When thinking of what inspires me, its quiet a difficult thing to pin point.... when i think about it there are so many elements and various things that have influenced me and inspired me over the years....
So I had to think about the question more specifically.... what has inspired me, in terms of wanting to be an artist? to focus on games and illustration as a career? hmmmm, I guess looking at it its one artist in particular, and that's Yoshitaka Amano. I've never been one of these people who's been into 'art' as it is, but throughout college I was more into art based stuff than design, despite the fact I was studying graphic design. I know its all connected but often when I would be set assignments researching graphic designers, id often drift off and look up artists instead... and that's when I began researching Amano's work. He was always someone I was aware of, through his work as a character designer on the Final Fantasy series of games, but wasn't until I looked into his work properly that I realised his scope of work he has done over the course of his career.
Amano is heavily influenced by both western artists such as Peter Max and Gustav Klimt, and Traditional Japanese Ukiyo-e Woodblock prints, so his work shows a fusion of both these styles in their execution. His earlier work shows his western influences more clearly, the comparison below is his work done for Vampire Hunter D, and the main character in the first picture is an older piece he did, and is very reminiscent of the work by Klimt and the Art Nouveau style with very warm and half tone colours, and even the faces of the characters look very western in their depiction. Working on this character for a long time, has shown how his style has evolved very much into his own unique style, with much more emphasis on wispy lines, and brush strokes which depict characters in minimalistic detail that still somehow remain very in depth.
Prevalent throughout Amano's work is his focus on the female form, and the various ways it is depicted shows how he uses very refined techniques to create his work. He will often start with fine pencil lines as a basis for the form of his work, then paint or ink over it with various media, though the lines created by his pencil work is often still visible. This might seem messy, but actually is what gives a lot of his work its fluidity and sense of movement especially when it is something simple like a face, that is perfectly framed by wisps of hair. The faces of his subjects are often incredibly minimalist compared to the rest of the composition, with intense amount of detail put into the surroundings so as to appear to frame the simplicity of the features.
There is quite a large emphasis on clothing and attire in a lot of Amano's work, showing his understanding of fashion design, and how material fits to the human form. Amano's focus on Fantasy themes means that this is often taken to the extreme, with clothes extending and overlapping to fit across the whole page, forming a sort of surreal wave of patterns with the character surrounded by it. The pattern work on the clothing itself is also often detailed to the extreme, with fabrics often taking on a mysterious quality that forms an extraordinary array of colour and shape. This forms a contrast against the simple and minimalistic forms of the humans he depicts in each piece of work that focuses on a character.
As well as his own work, Amano has also depicted many other popular figures in his time, the examples of Batman and Darth Vader shown below. These examples I chose specifically, because put side by side they show the varying styles that Amano displays in all of his work; from the wispy lines and gentle shading on the characterisation of Batman, to the thick yet fluid brush strokes in ink used to depict the figure of Vader. Two iconic characters that are instantly recognisable yet done in Amano's unique way in contrasting media. The style of the fluid brush strokes is one that has influenced me most by Amano, and I have spent many hours trying to attempt the natural flow of the brush with Indian ink to get an effect that can even come remotely close to teh effortlessness depicted in hsi work.
His ability to experiment in any media and field has led to such a diverse range of work, its almost impossible to cover it all in something like a blog. Shown below though are a few examples that show his background interests in Pop Art and his early career working as a character designer for an Anime studio. Both of these examples show his ability to step away from the fine detailed work you've seen so far, and focus on the simplicity of his creations, depicted specifically for print or large scale viewing in an art gallery.
Diversity in Amano's work not only covers what medium he can work in, but also what audience he can make his work appeal to. The artwork below is from a project that was created specifically with a younger audience in mind, what began as a small book illustration project for children has now grown into a full scale animation. I find it very inspirational how he was able to take something lie vegetables and characterise them, building his own world around such a simple idea, and turn it into something so unique.
Over the course of his career Amano has collaborated with various people, Neil Gaiman (Worked on Sandman), Greg Rucka (Illustrated a Elektra & Wolverine comic written by him) and Japanese Metal band, Galneryus (provided cover art for their albums) amongst others. His ability to depict the characters created by others is one of his greatest strengths and he is able to do so without compromising his own style: each creation is recognisable as his artwork.
His current project, is something that has been ten years in the making, and is not only an art project but also a story written and created by Amano, called Deva Zan. As well as a published illustrated book (which I will review in full at a later date) the story is currently being turned into a fully animated movie. I cant wait to see how a full motion picture will translate Amano's unique style of artwork, and from the brief clip ive seen it is looking very impressive.
(teaser trailer fro Deva ZAN movie)