Born in Santa Monica and raised in Tokyo, Patrick moved back to California in 2001 and has worked as a character/concept designer in the animation industry for major movies such as “Valiant” (Walt Disney Pictures) and “9” (Focus Features), as well as “Legend of the Guardians” (Warner Bros). Patrick is currently designing characters for “TRON: Uprising” for Disney Television. Besides digital film projects, Patrick also swings a couple of traditional brushes on his personal paintings. Read below for the full interview…
What contributing factors go into the decision making of making an original piece of art available for prints?
Patrick: Ideally I would like to make any of my original paintings available for print release as well, so that more people possibly could enjoy them within the reach. However some originals are simply hard to reproduce due to the medium used such as subtle watercolor, gold ink or foil. I sometimes apply ‘hand gold-embellishment’ on the prints respectively to compensate some touch of gold ink from the original, but not always possible. On the other hand some are actually created 100% digitally and they are meant to go for giclee print run from the beginning. They sustain the exact same quality and do not require much of pulling hair out to calibrate color and stuff, which is a relief to me.
You are currently busy with lots of galleries. What brought upon this sudden influx of work? Are you trying to gain exposure or do you just like working on interpreting film/TV through your artwork?
Patrick: I am trying to emphasis the exposure of my personal work now. I work for Animation/film studios and it definetely has its own coolness for sure. As a character designer/concept artist it is a group effort like playing a part in a symphony and you could possibly accomplish something greater than you could do by yourself alone when the production successfully completes. Meanwhile, I have my own notes to play solo and see if people like or hate my strum. I want to know if I could strike a chord in somebody, to more personal degree. I have been lucky to have opportunities to express my own chords in this venue as well and willing to expand more.
For your Oscar Legends show you quoted as saying ‘My choice…’ as in you could produce a piece for any film you wanted (pertaining to the criteria)? If so, why did you choose Dracula?
Patrick: “Oscar Legends” show, curated by Hero Complex Gallery, was a tribute to the top Oscar-winning films of all time. All Oscar-winners from all categories were eligible and what to choose was up to the artists, but they wanted to keep it to just one artist per film. I was thinking of the Oscar-wining costume designer Eiko Ishioka who had been strong inspiration to many people including myself. Unfortunately she passed away in early 2012 (her last work received an Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design again for ‘Mirror Mirror’ this year), and I was eager to draw one of her signature costumes from ‘Bram Stalker’s Dracula’. I would have done something for ‘The Hurt Locker’ as my alt choice if Dracula was taken already (I also have done something related to ‘Wrestler’ prior to the show).
The majority of your work is being seen in L.A. How do you feel your art will be received in different parts of the world? Do you believe your art would resonate differently in other locations?
Patrick: I do not know if my personal artwork would resonate differently in other locations or countries yet, and am willing to find out! Please contact me if you are a gallery owner reading this and interested in
What are some of your favorite Asian films or anime?
Patrick: ‘Sonatine’, ‘Tokyo Sonata’, ‘Princess Mononoke’, ‘Sword of the Stranger’, ‘The Sky Crawlers’. And of course I have been strongly influenced by old school Japanese TV shows and anime from ’70 like ”Kamen Rider’, ‘Gatchaman’ or ‘Getter Robo’ that I grew up with. I also admire Peter Chung’s work very much.
In an earlier episode of the Creative Spotlight we had a chance to talk with Kane Kosugi who worked on Baton. Working in the animation department, how was it like working on such a unique animated project?
Patrick: [Laughs] It was too bad that I did not get to meet him! Baton was made in rotoscope animation in which drawings are based on footage of real actors. They needed to build costumes and props for actors to shoot live footage in Japan first and I only had 2 weeks to roughly establish the concept design to make the shooting deadline. Unlike other 3DCG animation project that I normally do from concept to model sheet throughout pre-production, I had to provide many rough sketches as quick as I could from US to the costume/prop dept. in Tokyo to have them figure out more flexibly on their end. It was a bit crazy but fun since I only got to do a fun part.
This led to working on more mainstream projects such as 9 and Legend of the Guardians; knowing these projects would have a bit more exposure did you change your style or creative process at all going into these alter projects?
Patrick: Hmmm…It is true that I try to adjust my style along with the development for any project, but it is actually because of the uniqueness of each project, not nessesary based on the size of the production or tendency of the contents(I worked on ‘Baton’ after ‘9’ and ‘Legend of the Guardians’) In other words, I believe that each project should earn its own unique style based on its unique narrative and filmmaker’s voice.
Projects are all different regardless and I am willing to find the one-of-a-kind visual language for each project. Even though it might not be always possible, at least that is my intention. From more practical viewpoint, I joined ‘9’ design team when their pre-production was already passed its half time line, so I was more like a finisher to integrate and nail the final design with reasonable accuracy on many of villain characters. Which could be tough responsibility to manage but rewarding too because they ended up in the film as I designed more literally. For ‘Legend of the Guardians’ on the other hand, I was lucky enough to be able to start from early development phase, asked to touch the most characters with my greasy fingers first. Initial character concepts got adjusted and finalized as the production proceeded as the result of collaboration with other talents and I am amazed with the final product.
Fast forward to now, you are working on TRON: Uprising. Any major difference between being a concept artist for television versus movies?
Patrick: Although it really depends on each project, I think their rhythms are very different in general. Movies usually reserve a bit more time to prepare in its development, sort of like thinking of one large mural painting, while TV series will expect a quicker turn-around in order to handle more episodes within somewhat tighter schedule, like creating a series of mini paintings under the same theme. Tron: Uprising, however, did not suffer the quality. In fact, it embraced the TV production conditions and came out with unconventionally unique style for it. I was honored to be a part of its creative design team. I was also on another TV series ‘PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures’ for Disney XD after ‘Tron’ and there were many characters/stages/props to design for the fast-pace segmental deadlines.
In the end, how do you achieve balance between your art career and your career within the film/tv realm? As a creative was it hard to fine tune your time management skills?
Patrick: It is a good question and I am not too sure yet :p To me these are 2 different things and they offer different types of satisfaction. It is a bit hard to properly manage my schedule now indeed… I wish there were 8 days a week.
Any gallery plans for Q2 2013 and beyond?
Patrick: I just came back from WonderCon Anaheim (thanks for everyone who swung by my table!) and will be joining Spectrum Live 2! in Kansas City this May as an exhibitor (where I should find out if there will be any slim chance to win Spectrum Award as one of finalists). As for the shows, “Righteous Ride” @Hero Complex Gallery, “007 tribute” @Qpop and a big “STAR WARS tribute” @Nucleus are up-coming events this month and May. I am planning to consistently contribute more throughout the year, as well as a new solo show hopefully toward the early next year so please check back my blog (www.patrickawa.net) for more info to come!
Lastly, any advice for any creative out there trying to get into the business?
Patrick: I am also struggling and I wish I knew any trick. But wherever you are struggling at, please keep walking. The scene around you could get changed as long as you are walking ahead.