Here at Neko’s Shiritori we had the honor to interview local Californian artist Larein. She is on pace for doing graphic design and expanding from there. Here we focused on getting to know a bit more about Larein and her hobbies.
You’re an artist that gains influence and inspiration from hobbies you enjoy, such as anime/manga/video games/collecting figures. Are there any particular favorites that have influenced you the most, perhaps what got you started or further interested into art?
It’s hard to pick particular inspirations that are my favorites since there’s so many. Music is a great influence on my work, Eiichiro Oda and his One Piece manga are a big inspiration to me too. I was already drawing a bit when I was younger, what got me started in drawing anime style work was probably Pokemon.
Your digital art tools contain a good variety. Mind describing a brief history of your progress in using these tools such as when you started using it and how it has helped expand your abilities? Did you start off with digital art or was there a time period where you drew traditionally until the tools came about?
I started off working traditionally. Lots of pencil work, for color I used pens and Copic markers. I realized if I really wanted to keep drawing, I would have to spend a lot of money on supplies, since pens and markers don’t last. Around 2005, I decided to buy a cheap version of Photoshop and got a cheap Wacom tablet as a present. Once I got a better laptop, I upgraded my Photoshop. For a while I was using Photoshop and Manga Studio together. Now I am mostly using PaintTool SAI with Photoshop.
You mentioned that you have some comic projects that you would like to release soon. Any details of what it’s about? To have your illustrations in the form of a story sounds like a very interesting project in the near future.
Ah yes, one day I will finish that stuff, haha. I have a few stories I’m planning out (a few too many!), but right now, I want to try just doing a oneshot comic. It’s a fairytale-like story and is planned to be a little over 60 pages at the moment. I’m hoping to finish it before the year ends, but we’ll see.
Speaking of projects, have you considered setting up a full online store?
I am considering it! I think I’ve found a good website for hosting it. Right now it’s matter of figuring out how to manage merchandise, storage for it, what things to sell, and managing money.
How did the history of the purple hair come to be? It’s quite the distinct way to identify you since you established it.
Purple is my favorite color so I had to put it on one of my characters! There’s not much else behind it, I just wanted to draw a character who had some of my favorite features so, I made Quess.
What stands out just as much as the purple hair are your emoticon faces. We understand that some artists never want their photo taken, but when did you creatively develop an entire system of faces? I personally failed to spot you correctly due to a different hair wig despite a matching face. Love the emoticon faces since it makes you even more distinct.
Haha, I actually developed it right on the spot when I was asked for that photo! It’s just one of the funny faces I like to draw and use when chatting online. :T
Fanime and AX had some distinct changes from last year that were fairly noticeable. For Fanime, Artist Alley was moved to an entirely new tent. Although specializing the location to allow a larger artist alley to exist is nice, it’s also further away from the convention, and gives attendees far more to see than they normally are used to. How do you feel this has impacted sales or just traffic in general? What were your thoughts on the handling of the booth setups? As cost rise and information flow gets harder while there’s still physical construction, the reality is much more rocky than it appears. We’ve heard about particularly negative things such as the con’s failure to set up tables next to other requested artists, among other issues such as inconvenient registering. For attendees, you were aware that it took literally up to 6 hours to get a pre-registration badge, and this was without a power outage. As an artist, what was the reality for registering like? We confirmed with others that since the artist registration was actually on the second floor, you can imagine the frustration with unclear directions.
I’ve attended Fanime a few times, but this was actually my first time doing the artist alley there so I could only compare it to AX and SacAnime. South Hall (or “the tent”) was very spacious; con goers weren’t crowded because they had nice big walkways. I think that allowed people to really be able to browse the alley instead of rushing past a lot of tables. While the space was nice, I really didn’t understand why artist alley was put in that tent. The room artist alley is normally in was being used by Fanime, but they just had 3 food booths, some tables and chairs in there and the rest was empty. I like the idea of having a room where people can lounge around and buy food since it could help reduce people sitting on the floor in hallways, but why was artist alley pushed to the back for it? I didn’t have any requests to be seated next to anyone at Fanime so I’m not sure why they couldn’t accommodate everyone. It was a bit too dusty in there too; no one likes blowing their nose to find black dust on the tissue, haha.
As for registration, I don’t like being overly critical but it was pretty bad this year. Artists were allowed to use the ‘special registration line’ to pick up their badges, which is great. Finding it took a good while though; only one staff member seemed to know where artists were suppose to go since the others either sent me to the wrong line or just told me they didn’t know. I think maybe there was just a big lack of information going on between the staff running registration. I understand some staff were just pulled from where they were and are thrown in to help, but there needs to be better communication on where they need to send people. It seems some artists didn’t know they could use special registration to pick up their badge. Thankfully my helpers and I didn’t have to wait 6 hours for our badges, but that’s something that really needs to be dealt with. I think the most I’ve waited for a badge at AX or SacAnime was an hour.
