Interview by Yuka Abe
Illustrator Rangu's solo exhibition Our World/Story is happening now until Wednesday, August 23rd, 2023, at pixiv WAEN GALLERY in Omotesando. The exhibition includes numerous illustrations depicting the daily lives of beautiful young girls.
Rangu, a South Korean artist who has been heavily influenced by Japanese culture, has chosen Japan as the setting for their artwork. In this interview, we traced their path to success as an illustrator who focuses on heart-warming scenarios and asked them what makes a good work of art.
- A long-lasting fascination with pretty girls
- Giving up university life to become an illustrator
- How to make it in Japan: learn Japanese
- The scenario always comes first!
- Characters should look cute even with no hair?!
- The beauty of artworks that arouse the imagination
- The exhibition will feature music by Blue Archive composers
- Rangu's solo exhibition, Our World/Story, is open through August 23rd!
- Merchandise is also available online!
Watch Rangu's drawing process and listen to this interview in this episode of DrawTube!
- Illustrator from South Korea. On Twitter, they post illustrations of cute girls in everyday heart-fluttering situations. Naisho da yo (published by KADOKAWA), their first art book featuring illustrations from their series Nichijou Kanojo ("Everyday Girls", 日常系少女), is now on sale. Their favorite aspect of moving to Japan is being able to take the train to Akihabara.
A long-lasting fascination with pretty girls
── When did you start drawing?
── What anime or manga did you like at that time?
── All the anime you mentioned have pretty girls, don't they? (laughs) You must really like them! Are there any creators who have influenced you?
I can't help it: I like artists who draw pretty girls! I like the art of Yomu and Kiseki Himura, for example, but I also like how they can depict a story in each illustration. Tanjiu, who is Chinese, also draws stylish and adorable girls. The creators I mentioned also draw intricately detailed backgrounds, and because I work hard on my own backgrounds, I often draw inspiration from them.
Giving up university life to become an illustrator
── When did you start drawing digitally?
── Since you attended an art high school, did you already have the intention of pursuing art as a career back then?
── In the afterword of Naisho da yo, you wrote that you didn't want to go to university and instead promised your parents you'd get 100,000 Twitter followers, which was what prompted you to start posting one drawing every three days on social media. Why didn't you want to go to university?
── And what did your parents say?
How to make it in Japan: learn Japanese
── You could probably find work as an illustrator in your home country, Korea, as well. What made you decide to move to Japan?
I've always been a fan of Japanese anime and Japan in general, so I was eager to work here. Also, while it's becoming easier to find work in Korea, there isn't as much demand for illustrations of cute girls as there is in Japan.
── You moved to Japan earlier this year, right?
That's right. Since all of my illustrations are set in Japan, I decided to relocate to live here and get a good sense of the country for the sake of my art. I've been working a lot since I moved here and haven't been able to get out much, but I've been thinking that I'd like to explore the country more and visit some interesting places once a month.
── What's one piece of advice you'd like to give to others who'd like to work in Japan?
It may sound obvious, but I'd say the most important thing is learning the language. It's hard to prove you're reliable if you can't communicate in the same language as the people who commission you... Being able to speak Japanese helps you avoid this problem, so studying the language is essential! And, well, times have changed and machine translation has gotten much better, so you may be able to work in Japan even if you don't speak the language, but even so, it's good to have a basic understanding of business Japanese. I'm still learning, so I may not be the best person to give this advice, but...
── How did you learn Japanese?
The scenario always comes first!
── What does your current setup look like?
I use CLIP STUDIO EX for software, and I have a Wacom Cintiq 13HD LCD tablet and a Wacom PTH-660 pen tablet. I use the LCD tablet for lineart, and the pen tablet for sketching, coloring, and so on.
── So you use the two tablets for different purposes.
Unfortunately, I got tendonitis... At first, I only used the pen tablet for the whole process, but now drawing the lineart with a regular pen tablet takes a lot of time. The LCD tablet allows me to draw the lines where I can see them, which helps me work faster. But for tasks other than the lineart, I still prefer to use the pen tablet because I'm more used to it.
── What does your drawing process look like?
First, I make a colored rough sketch based on what I personally consider a heart-throbbing scenario. I think of what kinds of things a girl could do that would make me happy. Then I draw the lineart, color it, and add the finishing touches.
── Do you ever reconsider a scenario after you've already started drawing?
── When you post your artwork on pixiv, you set these lines of dialogue as the artwork title. Do you come up with a title before or after you start drawing?
Before. First I think of a specific scenario, including the title, and then I start drawingーwhich is why I rarely make changes along the way. But every now and then, I experiment with changing the lines to make them sound cuter. For example, if a character being indirect fits the scene better than them being direct.
── Changing what a character says means also having to change their expression and pose, right? How do you draw backgrounds?
I want to convey a sense of everyday life and realism as if the characters are living somewhere in the real world. As a result, I try to draw places that I, and many others, are familiar with: like train stations, platforms, cityscapes, schools, arcades... The scenarios are based on my own imaginings, but the backgrounds are based on real life. In a sense, I want the viewer to be immersed in that space between what's real and what's fantasy.
Characters should look cute even with no hair?!
── Do you think much about character-building before you start drawing or do you make it up as you go?
At first, I didn't give much thought to the backstory of my characters. But feedback like "I want to see the story of this character!" inspired me to flesh out the backstories of Usagyaru-chan and Nekohai-chan.
