Shunao is an artist striving to work in the game industry. She cosplays, draws art and loves to play video games.
Drawing, gaming, and cosplaying can easily go hand in hand, but which came first and how did one influence the other?
I have been playing video games longer than I have been drawing, although I began both around the same time. Since I have been playing video games since I was about 5-6 years old, I started doodling since then as well. A lot of my art is inspired from games I’ve played, especially RPGs, platformers, and fighting games. My art kind of varies because I get ideas and inspiration from different games that all have different art styles and I try to incorporate their coloring techniques in my piece. I actually didn’t get into cosplay until a few years ago, and the cosplays I do have been from video games as well!
How did pre-ordering Animal Crossing feel? Excited for the new game?
Yes, I’m very excited! Since I always asked my parents how I should spend my own money, I realized that I should just do what I want with it and just be careful. Even though I never got the first AC game since I didn’t own a GameCube, I got the DS version and I really like the easy-going aspect of the game! They added in new things to do, so I’m excited to try them all out.
Although your hobbies and work can coincide well on similarities, they also cover a wide range of games and series. Some are popular, some are more obscure. Are there any directions of gaming that you particularly like or dislike such as its practices, trends, or even artistic direction?
Mmm, I guess I’m starting to dislike how RPGs lately have been the same cardboard cutout story. For me, even if the art looks nice, if the story is not good, then I tend to drop it easily. I mean, guess it’s not a big deal, but it’s rare to find an RPG with a story that can stick with me these days. I think this can go with popular game companies in general, like I’m still waiting for SquareEnix to bring out a good RPG and Nintendo to stop making rehashes of the same Mario platformer for every console they come out with… The few that has given me hope that big companies can still make good stories would be ATLUS and XSeed, since I really loved their latest Radiant Historia and Last Story, respectively. I’m also not a big fan of FPS, but that’s mainly because I’m terrible at those kinds of games!
As for artistic direction, I really like the use of 3D and how the characters are becoming more and more “real”, but since I’ve always been fond with the 2D style, I hope it doesn’t die off! Probably because I don’t know how to create anything in 3D (yet), it just seems frightening. I also feel like I’m getting bombarded with the overly cute style that has trending for years now and hoping to see more variation! Ahhh, I don’t even know if I’m answering the questions correctly;;;
Do you prefer using traditional or digital medium for drawing art?
I prefer digital for drawing.
How has it been like trying to draw things you don’t conventionally draw, such as the opposite gender or even age-restricted content? Has it been fun attempting things outside of what you usually do?
Haha, oh gosh! I tend to draw young girls, but I have been drawing guys more lately and learning how to incorporate it with my style is kind of funny . I recently “tried” to draw age-restricted content and kind of cried because I’m a big baby. It’s a fun attempt, for sure, and I hope to practice with it more, actually.
What is it like being a freelance artist and how is the progress with the project that you were working on? What are your plans in the future in terms of your art? What kind of position would you ideally like to work in a game company?
Freelancing…is hard! I’m not a popular artist so I don’t get commissions often. Though, I’m not going to let that stop me from working harder! I recently finished an animation short for a class project and once summer hits, I’ll be working with my friend, Flashygoodness, in creating a bullet hell game. In the future, I plan to work in a small game company creating indie games, or even freelancing from there. Ideally, I would like to work as a concept artist since I love designing characters. Maybe even as an animator, but that’s a pretty long way, I think!
Art goes far beyond simply drawing. What other skill sets do you possess?
I also like writing, and I sew on my free time. Once in a while, I like to work on props with my dad. Is eating and not gaining weight an art as well? I like eating a lot, too.
What type of character do you enjoy cosplaying? From a small sample size of what I’ve seen, I sense a lot of fierce energy, but I’m sure it goes beyond that.
I really love cosplaying as characters I have a connection to, or characters I look up to. Usually my friends recommend me characters from series I have watched or played and they tend to stick in the “cute & short”, “tsundere”, or “fighter-like” category. I guess the best example would be Aisaka Taiga from Toradora! I’m more shy when I’m not in cosplay, so I like dressing up as characters that have a lot of energy. Even if there are characters that I want to cosplay as, but I’m not “fit” to be them, cosplaying is a hobby to have fun and where I can be myself, so I think it will stay there!
I’m aware that cosplay can take a lot of time and money, whether it is making your own or buying a stock one. How much does a normal cosplay cost you, and when do you determine when you want to cosplay as a specific character?
My cosplays tend to range from $40~$100!! Since it’s such a time-consuming hobby, I like to re-use cosplays as much as possible. I determine when to cosplay characters usually with my friends. I haven’t been keeping up with the trends so I’m always about three seasons behind when I want to bring out a cosplay. I try to correlate my cosplays with guests who come to upcoming cons as well.
Likewise, do you design your own cosplay, buy a stock one, or a combination of the two?
