Here is the interview with artist Hidekichi Shigemoto for Hasbro Pulse:
Q: You are one of the top sumi-e (Japanese ink painting) artists in the world, what about sumi-e attracted you to that style of painting?
A: Sumi-e is a special style within the ink painting history of Asian culture. As long as you use Sumi (which translates to “Black Ink” in Japanese), you’re drawing sumi-e. However, when I express my Sumi with broad brush strokes to give my pictures a special dynamic. I used inspiration from the charcoal drawings I studied back in high school and university.
Ever since I was young, I’ve loved the black ink style that’s unique to Japanese manga. Compared to that, Sumi-E and other ink paintings of nature, flowers, and birds that are common in Japan looked dated to me, and didn’t appeal to the young me. Even when I enrolled in the Osaka University of Art as a Design Major, and started learning about Illustrations (where I remember using Liquitex ink to draw highly detailed drawings for my major), I didn’t even think about studying Sumi-e.
But when I became a freelance illustrator, I knew I had to create an original style for myself, or I wouldn’t get any jobs. At that time, I listened to a lot of Black Music, and drew a couple of the music artists using sumi ink for fun. I became hooked to sumi ink instantly. It was a true revelatory moment for me.
I thought, “Maybe there should be a new Sumi-e style that didn’t exist, and had a new touch.” That’s when I started to draw not just musicians, but also athletes, historical figures, samurai, etc.
Sumi-e may have a deep history, but it’s form of expression is up to the painter, like other art forms. It doesn’t care about traditions, rules, or patterns. It’s up to the painter to figure out the idea, art style, and motif. I take that to heart when I draw my paintings.
Q: Who are your influences? Do you have a favorite artist?
A: For my art style, I had no teacher, nor do I intend to take on any students. I’ll say that it probably took me 10 years to master drawing a person in a dynamic pose with just the splashes and strokes of sumi ink.
Personally, people that I’ve thought as amazing as I study art, and who all have a certain personal touch are the Japanese artists Hokusai Katsushika, Tohaku Hasegawa, and Ichimura Tanaka. I also need to mention the manga artist Katsuhiro Otomo, who’s a big inspiration. And, of course, there’s the Godfather of Manga, Osamu Tezuka.
I don’t want to sound pompous, but I hope that I become remembered as the Godfather of Sumi-e Illustrations one-day.
I also have to acknowledge those few Sumi-e artists that have been upcoming that have a similar style to my own. I don’t know if they even know about me, but I hope my style helped the Sumi-e genre, and they’re taking inspiration from me. (laugh)
One thing I hope is that each of these artists find their own unique touches also.
Q: What other notable characters have you depicted in sumi-e style?
A: I’ve drawn characters from the series “Mobile Suit Gundam,” “Ultraman,” “Godzilla,” “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” “Kamen Rider,” and “Tekken,” just to name a few.
Q: How have you made the sumi-e style your own?
A: I somewhat ended up answering this in the first question, but I like to forget about the history behind Sumi-e drawings, and draw with my feelings. It’s drawing with whatever comes to my mind first, then doing it over-and-over again until I’m satisfied with the results. It’s during this process when the running touches (the brush strokes), and the flying touches (the splashes) start to define my Sumi-e style.
Q: How did you approach the Beast Wars Megatron artwork in the sumi-e style?
A: I love the looks of mechanisms that come together in things like factory spaces, motorbikes, and F1 race cars. I’ve drawn a lot of Sumi-e images before of those subjects. My F1 car and basketball player illustrations are actually in high school art text books now in Japan as an example of “the new Sumi-e style.”
Megatron himself has a lot of similar thick lines to his character, which made him especially easy and enjoyable to draw.
The question for me was, “How can I use shadows often in Sumi-e drawings to make something inorganic (a machine) feel organic?” I tried to capture the essence of “Transformers” of vehicles/objects that turn into humanoid robots, but when people look at them, these robots have a “soul” to them.
Q: Who’s your favorite Transformers character? And why?
A: Sadly, I never watched the original Transformers cartoon, but have watched all the movies. My favorite character from there is Rachet. I love 4WD vehicles, and my personal car is actually an orange JEEP. Rachet being a yellow HUMMER stood out to me in terms of his design.