Interview by Ichibo Harada
Rosuuri’s first solo exhibition, Looking Glass, is happening now until Thursday, November 23rd, 2023, at pixiv WAEN GALLERY in Omotesando. In addition to her previous works, the exhibition will feature past game and light novel illustrations, as well as a gallery-exclusive Alice Through the Looking-Glass-themed key visual, signed merchandise, and more.
Influences, challenges, and the road to becoming a self-taught artist
── As an artist born in the Philippines, was it easy for you to find and enjoy Japanese manga and anime growing up?
I would say Japanese manga and anime were easily accessible, perhaps more so in the Philippines than in the U.S., where I’m now based. Growing up, there were many works available in bookstores or on TV, although most of the content was translated into English. Since the two countries are geographically close, it was relatively easy to get my hands on older series as well.
── You mentioned in a previous interview that as a child, you liked to reference Arina Tanemura, who’s recognizable for her bishōjo art style in works such as Phantom Thief Jeanne and Full Moon o Sagashite.
── I can definitely see how Arina Tanemura’s art has influenced your current emotive and detailed art style. Are there any other artists that have influenced you?
── In Japan, illustrations of bishōjo characters are incredibly commonplace, both in everyday life and the art scene. Are bishōjo illustrations widely accepted in the Philippines as well?
Unfortunately, no, and it’s definitely looked down upon. It was especially bad in college since I went to an art and design school, where they discouraged us from drawing in anime or moe styles. That didn’t stop me, though. (laughs) If I’m going to spend time drawing something, I’d rather draw something that I’m truly passionate about.
── You said you studied design in college. Why did you choose to attend an art and design school and not an illustration school?
The course I chose was Multimedia Arts because I felt it was the closest to digital arts, which is what I wanted to do. In reality, they didn’t teach us much about illustration or digital art; we mostly learned stuff like video editing, graphic design, marketing, business, and website creation.
That said, I now edit my own graphics and manage my own shop, so I was still able to put the skills I learned to use in my career after graduating.
── How did you learn how to draw? Would you say you’re primarily self-taught?
Valuing connections with fans from Japan
── You moved to the U.S. in 2020. Did moving to a different country have any effect on your creative process?
Moving to the U.S. has definitely had its positives and negatives. When I was in the Philippines, I used to travel to Japan twice a year and buy all sorts of merchandise and books since it was only four hours away—obviously, that’s become a lot harder now. On the other hand, I have a lot more opportunities available to me now in the States.
── Given that your website is in both English and Japanese, you probably get a fair amount of work from Japanese companies. What’s the ratio like for Japan versus other countries?
── Are there any resources you use to make things easier or avoid misunderstandings when doing business in Japanese?
The only way forward is through: overcoming the dreaded artist’s block by drawing
── What does your current setup look like?
── How much time do you spend on each drawing from start to finish?
Anywhere from six hours to three days, depending on the complexity of the project.
For a single-character, half-body piece, I usually spend around six hours. I can also do full-body illustrations, drawings with complicated backgrounds, or fan art in the same amount of time if I’m very motivated and passionate about the character or the show. (laughs)
For illustrations that take up to three days, I sometimes have to wait for feedback from the client or take breaks from working on them. Then there’s, well, creative blocks where I can’t figure out how to make a piece look good. When I’m really stuck, I‘ll sometimes look at it for three hours and get nothing done. (strained laugh)
── Artist blocks are horrible, aren’t they? What do you do to get out of a slump?
When facing an artist’s block, I find taking a short break helps. I’ll go on a walk, flip through art books, or play games. By the time I’m done, I can feel myself itching to draw again. That said, there are times when taking a break is a luxury I can’t afford, in which case I turn to art studies. I’ve realized that the hardest part of a creative block is getting started. Once I’ve started, however, I’m able to keep going, and I eventually forget that I was in a slump at all.
── What details do you pay the most attention to?
I mostly do things intuitively, but when I’m having problems with a character’s face, I’ve noticed that the distance between the eyes and the nose can make a big difference, and minor tweaks can really affect the final result. This might come as a surprise, but even the size of the hair can significantly alter a character’s expression.
Telling a story through lighting
── You really know how to maximize a character’s cuteness through their poses and outfits! What kind of content do you consume to fuel your creative process?
── How about things in your daily life? Do you take note of clothes that you find cute or scenery that you might be able to reference in your drawings?
── That’s lovely! Are there any illustrations you’re particularly fond of or proud of?
── You seem to really emphasize lighting in your illustrations. Why is that?
── You talked about creating illustrations that suit different types of devices before. What’s a good way to create illustrations that look good on smartphones?
“VTubing helped me improve my public speaking skills.”
── Besides being a professional illustrator, you sometimes stream as a VTuber. What made you decide to pursue VTubing?
── This can be said for a lot of things, but many people have trouble continuing what they started. What motivates you to keep streaming?
I think it’s easy for me to continue streaming since I started it as a hobby and still treat it as one, so the fun factor is still there. At the moment, I only stream on the weekends, but my fans are really supportive, and I never feel any pressure from them. It feels like chatting with a group of close friends or relatives at the end of a long work week.
── Has being a VTuber helped your illustration career in any way?
“It’s always been one of my dreams.”
── Congratulations on your first solo exhibition! How are you feeling about it?
── The theme of your solo exhibition is Through the Looking-Glass, the sequel to Alice in Wonderland. Can you tell us more about why you chose this name and theme for your exhibition?
── What’s something you really want people to notice in the key visual?
── Is there anything you hope people will pay particular attention to at the exhibit as a whole?
── Bigger art pieces are a great way for people to discover “hidden treasure-like details,” for sure! I hear you’re making merch too. Which items are your favorite or hope people will enjoy?
── Personally, I’m really curious about this rabbit-shaped loaf. I find it absolutely adorable!
── What are your goals for the future? Is there anything in particular that you’d like to achieve?
── We can’t wait to see your art book. Thank you very much!
Rosuuri's solo exhibition, "Looking Glass", is open through November 23rd!
As the exhibition title suggests, a fun and whimsical interior awaits you when you step into the gallery. The exhibition will feature roughly 80 works, including derivative artwork for Hololive, original art, and illustrations related to ROSU, Rosuuri’s VTuber alter ego.
Dates: Thursday, November 2nd, 2023 to Thursday, November 23rd, 2023
Days closed: None
Address: Tokyo, Shibuya City, Jingumae, 5 Chome-46-1 TWIN PLANET South BLDG. 1F
Hours: 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.