I've been a Castlevania fan since the early Gameboy games, then the SNES games. Symphony of the Night was one of the first games I played on the PlayStation. I didn't have a PlayStation personally, but most of my friends did, and I have good memories of going to my friend's house to play it. Ayami Kojima's artwork for the game is also one of the things that got me into drawing. I spent so
much time copying her art of Alucard in my school notebooks!
What other games did you grow up playing?
My parents never allowed us to have a gaming console at home, apart from the Gameboy, so me and my siblings grew up on PC games. Games by LucasArts or Sierra, like the Monkey Island series, or the King's Quest series. I also played a ton of Civilization, Diablo/Diablo II and Warcraft II. Then I got into Final Fantasy, starting with FFVII, then played all the other games of the series I could get my hands on.
Do you derive a lot of inspiration from games for your personal work?
To some extent, yes definitely. Video game art has always been a part of my path as an artist, and even when I'm not doing proper fan-art all of those influences are still there in the back of my mind. What I got from the video games I played is a taste for really atmospheric scenes. I always like to imagine that if you were to be magically transported into one of my illustrations it'd make you go 'Woah!!'
, and want to start exploring the surroundings!
What was your main inspiration for the illustration you've made?
I definitely wanted to pay homage to the art of Ayami Kojima, while still adding my personal touch to it. I've tried to reinterpret the characters in my 'style', while still being faithful to their original design. I've tried to combine all the iconic elements of the game into a coherent composition, with strong shapes and moody lighting.
You've gotten to be know on the internet by your personal works and 'pop culture'-inspired artworks. How did you get into working in this pop culture niche?
Back in 2012, I did a few Harry Potter pieces, just for fun, in my free time. They got some real traction on social media (Tumblr at the time) and I started getting noticed more and more.
was working with Mondo at the time, and he contacted me to ask if I'd be interested in doing a poster for them. I don't know where he first saw my art, but I'm eternally grateful to him for giving me a shot.
Around the same time, James from Black Dragon Press commissioned a Nosferatu poster from me to launch his print company Black Dragon Press and the print was a big success... and everything kinda snowballed from there!
Do you distinguish between the two? Do you value one above the other?
Not really. I like doing both equally and try to have a balance of both. Pop culture work comes with its set of restrictions (character designs, likeness etc) and personal work has no restrictions..and that can sometimes be more challenging.. when you can draw anything, what do you draw?? I like to imagine all my illustrations, even the pop culture inspired ones, take place in the same world so that when you look at all my work together, it looks like a cohesive collection.
What do you make of the current state of pop culture inspired art? Do you see certain trends?
I have to admit I'm not much of a collector (though I wish I could afford more art) so I don't really pay attention to the market at large, other than releases from my friends and colleagues. I know there's a wide variety of styles and subjects so there's a little something for everyone.
What do you look for when deciding on a commissioned work?
Commissions that I know I'll have fun working on... and sometimes that isn't apparent from the get go, so I always manage to make a job fun when I've taken it on. If I don't enjoy working on a piece, it definitely shows. That's why even when the subject is way out there compared to my usual stuff, I always try to "adapt" it to my world.
When and how did you decide to apply yourself to the scratchboard technique for your illustrations?
About 7 years ago now. I used to do pen and ink illustrations (that weren't near as detailed as what I do now), but I quickly found the medium a bit limited for what I was trying to achieve. I wanted to get into etching/engraving but it was too expensive and I couldn't find a good class. So after a bit of research, I found the next best thing, scratchboard, and haven't looked back since!
Does this "traditional" method of working provide something that digital techniques do not?
When I work fully digitally (it happens), I feel like I'm never done working on a piece. You can always zoom in and detail more, tweak the colors ad infinitum, polish up this or that little bit etc. The scratchboards I use don't really allow for retakes, so once an area is scratched out, it's done. If I made a huge mistake, I'll start over. If (or when
, rather) I make smaller mistakes, I fix them in post in Photoshop. But once a piece is done, I fix it so I can't tweak it and I get a real sense of accomplishment from having made something tangible.
What question do you wish people would ask you but they never do?
Who my favorite video game music composer is.. It's Nobuo Uematsu (of Final Fantasy fame)! Although - if she continues on her Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3 streak - Yuta Kitamura might be a contender for the title!
The fine art print Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is part of our official Konami colletion, and is available in two editions: the Standard Edition and Luxury (Large) Edition. For as long as stock lasts, both editions of this print come with an exclusive Alucard enamel pin, designed by Nico!