Interview with Illustrator Shugao - What is Professional Character Design
Interview by Youhei Ogawa
Photos by Kazuya
The scope of her work is incredibly broad. She's provided illustrations for works like "Yowai 5000-nen no Soushoku Dragon, Iware Naki Jaryuu Nintei" (Written by Enomoto Kaisei/ Published by Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko) and "Danjon Nouka!" (Written by Guutara/ Published by Earth Star Novel). She's also a character designer, and her work includes VTubers Tanaka Hime and Suzuki Hina as well as the members of Lita and Liz from Virtual Girls Unit "KMNZ (Kemonozu)".
She lives her life vigorously, pouring herself into her illustration work and the drawing she does in her spare time. How does she create such well-beloved characters? And where does she find the motivation to keep drawing? We asked her the secrets of her creativity.
Achieving her goal of illustrating books
── You've worked in a lot of different genres. What kind of work are you focusing on now?
But, illustrating novels was always one of my goals as an illustrator, so I have plenty of motivation to work hard and I'm really happy to be able to work on those projects.
── What's the hardest thing about creating illustrations for books?
── Do you get to include your ideas as well?
── Speaking of character design, you've also had experience designing VTubers. What aspects do you focus on when designing a new character?
For the design, you don't want to overload the viewer with information. Try to make your design as simple as you can. Always focus on things like creating a silhouette that describes the character's personality and on making a simple yet individual design.
── Is there a reason that you are so partial to simpler designs?
── When creating VTuber character designs, you knew those characters would eventually be made into 3D characters. Did that make it more difficult to design them?
── What was it like to see the VTubers you had designed moving for the first time?
What's it like to draw for a living?
── When did you start making illustrations?
Also, another pretty big reason was that my dad watched anime and was big into video games, so I was around that kind of stuff since I was little.
── Why did you decide to turn your hobby into a job?
And all the people around me were incredibly talented. I was plunged into the professional world and saw what it was really like to work as an artist, but instead of getting discouraged is awakened this strong feeling of "Yes, let's do this!" inside me.
── Tell us a little more about being a professional artist. Where did you feel that difference specifically?
A messy rough sketch buries the actual lines. In the end, when you go to make the cleaner version, you end up spending a lot of time fixing all the mistakes you made in the rough sketch. In order to avoid all that pain when you make the cleaned-up version, I learned how important it was to draw your first sketch neatly.
Shugao says that "because I'm still learning, I want to keep getting more and more efficient." What is her workspace like?
── Tell me about your work environment.
The reason I ended up getting an LCD drawing tablet was that my company was going out of its mind trying to get me to draw faster, and in the end, I didn't have any choice (bitter laugh). To avoid any carnage I took a chance on the LCD tablet and it's been a total success. Whether you'll have chemistry with an LCD tablet or not depends on the person, but for people who are used to traditional art, it's much easier to use an LCD tablet that the old slab type.
This tablet is so easy to use!
So, we asked her to try the Artist 13.3Pro for one week. This LCD tablet is a more reasonable size and can be moved and fit into any workspace easily.
── What were your impressions of the Artist 13.3Pro?
I was really impressed. This tablet is so easy to use!
The first thing that impressed me was the protective film over the LCD screen. I'm terrible at putting those on, and I was so happy that it had been done for me. I don't know whether it's due to that film or not, but it feels great and is easy to draw on. The pen doesn't get stuck on the screen or feel bumpy, and it feels really balanced as you're using it. There's no delay as you draw and the colors are fantastic. I don't have any complaints. This price for this quality; all I can say is, that's amazing.
── It's smaller than the tablet you're used to using. What was it like to use this smaller tablet?
Also, I thought it was great that all of the settings for the XP-PEN were all tied together in one application. You can adjust the pen calibration and pressure, the function key settings, and all the other important tablet options in one place. On other tablets, you need special applications just to change the color settings, but the fact that you can do all of that in one application is one of the XP-PEN's best features.
── Is calibration difficult?
The Artist 13.3Pro has amazing colors, so after just a little adjusting I was able to get them matching perfectly. I was so grateful to be able to do that so simply, and that's one of the great parts of this tablet.
── Do you wish you had an Artist 13.3Pro when you started drawing?
When asked "What advice would you give your future competitors in the art world?" she had some interesting words of wisdom.
[Special Present!] This is the tablet Shugao used
"Artist 15.6 Pro"
Moreover, the gorgeous screen features a 88％ NTSC（120％ sRGB）ratio and 178-degree view angle. The Artist 15.6 Pro is here to suit your workflow and provides 8 customizable shortcuts to create a drawing environment that supports your creativity. This is a tablet that allows you to focus on what matters: your art.
You can also enhance your drawing experience with a wide variety of accessories, from a pen holder to eight spare nibs to a globe stand.
The Holiday Gift Package is now on sale at a special price.
"Artist 13.3 Pro"
Though it's smaller screen is closer to the size of a laptop, at 13.3 inches, the "Artist 13.3 Pro" is packed with all the highly acclaimed features of the "Artist 15.6 Pro". It may be small, but with its high-resolution HD screen, you can perfect your drawings down to the smallest detail. Its compact size means it's easy to carry and can fit seamlessly into a wide variety of workspaces and lifestyles.
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One lucky winner will receive an "Artist 15.6 Pro" tablet, the same type as used by Shugao in this article!
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- Shugao is a professional illustrator who loves dragons and animal ears. In addition to illustrations for published works, her designs include the main visual for the atré Akihabara Hatsune Miku collaboration, design for KMNZ Lita and Liz (including the unit's logo), and the character design for VTubers Tanaka Hime and Suzuki Hina.