on going to my jazz practices, though (laughs). The reason I started to draw otaku-style pictures is that I liked the works of the Takemori group from Touhou Project 3, and I wanted to be able to draw manga pictures.

––Do you have any history of making illustrations from before that?
Not really. From junior high to college, I was always a member of the wind instrument club, and I used to play music all the time. I had art classes in senior high, but it’s never gone as far as to be called genuine creative activity. I didn’t even think I was good at drawing.

––What tools do you use? How do you draw?
At the time I started drawing, I was using a pencil. At first, I started with still-lifes, and later I started doing portraits. When working, I always stream some long music video from SoundCloud, Nico Nico Douga, or YouTube. Sometimes, I listen to illustration drawing videos from Ustream.

After that, I started using mapping pens in the pursuit of fine touches and tones. I don’t use G-pens. For ink, I use a brand called “Sumi no Hana” from Kaimei Ink 5.

As for digital tools, I use SAI when I add shadows with hatching (although I’m currently searching for alternatives).

––Is there a particular reason for you often drawing black hair?
I do draw black hair a lot. It’s one of the things I like drawing. I tend to use the color black a lot. The sensation of burying a pure white paper in black binds the picture tightly.

––sousou, I think the detailed coloring is one of your characteristics. What colors do you like?
I often use blue and red in my work. The reason I do so is that it makes my work prosper, and people also accept it well. They are colors familiar with black that are easy to use.

Colors I don’t use, meaning I know I’m not good at handling them, are yellow and green. Yellow is a warning color, it has a somewhat violent image, so it’s kind of hard to fit in my works. As for green, it seems to yield to black, so I don’t use it a lot.

I pay attention to the shades. When I draw in analog, I am very careful to put the appropriate amount of pressure on the pen, of course, and I often use the gradation function in digital. Now that I think about shading...I also like the color between blue and green. I like the color of a clear sky, and it goes well with black.

––Which is your favorite work?
Lately, it’s "Conflict," maybe. I have memories about this piece that I went through some hard times when I was drawing it. But since I had the feeling that “if I keep on drawing it’ll become a picture,” I believed in myself and continued drawing, and somehow I managed to pull through.


––If you keep on drawing, it’ll become a picture!? Isn’t it a lot of trouble drawing it in such detail and with such beauty even despite that?
It’s not that bad. Thinking through the composition and finding the balance of colors in the picture is difficult, but if you draw it all the way it will stand as a picture. When I concentrate on drawing, I sometimes tend to forget eating. I just keep looking at the screen, not knowing when to quit. I can concentrate best around dinnertime, about 8 p.m.

––I have the impression that you draw all body parts quite beautifully, like impressive eyes and glamorous lips. Do you have any fixations regarding body parts or the way you draw them? Is there something you pay attention to?
I learned about the human skeleton and body lines through self-study. For practise, I use Posemaniacs, a site for practising rough sketch, and that’s how I learn. While drawing, I do research about body balance and how the hand is related to the head in proportion on my own illustrations. Since the gap between the hands I’m good at drawing and those I’m not is very obvious, I pay attention to not only draw those I’m good at.

––Hands you’re good at and hands you’re not, what does that mean?
I can easily draw a rough hand with nothing in it. Most hands in my works aren’t holding anything. I also enjoy drawing legs. I enjoy them so much that I even made an illustration of only legs.

The hands I’m not good at are those that are holding something. If I were to give other examples of my weak points, man-made objects would be one. Machine parts, for instance. Since I haven’t studied them, I have no knowledge of them, and I can’t grasp the right angle, so I have a hard time drawing them.

––Do you have any problems associated with drawing?
For me, it’s thinking about too many things when creating. I used to like drawing eyes all the way, but then I got advice from someone who said, “It’s better if you don’t draw the eyes all the way,” so lately, I’ve been trying to restrain myself. But still, I think too much and break down the work into small processes. For example, “draw eyelashes” or “draw facial features.” I’m afraid I make the finishing-up too minute as well. By saying a short phrase such as “drawing eyes,” I want to make myself simply draw it.

I’m not good at drawing circles, either. Drawing perfect circles and ellipses are both hard for me. It seems that it can be done with training, and professional manga artists seem to be able to do it. I have to work on this point, too.

––On your pictures of girls, not only the body lines but the clothes as well are cute. Where do you get your ideas for so many clothes?
I gather most of them from Tumblr. But, for example, it happened that I got inspiration from the clothes of a girl I saw at the station and I drew it. It was so impressive that I burned it into my brain and drew it right after I arrived home. I really thought “I wanna try drawing this!” It often happens outside work that I draw following my impulses.

––When you draw, are you conscious of doing so with only a black ink pen and inserting just one more color as the focal point? For example, when you include a hint of color on the cheeks.
Assuming the quality of a monochrome-only picture is a one, I think you can make the quality twice as good just by adding one or two colors. In my work "Dots," I made part of the shadow of the girl holding the umbrella marble colored, thus expressing rain and clear sky. It feels nice when the coloring is connected to the meaning of a work.

––Since you used to play music, what do you feel is a commonality between it and drawing?
There is a strong feeling in me that I’ve only changed means of expression. The work of carving the skill into your body is the same.

For example, there is a thing called “long tone” in the basic exercises for saxophone and other wind instruments. This is a method of playing just one note and stretching it out in order to maximally sharpen our perception toward our target. What is important is to keep on doing it. You don’t need to think about what to do to get better at it. In other words, it’s important to remember with your body. I think it is important both in drawing and music that you don’t use your head - you just keep on doing it. Just like sports, you need to carve it into your body. On the other hand, I think getting better at work requires something else: revisioning the mistakes in a completed work and making amends in the next one. You need to continuously twist your head by repeating such amendments. Although you use your head in drawing, it is very important for keeping the senses sharp to do basic exercises where you don’t use your head. That’s why I strongly feel the need to keep on grabbing the pen every day.

––In the future, will you draw mostly in digital or analog?
I enjoy drawing both in digital and analog, but I think I’d like to return to analog in the future because I want to raise the quality of my work made with analog tools. Of course, I want to make use of my creation methods and experiences I gained in drawing digitally in analog as well.

––A message to your viewers, please.
I want you to observe the hatching parts drawn in detail. I upload my works in large resolution, so please magnify them, look at them carefully, and enjoy them.

^1^ A Japanese online video distribution service. It is a video sharing service founded by Dwango and sponsored by its subsidiary, Niwango.

^2^ A Japanese illustrator.

^3^ A franchise created by the doujin circle Team Shanghai Alice. It includes games, mostly in the barrage shooting genre, books, and music CDs. Touhou Project works are also referred to altogether as “Touhou Series” or “Toho Project Series.”

^4^ A kind mapping pen. They are used in drawing manga as well as in map contouring.

^5^ A type of highly water- and alcohol-resistant black ink. It is often used in drawing manga. “Sumi no Hana” is a line in this series, an ink of adjusted density made from top-grade ink sticks. The manufacturer, Kaimei Co. Ltd., is an ink maker celebrating its 115th anniversary this year.

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This is a Tokyo Otaku Mode original article.

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