Wandering around the colourful booths of artist alley at Anime Expo 2013, I spotted a character sprouting green leaves from their head and starred with hypnotized eyes, moving closer with instinctual movements. Desiring a memento of the sparkling style the booth hosted, I bought a commission of the Okumura brothers Rin and Yukio, and upon returning to claim the finished product, bought one of her original pieces (tada~!). Today, these pieces are but two of my mini collection from artist Ou-ren, and I have enjoyed the unique style her work has kept while she continues to grow as an artist.
Recently I requested permission for both posting one my commissions from her on my blog and an interview with her. Aaaand… ~drumroll~ She said yes! ~confetti~
Ou-ren is insanely talented, blending fine details and ink work with an anime and realism fusion, and I hope that after reading this interview, you visit the links for more.
And now, I present to you… Shoutout Sunday’s Artist of Honor: Ou-ren!
M: What was the spark that got you interested in drawing?
O: Though I started drawing when I was very young, I began pursuing art in earnest when I first saw anime series like Sailor Moon (Cartoon Network’s Toonami block) and Serial Experiments Lain (Sci-fi/Syfy channel) in the 1990s. I fell in love with the anything-and-everything attitude that anime and manga handled storylines. Female superheroes, dystopian cyberpunk, different flavors of fantasy, space operas, classical music, sports, noir–any niche interest I could think of, anime had. I wanted to be part of that creative process no matter what.
Long story short, I fell into this deep, black pit called anime…and never bothered to crawl out of it.
What do you like most about drawing and your style specifically?
I like the creative freedom drawing gives me. Art is a way for me to celebrate and give form to everything I like. As an artist, I feel like I have the potential to draw anything! Because I like anime a bit too much, my style is unabashedly anime. Still, I like that my style still has some grounding in semi-realism. I feel that aspect makes my drawings a bit more convincing.
What do you wish to improve on as you move forward?
I want to improve on drawing backgrounds. I also want to draw faster.
Do you have future projects in mind that you would like to pursue?
I have several comic ideas and projects lined up—some collaborations, some independent.
What is your dream job (art-related or otherwise)?
Someday, I would like to be able to comfortably live off creating art and comics independently, without relying on big name industry giants. The creative freedom of being indie and having a personal brand sounds extremely appealing.
Do you have a favorite original character, and could you reveal a little about the character?
Of my insane cast of characters, I like my fox twins Fubuki and Nowaki. I know you said one, but I consider them a set, and I like both equally! Among the different character types found in anime, I particularly like the fox characters. Sticking a fox character in the cast is the fastest way to get me to look at anything in anime. I zoom in on foxes faster than you can say “whiplash.” Over time, I noticed a trend among fox characters across different series. Many of them tend to be silver, nine-tailed (typically 900-1000 years old), wise, and impeccably cool (e.g. Yu Yu Hakusho’s Youko Kurama, Kamisama Hajimemashita’s Tomoe). I wanted my own fox characters, but I also wanted to subvert some of those tropes found in anime.
In come Fubuki and Nowaki! The word that most defines them is “excessive.” Though they’re excessively large and powerful for their age (a mere 300 years), they’re goofy and act more like big dogs. With perpetually large grins plastered on their faces, they are overly happy and enthusiastic about everything, especially since they spent most of their lives cloistered in a bamboo forest before their master Mischa picked them up one day. Though they are intelligent, they don’t always have the best judgment skills, so Mischa constantly bails them out of trouble. Fubuki and Nowaki show affection for Mischa in excessive ways, such as knitting extremely oversized scarves (Mischa can’t breathe when wearing them) and presenting trophies of severed enemies’ heads on sticks (Mischa accidentally strings together the word “hate” and an unfortunate person’s name a few times).
The fox twins share similar happy-go-lucky personalities, but Fubuki is calmer and handles stressful situations better than Nowaki. Fubuki likes coffee and bittersweet things like dark chocolate and marmalade. Nowaki likes tea and sweets. The foxes can both control the weather (stormy weather specifically) and vomit lightning.
Could you handle being stranded on an island with this character? How about being stuck in the desert?
The foxes would be good to have around in inhospitable environments, as long as the local climate permits some rainfall. We would have a better chance of survival on islands than in the desert. The foxes are sensitive to extreme heat, so we would likely all die in the desert…
Character-wise, I would imagine they would be fun to talk to! Or rather, they would talk at me, and I would laugh my ass off at whatever nonsense they spout.
Which three pieces of artwork are your favorite? (click to view)
What is one piece you enjoyed working on? (click to view)
I recently did a sample manga page for a convention event that I am rather proud of. It’s an uncomplicated page in terms of background, panels, and character poses, but I had fun drawing it, and a lot of people at my event liked it.
In the times you may have struggled with a piece or found yourself with an art-block, what do you do to motivate or inspire yourself to keep going or return to your work?
In times of artistic duress, I think of previous instances when I fell into long, crippling art blocks and would stop drawing for six months at a time. In those cases, I remember picking my pencil up each and every time because I still wanted to be part of the creative process that inspired me so deeply when I first started drawing no matter what.
It also helps to just pick up a pencil and draw something comfortable and familiar to regain confidence. Once I get bored of that, I try something new.
Do you have an OTP?
I am a very casual shipper, if at all. In fact, I don’t completely understand ship wars.
But, I do like best friend dynamics where characters see the people before the romance and sex. I like when characters find that their respective strengths and weaknesses complement and encourage each other to grow. Some couples I like include Shizuku and Haru from Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun, Haruka and Makoto from Free!, Ladybug and Chat Noir from Miraculous Ladybug, and Kiku and Sukeroku from Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu.
If you were an anime genre, what would you be and why?
I would probably be a supernatural slice of life genre, like Natsume Yuujinchou, because though I love the spectrum of the supernatural genre, I likely wouldn’t be able to handle anything too dark in real life.
Anime or manga?
I’m fine with either. I like reading in general, so it doesn’t matter to me if the words are in speech bubbles or in subtitles flashing across the screen.
Thank you again to Ou-ren for the interview and being my very first Shout Out Sunday!