What is art but a way of seeing? – Saul Bellow
I start with this quote in order to prepare our readers into a wonderful artistic experience. Today we interviewed the artist behind our Ancestry Certificates (https://tiafgs.com/), we created these Certificates in order to people see their roots and ancestry through what we call Genealogical Art.
Hiro Usuda (https://tiafgs.com/hiro-usuda), the artist behind the design, who has participated in many projects as a digital artist, including the videogames Silent Hill 3, Silent Hill 4, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and SD Gundam G Generation Cross Rays. She has illustrated the Japanese version of the online game “Perfect World”. Furthermore, she has illustrated for “Cardfight! Vanguard”, “WIXOSS” and “Sangokushi Taisen TCG” card games as well as the image art for the symphonic metal unit LIVMOON. We could actually dedicate a whole post just about her works but I wanted to write about the person behind it all. Who is she and what moves her and how does she view art? Well let´s find out.
Dear Hiro, you have had an impressive career in the design world. Your characters are easily recognized for your style and their beauty. Therefore we have prepared this small interview to know a bit more about the artist. So first, thank you kindly for agreeging to answer these questions of ours and with that, let us get into it.
1. Like I have mentioned, you have worked in several very successful projects. Which have been the best experiences you have had during your career?
The most prominent illustration I was involved in was for the Japanese version of an online game called “Perfect World”.
I think I drew about 100 illustrations. Advertisements and posters of my drawings could be seen all over the Internet and Internet cafes in Japan, and this continued for about 10 years.
My picture was also displayed on the cash register of a convenience store, and even in a store at the countryside where my parents live.
Some of my classmates from elementary school were surprised and contacted me.
Recently, the mobile version of this game work was released, and I was interviewed and drew two pictures.
2. Wow! That´s something you should really feel proud about. Now, you have created several characters and many designs. Which are your personal favorites?
This is an illustration of an elf from “Perfect World” that I drew about 14 years ago.
Until then, most Japanese game advertisements used flat illustrations that looked like manga or anime.
The illustration, with its three-dimensional coloring and Western painting atmosphere, stood out and was very popular and earned a lot of clicks on banner ads.
The client was so surprised that he called me and praised my work. Later, I was called by the president of the client’s company and praised.
The elf is still popular today.
I also did the cover art for a book called “Manga Matrix,” which was also released overseas.
Usually, clients give me a lot of instructions, but I was able to draw this illustration very freely.
This one is still popular even after more than ten years, and I get many compliments on it.
3. It´s a beautiful design, worthy of all the praise. Movin into the next question, one thing you´re quite famous for is because of your work with the team of Hideo Kojima on the Metal Gear Solid Series. How would you describe this experience?
After receiving a job offer from Konami in June 1998, I was able to get permission from my family to buy my own games, and I played Metal Gear Solid because until then, buying games was forbidden in my family.
I was shocked by Metal Gear Solid in a good way. It became one of my very favorite games and from that moment, I wanted to be involved in this series of games someday.
Although the department I was assigned to at Konami in 1999 was not Kojima Productions, I was able to gain a lot of valuable experience and I was able to work on the development of the Silent Hill series.
After that, I approached the head of the department at the time myself, and I declared FA and was interviewed by Kojima Productions, which was a different department.
They seemed to like me and hired me to work on the development of “Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater”. I was not a planner, but a member of the design team.
Rather than taking direct orders from Director Kojima, I was taking orders from Art Director Mr.Yoji Shinkawa, Mr. Negishi, Mr. Kimura, and Mr. Sasaki (the model for Johnny Sasaki).
Everyone was really enthusiastic about their work and I had a lot to learn from them. Some of the people who came from this department are still good friends of mine. Before I joined the department, I was told that it was a tough department, but when I joined, I found it to be a fun team and I remember I laughed a lot during my time there.
4. What an incredible experience and we love those games! Now, where does our artist gets her inspiration? What motivates you? What moves your heart and soul to draw as beautifully as you do?
Ever since I was a little girl, I used to read encyclopedias and picture books of foreign artists at home and thought, “How beautiful Western art is! I thought so much of it.
After that, when I became an artist, I wanted to mix the vivid colors of Japanese animation and illustrations with Western art, and I still draw many of my works in this way.
