Interview by Ichibo Harada
- Illustrator living in Tokyo. Mainly active on social media. Their most representative works include the jacket illustration for Nijisanji's talent group TRiNITY's first album PRiSM, the illustrations for the Ready Steady music video (by Giga), and the binding and book design for pixiv's art book VISIONS EDGE ILLUSTRATORS BOOK Evil & Power (KADOKAWA).
I look up to creators who know how to update their artwork
── How long have you been working as an illustrator?
── Have you always wanted to pursue a career in illustration?
── So you're self-taught? How did you practice?
── If you prioritize the things you want to draw, you won't feel as much pressure to practice.
── Which creators influenced you?
When I was a student, I used to buy Shirabi's and Yugen's doujinshi at Comiket. Most recently, I really enjoyed the exhibition of the creative group SSS by Applibot held in June. I'm also keeping an eye on the upcoming Piggy One game, an adaptation of animator Hanabushi's original work, and I like Komugiko2000's animated videos.
I tend to look up to creators who know how to update their artworks by combining other fields in the realm of illustration. Of course, there are many people I like purely for their illustrations, such as Reoen.
── In the past, you mentioned Makoto Shinkai as one of the creators you admire. I also heard that your graduation project at university was a trailer for a fictional anime movie.
Bringing the character's background into the illustration
── Creating an anime as your graduation project sound like quite the exploit. Are you passionate about animation?
── Is there a kind of backstory to your illustrations?
── There are two kinds of illustrators: those who, when drawing a room, start by picking the interiors they like, and those who start by picturing the personality and lifestyle of the tenants. Which one are you?
If I had to guess, I'd say the latter. I can't get started before I mull things over. As my hands start to move, sometimes I get these indescribable feelings, telling me to draw this or that motif.
However, while I often think about the background of my illustrations, I also feel that pictures that merely explain the setting are kind of boring. The illustration needs both to tell a story and to be an interesting piece on its own. That balance is important.
── Can you use one of your works as an example of this?
I created this work called Atarashii Watashi (lit. "A new me") during a live drawing session for Wacom's online courses. I came up with the idea of expressing the duality of a person in accordance with the theme of "light and shadow" presented by the client.
This girl dislikes her true self, and when she fakes being someone else while interacting with others she feels a sense of discomfort, brought about by the fact that she's in fact not acting like her true self. The beautiful figure she shows to others and her slimy inner self ー this is the duality I created by using lights and shadows.
── I see. So first you get a clear picture of the character's background, and then bring it into your illustration to make it more appealing.
The importance of incorporating steady elements into an artwork
── Your artworks all have a sense of movement. They look good at first sight. Composition is especially hard for bust-up illustrations, as they're always in danger of looking like mug shots when done poorly...
── You seem to use a few variations for the composition of your bust-ups, for example by making use of hands and hair.
I follow some patterns, like placing a hand next to the character's face or drawing them as they run their fingers through their hair, but I always try to change things up a bit.
Personally, however, I think that the strongest artists are those who never get tired of the same compositions and motifs, because it means that the artworks themselves are powerful. Those artists don't just keep drawing the same elements by inertia, but rather they continue to challenge themselves while knowing what looks good. That's why their work always feels fresh.
── Pardon the vague question, but what makes an illustration pleasant to look at?
── So that the viewer doesn't get that hard-to-place, "something's off" feeling, right? It's true that in many of your works, hands and hair are portrayed beautifully.
I've always had a hard time with hands and hair, and I would avoid drawing them whenever possible. (laughs) Little by little, I eventually managed to draw them in a way I'm happy with.
── How do you practice drawing nowadays?
It's tough for me to find time to practice, so I try to include some personal challenges in work commissions too. The most recent example is the Princess Knight illustration I made for "Shin Arts x Osamu Tezuka Characters ~ Acrylic arts by Illustrations ~", a project based on Osamu Tezuka's works.
Not long ago, I visited the Hoki Museum in Midori Ward, Chiba, which is a peculiar museum focusing on hyperrealism, and I found it very inspiring. I started considering an approach that, while different from photorealism, would make the viewer believe they're seeing something very close to reality. Fleshing out my own interpretation of the original, deformed work was also refreshing.
Study each part and merge them into your work
── When did you find your current style? The works you posted on pixiv in the past look quite different from your current decadent taste.
── In other words, the way you work has evolved together with your art style. Many creators tend to feel that something's wrong with their illustrations, but at the same time don't know how to improve. How did you overcome this problem?
── You've worked on a variety of projects, from CD jackets and illustrations for music videos to light novel artworks. When it comes to drawing, is it "different strokes for different media"?
── I bet both the author and the editor will be happy to see you think that far ahead! What part of the process takes the longest? The sketch, coloring...?
The heterogeneous space of Rolua's first solo exhibition
── What are the highlights of your first solo exhibition, Kawaki?
I asked the staff the impossible (laughs) and was very particular about the interiors. I wanted the entire venue to have an inorganic feel, so I made some changes to the floor. I am happy with the result: a different kind of space from any of the past exhibitions held at pixiv's WAEN GALLERY. The exhibit also features nine never-before-seen artworks, and I hope you'll enjoy them as well.
── How did you pick the title, Kawaki (lit. "thirst")?
── I see, the character used to write kawaki (渇) also comes up in words like 渇愛 (katsuai, "craving") and 渇望 (katsubō, "eager desire"). Can you tell us about the main visual?
── Now that you've opened your first solo exhibition, what are your future goals as an illustrator?
Rolua’s first solo exhibition "Kawaki" is on display until July 27th!
The exhibition features about 60 illustrations, including 9 especially drawn for the event. The floor and wall colors have been changed to harmonize with the artwork, creating a space where visitors can take their time to enjoy Rolua's works. Please feel free to stop by!
Exhibition period: July 8th (Fri) ~ July 27th (Wed)
Location: TWIN PLANET South BLDG. 1F, 5-46-1 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo
Opening hours: 12:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Merchandise is also available online!
You can purchase some of the merchandise sold at the exhibition on BOOTH. Come and get your hands on some beautiful merch featuring Rolua’s stylish illustrations.