I use to make my own cosplays before I went into college, but now I’ve been commissioning my friends! Recently, it has been the combination of designing my own and going to find similar items in stores.
I’m quite impressed with the Mami rifles you procured previously. While the parts explanation sound fairly simple, how did you go about achieving the template for what measurements the prop would be?
The measurement of Mami’s rifle is the same as an actual rifle (I don’t know what design though, sorry!). The template used was the shell of a bebe rifle, so we gained the measurements from there.
How have you overcome challenges such as large expenditures that come with paying for tuition, as well as many other costs that add up via art equipment, tools, new cosplay, and conventions (printing and travel)? It’s one thing to deal with finances, it’s another to balance between planning your schedule convention-wise with so many variables factored in.
Ughhhhhh, that’s what I’m struggling right now actually. Cosplaying and going to conventions are always going to be the last thing on my list to take care of. School is very important to me so I have to prioritize my wants and needs. Because of this, I never work on cosplays while I’m at school, and I work on prints when I have the time. When con time gets closer, it’s harder to balance my workload because of trying to get things organized. Printing and traveling are hectic because hoping you gain enough money to break even is stressful, ahah!!
How has balancing between work, school, and play been?
//cries// There’s so many games coming out and I just want to play them all. This is suffering.
How has social media helped you get your business around? With 2013 having Twitter as one of the most recent additions to your sources, how has it fared for you in relaying information? That’s actually how I found you, as I noticed searching for keywords such as conventions to find mentions of table numbers to be quite effective.
Wow, that’s awesome! And yeah, it actually has; I got Twitter recently and started a page for my art on Facebook few months ago, and it’s been slowly helping! I never realized how helpful Twitter has been recently to get myself out there more. It’s just quite surprising, actually, hehe!
Convention correlated questions:
How do you feel about Fanime 2013’s Artist Alley? What advantages, if any, did you see over 2012’s? What disadvantages did you find after the entire weekend passed? Did you like the bigger facility? Was traffic sufficient despite attendees having a much larger selection of artist tables to see?
Ahahahehe…I feel like the only advantage over 2012’s was more open space behind the artist. The rows were too far apart and it was always windy. Artist Alley was awfully far from the convention and I hope they bring it back into the con center. Maybe the facility was too big…some of my friends couldn’t find me until they walked the whole area;;;
Having friends nearby is helpful for booths in many ways. How did you get around to coordinating with different people in different areas? Or is the world small after all?
I only sat with one of my friends, and I didn’t know my friends from AX were selling there as well, so neither of us put our numbers together, lol;;; Weee and I were going to sit next to each other, but apparently the con staff didn’t let us…ahhh, well, better luck next time!
Information for Fanime wasn’t effectively released until roughly within a week to go for the convention. I noticed many artists were trying to get together to make a mock draft of the tables, but while it was useful, it was far from complete. What are your thoughts on the Artist Alley map that eventually got generated, and what kind of improvements there would you like to see?
It was nice to see all the artists who were going to be there, but I was shocked to see how long the list actually was! I don’t mind a smaller Artist Alley, actually. It seems more fitting for the con-goers, especially if artists will be returning back inside the con center…
Unfortunately you weren’t able to attend cosplay meets, but if a convention went according to your plans, how would you ideally like it balanced out between selling art and attending events you’re interested in?
Mornings in the Artist Alley until it closes (last years AA closed at 3pm which was nice), the rest of my afternoon would be spent at cosplay meetings, with my cosplay friends, or at the Dealer’s Hall. And maybe, for once, I can check out the events…we’ll see what happens next year.
Have you ever considered having a third party or someone else assisting your booth who shares a table with you, such as for days you are not able to be present?
I had my brother with me at Fanime, so it was kind of helpful, but I think I feel better being behind the table myself. Since I like to meet the people who come by and buy my art, and in case they have questions, I can answer them. Maybe having an actual helper would be nice beside me!
How do you go about determining prices? Or rather, how do you go about figuring what amounts of prints and tools to bring to conventions?
My prices are determined by how much people sell by size. I kept my prices lower than others because I don’t think my art is well enough to be selling for such high prices. This is how I also determine the amounts of prints to bring to conventions. I print out more of the bigger name series, but I only bring about ten pages per print because I’m not really that great;;;
Have you considered conventions far outside of your local area? If so, how do you factor in costs to benefits with an unknown variable of unfamiliar territory?
I hope to one day, but I think I’ll do that once I gain more people following my works and maybe have more money in my pocket. I haven’t thought that far, actually, since I don’t think I’ll be going out of state anytime soon;;
Have commission requests influenced the direction of your art in any way, or have requests coincided with what you already like drawing, so it works well?
No commissions or requests have been like that recently, so it’s been going well!
We here at Neko’s Shiritori thank Shunao for taking the time to be interviewed. We look forward to seeing her in the future.