I had a vague setting in mind for Kendobu no Bucho, whereas for Idol-chan, I first thought of the character design and then added a setting. For my newest character, Fuuki Iincho, I created an entire story before designing her character. I'd say I've been putting the backstory first lately.
In retrospect, my 2020 illustrations were of younger girls. Because of my limited drawing skills at the time, I couldn't always draw them exactly how I wanted, but I believe my art style has now gotten closer to what I want it to be. People have started commenting that my characters look older now and that the head-to-body ratio has increased, which made me realize that my style really has evolved.
I get my fashion inspiration from Pinterest. For Idol-chan, I took inspiration from real idols' outfits on Instagram. I sometimes dress characters with a more subdued style, like Bucho, in clothes that I own.
── So, what do you think is an absolute must when it comes to creating illustrations of beautiful girls?
I'd say the face is the most important part. I think most people start sketching a character's body while she's still bald, but I start with the face. If she looks cute even without her hair, I'm in. After all, people who are genuinely beautiful or attractive are still beautiful even when they don't have hair, and the same holds true for illustrations.
The beauty of artworks that arouse the imagination
── In your opinion, what makes a good artwork?
── Do any of your past works fit this description?
Well, for example, one of my illustrations is called "On Valentine's Day, I Tried Going to School a Bit Early..." It's a scenario in which you arrive at school early and discover the club president attempting to sneak chocolate into your locker. You learn about the character's personality through the artwork, and it's a heart-pounding situation that leaves you wondering what will happen next.
I also have one called "'...You Free on Christmas?'" that is set at night in front of a convenience store. Here, Idol-chan is grabbing the viewer's clothes. She doesn't want to be too direct about her feelings and tell him flatly, "Don't go!" so she asks subtly if he'll be free on Christmas. Personally, I really love this kind of scenario! (laughs) It makes you wonder what's going to happen next and sparks the viewer's imagination.
── When do you feel most like you've created good artwork?
When I'm confident in my illustration and it gets a lot of positive feedback after I post it online, it's as if people nod in agreement with my fantasies or preferences.
── What advice would you give people who admire your work and want to create illustrations themselves?
I'd recommend drawing a lot of illustrations that you enjoy and love. Drawing a lot is crucial! And make sure you're having fun! I believe everyone involved in art is doing so because they love it. But if things get really tough, then it's no different from any other job, and if that's the case, why would you choose this path when there are so many other jobs that offer more stability? A job that you love and started because you enjoyed it can be sustained for a long time, so it's important not to let it become a burden.
The exhibition will feature music by Blue Archive composers
── Let's talk about your exhibition, Kimi to Watashi no Sekai/Story. What made you decide to hold a solo art show?
Well, I had my first solo exhibition two years ago, but I couldn't even go because of the pandemic... It was a huge letdown! Also, WAEN GALLERY has always held a special place in my heart. It's a place where only the best illustrators can show their work, and I used to wonder if I'd ever be able to hold a solo exhibition there. WAEN's proposal arrived just in time, as I was in the process of relocating to Japan. So, I thought, 'Why not?' and decided to seize the opportunity!
── Can you tell us about the main visual of this exhibition?
Since the exhibition is scheduled for August—the peak of summer in Japan—I thought people would appreciate a cooler vibe, so I tried incorporating that into the main visual.
I've visited the gallery in Omotesando several times and noticed many young people in the area. I remember when I went to Morikura En's exhibition, I saw a young couple. The boyfriend was like, "This artist's work is amazing! They're super famous! Let's check it out!" and he took his girlfriend into the exhibition. So I turned to Instagram for ideas. I was looking through photos of young, fashionable girls when I came across the "peace sign" pose, which struck me as very modern.
── It's a very summery illustration! What do you want visitors to pay special attention to as they browse your exhibition?
── Did you give them specific instructions regarding the music or did you leave it up to them?
I left it up to them. While I initially thought they might not be familiar with my artwork, both composers, Nor and Mitsukiyo, took inspiration from my pieces on pixiv. When I heard the demos, I was moved; they perfectly captured the essence of my art while retaining the composers' distinct musical style. It warmed my heart to learn that my work had inspired them. I've lost count of how many times I've thanked them!
── What can you tell us about the artworks on display?
There will be a lot of illustrations, but also real-life recreations of the plushies and accessories that appear in my artwork. I love the idea that it gives the feeling that the girls I draw might actually exist somewhere in Japan.
── Do you have any merchandise that you're looking forward to?
It's definitely hard to choose, but what I'm most excited about is the gachapon from one of my illustrations, which comes with Hamushiro acrylic keychains! I'm really excited about it because it'll let viewers experience the same scenario as in the illustration. I hope everyone will have fun playing with it!
── That's definitely something worth looking forward to! Lastly, do you have any future challenges in mind, like a particular job you want to tackle?
I've been looking into original illustration work for video games and anime recently, as well as V-Tuber-related projects and music videos. I'm also keeping an eye on the Los Angeles Anime Expo, and I'm considering working on live streaming events for that. Recently, I've been really enjoying character design, and I'd love to work on dating sim games... There's so much I want to do! (laughs)
Rangu's solo exhibition, Our World/Story, is open through August 23rd!
Here, you'll be able to enjoy Rangu's illustrations, featuring heart-fluttering scenarios and cute girls. What's more, the background music was written by Nor and Mitsukiyo, the composers behind the popular video game Blue Archive.
Dates: Friday, August 4th, 2023 to Wednesday, August 23rd, 2023
Days closed: None
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