Jon Suguiyama is an Illustrator based in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I caught wind of him by his awesome Akira piece for Bottleneck Galleries latest show. They decided to change the rules of space and time, commissioning over 60 gifted artists for our “Alternate Ending” exhibit. Each artist will present a piece representing what they wish had happened at the end of a certain film, video game, or book. It is their chance to rewrite the end, and we hope to see you there. We pulled Jon as the artist we wanted to talk to the most, and we were fortunate enough to sit down and speak with him about his creative process. Read below for the full Q&A…
You tackled Akira for the ALTERNATE ENDING show at Bottleneck Gallery. Did you experience any particular pressure adjusting the storyline for such a classic anime film with millions of fans?
Jon: Not at all. I rarely create stuff thinking of what people are going to think – that used to trouble me a lot in the past but not anymore. Now I just try to do things with passion and make everything look awesome (to me). This way I can achieve a sincere work and make things more enjoyable. The idea of creating an alternate ending seduced me immediately because I’m a big Akira fan and I had the chance to actually do something I had in mind for years: make Tetsuo, my favorite character, kick Kaneda’s ass. The hard part was doing it in a subtle way, capturing a single critical moment right after Tetsuo beat Kaneda and miliseconds before he’s struck by the laser. I had lots of fun working on this piece.
I also saw you did an illustration for Game of Thrones as well. How does television and films directly impact or influence your work?
Jon: I like to watch movies, TV series, documentaries and these crazy science channels (about anything from wildlife to quantum physics) and I guess everything I watch, see, read, listen, touch or live ends up influencing my work somehow. Anything can serve me as an inspirational source and that’s not limited to the medium I’m working on. I remember painting and drawing in front of TV while watching Disney’s cartoons in my childhood or doing huge amounts of sketching after being inspired by a song, for instance.
You are currently available to work as a freelancer on a variety of projects. How do you find new clients that are interested in your services?
Jon: I have never put real effort on finding clients because I always had illustration as a hobby and that is something I very much regret. Almost all professional work I did was assigned to me by people in my closest circles (professional or personal). But that’s definetely going to chance since I’m thinking of a real full-time illustration career.
You also dabble a bit in motion design and command the stage as an art director. What skills and duties does this entail that help you in your overall creativity as a designer?
Jon: I have always worked with graphic design and motion and have always kept drawing, painting and writing music as hobbies. I think somehow anything I manage to learn (creativity-related speaking or not) works just fine for both work and hobbies because it’s all about the same principles: form, shapes, values, hues, moods, rhythm and movement. Putting things together while designing something has made me better at drawing and composing, while quick sketching thumbnails gave agility and pace to design thinking, for example. One great thing to do is find some profession that works great with your passions, hobbies and interests (or actually turn your passions, hobbies or interests into a profession).
What are some of your favorite Asian films or anime?
Jon: I’m a big fan of animes like Akira, Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell, FullMetal Alchemist and movies like Ran (by Kurosawa), the vengeance trilogy by Park Chan-wook (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Old Boy and Lady Vengeance), Bruce Lee filmography and the 1986 Kung Fu Kids (I used to watch it a lot when I was a kid: just awesome!).
The majority of your work involves people. Was it hard to nail down illustrating the human anatomy?
Jon: Not really. Humanoid anatomy has been an obsession since I was a kid – first with Disney and Mauricio de Souza, then DC/Marvel superheroes, then figurative fine art. I’ve focused on it so hard that it has become relatively instinctive today (but not that I completely discard reference images). Drawing animals, vehicles, complex scenarios and colouring has been really painful, though. But I’m working on it!
Now working in Brasil, how does living in this part of the world affect your career? i.e. culture, people, places?
Jon: Well, I live in São Paulo where everything is happening. It is a 24/7 city enormously rich in culture. I can go to concerts, theathers, museums, watch any movie from the world, eat in a different restaurant every single day, read or buy anything I want. So, generally speaking, one could have anything needed culturally, for a price, like any other well developed place in the world. The sad part is It is extremely hard to move from one place to another during rush hour (traffic is unbearable) and the cost of living here is high (even if compared to some cities in Europe), what makes it really difficult to stand sometimes. I guess I can’t really complain about it but I could be happier someplace smaller and less violent and crowded since I can work from literally anywhere with decent internet connection and a computer + wacom + scanner.
Yes, I ask because you did a portrait of rap star Emicida, which seems convenient since he is from your area of work. What other benefits does South America benefit as an artist?
Jon: Never thought about it. I did Emicida’s portrait as a commission. I try to support some local bands with artwork but this wasn’t really the case (although I like his music). I don’t really have this strong bond to Brazil, or São Paulo, or anyplace else. I mean, I love South America, my favorite poet is from Chile (Neruda), one of my favorite painters is Brazilian (Juarez Machado), my favorite sculptor is also Brazilian (Brecheret) but those are not things I grew up with. I think anyone, anywhere could have these guys as their favorites – specially after internet.
What projects do you have coming up in 2013? Any new exhibits you plan to be part of?
Jon: I plan on becoming a full-time illustrator, write and illustrate a book, make a series of paintings for a (maybe) exhibit, keep on contributing with some smaller projects with friends and study, learn and teach a lot towards becoming a better artist and person.
Lastly, any advice to any creative out there?
Jon: Well, I wish I could steer away from the good old “follow your dreams” kind of advice, but that’s really what people need to do to be successful. Do things you’d like to see, write stuff you’d love to read, study a lot, fail a lot – learn from every mistake, ask for some advice from people you admire, never ever stop learning and experimenting and make things with passion. Anything you make from the heart is worth doing, forget about all the rest.
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