5. For us, for Erik and I, you are designing the Ancestry Certificates, already finished with the Spanish Ancestry one and already getting ideas for the next ones. It was the first time designing one of these? What was your first though when we asked for it?.
It was my first time to design a certification document. When I first received the request, I was very curious and intrigued.I was also very honored.
My first priority was to draw a design that would skillfully show the characteristics of each region of Spain.
I really enjoyed this job and found it fascinating.
Thank you very much.
I look forward to keep working with you.
6.It´s our pleasure and we enjoyed working with you too. Now Im curious about your world, the digital design one, it seems to be in constant change and evolution. Trends, graphics, technologically, etc. What do you think is next for it?
In a world where digital art has advanced so far I think that people’s interest in traditional art, which is one of a kind, will increase again. I think there will be a renaissance, so to speak. I think so.
7. I hope you´re right because despite evolution and change we should never lose the essence or we risk losing it all. Moving on and daring to ask more personal questions, what does Manga means to you?
I believe that manga is one of the best ways to convey an artist’s ideas. For example, what is difficult to understand or imagine in a novel or a single picture in manga, it becomes easier to communicate clearly to the reader what we are trying to say.
8. I totally agree with that. Manga it´s like living the story and next,of course, I could not resist to ask, which are your favorites Mangas and Animes?
My particular favorite manga is “The Rose of Versailles”.
I read it when I was an adult, and the author, Ms. Riyoko Ikeda, depicted the French Revolution from the point of view of the Oscar and Marie Antoinette.
She was even awarded the title of Chevalier by France. She is one of the manga artists I really respect.
My favorite anime are “Nadia of the Mysterious Sea”, “Sailor Moon”, and “Yadamon”.
9. Rose of Versailles and Sailor Moon now that is something we western people can really understand since they are also quite famous. And speaking of that, for us, Western people, the japanese culture of Manga and Anime is exciting, fantastic, an approach to new worlds, concepts and ideas; a close approach to a whole new culture and its traditions. Do Japanese people and especially, you designers, mangakas and creators, realize how far your culture has reached and how appreciated you are?
We don’t understand that very well. Even though the impact is so far-reaching, most creators in Japan are poor.
Even animators with particular skills are working for a monthly income that is just enough to pay for a month’s rent in Tokyo.
Lately, Chinese animation companies seem to be willing to hire them for more than five times that amount. So these days, Chinese animation is really beautiful and the content is getting better.
About 10 years ago, I heard that a famous animator who had even published an art book at the time was bathing in a park because he couldn’t afford the utility bills, which made me really sad.
The income system has not changed much, and creators, especially animators, are still in poverty. Of course, this depends on the case.
There are people who can make good money with preferential treatment.
Rodrigo de Reynoso: Here I would like to make a personal comment. What Hiro has explained us here is quite sad, that the majority of creators, designers and people that create the mangas, animes & the characters we love and have impacted our lives, sometimes struggle to make it to the end of the month so please, as fans, I would ask that we keep supporting them by buying their original artwork and mangas, today we can order practically anything online so let´s make an effort to find their work and get it. Stop looking at some sites where people illegaly upload these works. Sometimes when a manga or series is cancelled it´s our fault as fans because our love for them was not showed as it should had been. It´s a though world, with a lot of stress and little payment, so let us do our part within our reach.
10. One last question. You also teach and guide students into the design world. What would your advise be to people who want to start in thisworld but are unsure about their skills? Are these a gift or something you can practice and practice till you get better?
I believe that the field of painting is one in which skills can be developed if one has the “talent to work hard”.
Personally, I believe that the key to painting is how much time and care you can put into it.
People with insufficient skills tend to be lax in their approach, not spending dozens of hours on a single painting.
In order to improve your skills, you should collect materials properly and refer to them, and continue to polish your basics through drawing and croquis.
Even I, a professional, am still learning the basics and applications.
Good luck to all you amateurs out there!
I’m glad you asked some really interesting questions. It has been a great pleasure and fulfillment to work with you guys again.
I will do my best to create art that will please the customers who receive the certificates in various locations, and I look forward to working with you in the future!
Thank you very much.
Thank you so much, Hiro, for being here with us and letting us know more about you. And for the readers, this was Hiro Usuda, the amazing artist for whom we only have words of recognition and praise. Please check her work on hirousuda.weebly.com and follow her on instagram https://www.instagram.com/hirousuda/
Below we have posted some of her art, as a treat.