For AX, fortunately there was no X-Games occupying the LACC territory this year compared to last. However, despite record breaking numbers in attendance, the first day wound up rather slow, while another day with far more traffic ended up oddly too congested. How was the traffic reality like for you, who also had a potential booth disadvantage of facing the back wall? How was allocating time like to balance between maintaining your booth and doing convention things you wanted to such as autographs?
I think I got really good traffic to my table most of the days. There were a few periods where I did find myself just watching passerbys, but it was never too long. I was facing the back last year and didn’t do that well, this year was my most profitable con to date though. Managing time was a bit of an annoyance- I wanted to get the autograph of huke, but because of that I lost out on a lot of time at my booth. My helper was with me in line too so there were basically 2 hours in the morning where sales couldn’t happen.
Although we do not know exact prices on Artist Alley tables, it is extremely clear that relative to previous years, the table costs for a booth have rose significantly. Likewise, the number of attendees for the bigger conventions have also increased. Have sales been able to scale accordingly to the rising costs? If there were systems in place you disagree with, what are they and what do you believe can be improved in the future?
I think AX tables were the same price as last year, I can’t remember for sure though. I do think AX tables are a bit too expensive and I really hope Fanime doesn’t increase their prices more. My sales have been increasing more with every con. I’m not sure if there’s anything I disagree with how they manage them. I think for Fanime it was simply having registration for artist alley open up super late; I don’t like having to do all that stuff last minute.
At AX we noticed you were selling Idolm@ster buttons. It appeared to be a small supply of a button test you were doing so you had a small sample to hedge the risk, and yet it sold like hotcakes to the point that a large group of Idolm@ster fans missed out on the opportunity. This was a rare case of you being essentially the only artist with Idolm@ster goods. What were your thoughts on capturing the entire demand base there?
Oh man, that was super exciting. Fanime was my first selling buttons and those had done decently, but AX was my first time selling the Idom@ster set. I didn’t really expect to get hit as hard as I did, it was like once one IM@S fan had that set, they all started finding out about it. Originally my Attack on Titan button of Sasha was the only thing selling, but once people found my Idolm@ster buttons, I couldn’t keep up with the demand. I think it was partly due to my own poor planning because I decided to do a 13 button set with a limited amount of button supplies. I also had my Mami button set and my Sasha button, which used more supplies…I now know I need to buy way more supplies.
Considering Idolm@ster has no specific console release here in the US, how did you get into Idolm@ster?
I believe I first found it through Youtube? It might have been one of those Nico Nico Douga song compilation videos that I first saw it. At first I would just stumble upon it occasionally and then one day I decided to look up more videos. After that it was just like, “Oh my gosh, there is a video game with anime characters that sing and dance! And the songs are catchy! And the characters look neat!”. I haven’t actually played any of the games so I mostly kept up with it through Youtube and fanart. Once the anime came out (the A-1 Pictures anime, not Xenoglossia), I think that helped me to really like the characters.
What’s your thoughts on what has been marketed in the US for Idolm@ster? Much like how your button project had some good demand, Idolm@ster here is relatively niche despite a passionate group of fans. Do you plan to test out more goods in this fashion after seeing the results?
It’s kind of sad that there hasn’t been a lot of push to bringing Idolm@ster here. I think the anime has made more fans of it over in the US, but fans just haven’t really shown how much they want it here I guess. That being said, there is clearly a group of fans passionate about it. I will probably make a few different Idolm@ster prints for the future conventions I go to. I am also considering another button set, but that might make things too crazy for me again, haha.
We’ve noticed you do cosplay as well. What are some characters you have cosplayed as? Any ones in particular you would like to cosplay in the future?
Heh heh, yeah I’ve done a few. When I was younger I cosplayed a few characters like Edward Elric, Gakupo, and Death the Kid. Recently, I have cosplayed as Kurisu Makise and I did a thrown together Takane Shijou at AX last year. I want to try cosplaying as Luka Megurine and maybe someone from Attack on Titan next.
What are your thoughts on social media being tools that you can advertise yourself? In our case, we discovered you via Twitter due to your self promotion of your artist alley table. Have you felt these tools assist you in the marketing standpoint? Are there other ways you would like to see to allow potential customers know more about you and your wares?
I think they have helped a bit, especially since there was a period of time where I wasn’t posting art online very much. It kind of helped people be aware of my art again. I think I would like to see if Youtube is something I can use to help show my work. Right now, it is mostly down to me actually making the effort to post things online more and to draw more.
We thank Larein for taking the time to take the interview with us. We look forward to her store, comic, as well as seeing what else she has in store in the near future.