Favourite artists: Hideo Kojima, Yoji Shinkawa, Kazuma Kaneko, Yukito Kishiro, Takehiko Inoue, Hirohiko Araki, Egon Schiele, Brom, Stephan Martiniére, Linda Bergkvist, Capsule
Software used: Photoshop 7.0
The world of fantasy art has undeniably become more internationally broad thanks to the accessibility of the internet; no longer do US, UK and Japanese artists dominate the scene. Nevertheless, artists from Thailand are still something of a rarity. Although the country has a rich heritage of traditional art, it’s only recently that the digital medium has begun to be embraced, with events such as the New Media Art Festival in 2005.
Skan Srisuwan is one of the best-known Thai artists, who is currently creating work as a freelance illustrator – even if you don’t recognise his name, you’ll recognise his style. He was our cover star for issue 5, which showcased his trademark angular, metallic lines, and he makes regular posts on CGSociety.Mechanical passion
“I’ve loved to draw ever since I was a kid, and kept training till I got to the fine art faculty at Silpakorn University,” says Skan. “It was a straight line, with no hesitation about being an artist.” Not surprisingly, Silpakorn itself was the first university of art in Thailand, founded in 1943 by an Italian art professor.
Skan’s inspirations, however, are neither Thai nor Italian. Instead, he’s fascinated with the mechanical constructions of anime and manga. “My heroes are Hideo Kojima, Yoji Shinkawa from the Metal Gear series, Kazuma Kaneko and Brom,” he explains. “That’s the origin of my work style. In terms of inspiration, it’s everything around me that ‘clicks’ with me and can be applied to my mechanical style.
“Every resource I can get – fashion, architecture, concept car designs, animation, plamo, cute girls and so on – I use. It depends on what clicks at the time: I catch them all, then mix it up.”
Plamo, or plastic modelling, has long been an interest of Skan’s. In the west, plamo generally refers exclusively to fantasy and manga-related projects, although the original Japanese definition covers just about any modelling style.
“The origin of my metallic style is from Gundam plamo that I’ve been playing with since I was a kid,” he reveals. “I’m really crazy about LEGO toys and other mechanical parts, too. When I got to university, I went wild with figures and anatomical pieces, and mixed them up for my thesis piece. For my first developments,
I made mechanical anatomy, because the most beautiful dynamic function is human anatomy. So I’m working from a humanistic base, not a mechanistic one.”
Even while he was at university, Skan began creating freelance illustrations for the Summoner Master card game. His unusual approach was to develop his own styles and characters, from which the publishers could then pick and match to certain characters. It was the opposite of the usual commissioning process. “I worked only for card games till I graduated, because card games was the only job that required this kind of illustration work,” he says.Well oiled
For the first couple of years at uni, he worked solely with oils to train himself.
By year three he’d switched to digital tools, teaching himself techniques and relying on feedback to perfect his skills. Unusually, he much prefers to use a Logitech three-button mouse pad in Photoshop to a graphics tablet. “Swinging a mouse is like an oil brush stroke using your arms, except without the wrinkling!” he explains. “For me, drawing with a tablet is like painting a two metre size canvas with a little pen…”
Skan admits he is a bit of a perfectionist. “For each piece, my goal is reaching what I’d imagined for it at the time,” he says. “But as time goes on, the piece is still at that point, while I’m not any more.”
So he’s always eager to move on to the next project: “I’m gathering inspiration all the time, and the world keeps producing more and more exciting things that can inspire me. I’m only 23 years old and I don’t want to stop exploring and start producing art only for money. I wanna play more…”
That eagerness for exploring new ideas even extends to his metallic style, which he fears may “rust out soon” after being his mainstay for three years. “I think it’s because I work with it continuously and it’s going to become a ‘pattern’ eventually – that’s what I’m afraid of,” he says. Indeed, he’s contemplating taking a short break for a while: “I must stop working and analysing my own works with my friends so I can think about new things, more exciting materials, to bring something new.”
Despite Thailand’s recent inroads into digital art, Skan is sceptical about its range of work (“The fact is, a pure illustrator can’t survive in Thailand”) and almost exclusively works for overseas clients. He’s also collaborated with Imaginary Friends Studios, www.imaginaryfs.com
, and indeed his work for their book collection, Imagine, was his first international job.
But none of these perceived disadvantages particularly worry Skan, who recognises the value of persistence. His advice for upcoming artists? “Nothing is for free and easy,” he believes. “If you offer your life to your works you will be rewarded. No amount of words can help you master a skill or realise your goals, but train hard and realise them from your own experience. No one can describe what you are or what you want but yourself.”