ASKtheARTIST Interview with JohnSu
12/16/12: 7:00pm PST
<thefluffyshrimp> Welcome to ASKtheARTIST. My name is *thefluffyshrimp and today I have the great privilege to interview `JohnSu, a very talented illustrator and creator of many well-known works on deviantART.
<thefluffyshrimp> Thank you for presenting us with this opportunity to interview you, JohnSu.
<JohnSu> FREAKING OUT.
<thefluffyshrimp> ~Chrono-King asks "JohnSu how did you come up with your name?"
<JohnSu> While I was still in the womb, I would suggest names into my mother's mind. At the time, I didn't know any better, so I just coughed "CHON! CHON!" So when I was born, I was given the name "John Su."
<thefluffyshrimp> ~terricon4 asks "What recent things have you been working on at R5, if you can tell us that is."
<JohnSu> I'm still doing programming for the user interface, along with two others.
In my spare time, though, I've also been making fun of my coworkers through illustrations and email.
<thefluffyshrimp> ~Jayeeloveart asks "Where do you get inspiration for all of your awesome art?"
<JohnSu> There's quite a range of inspiration. Some of them come from listening to music, while others are triggered by experiences in day to day life (like seeing a dog piss on shrub).
Others are born from simple boredom. Like walking down a hall while holding a mug and having nothing better to do than think of what else it could be.
<thefluffyshrimp> ~Rakugaki-otoko and ~Jayeeloveart ask "What is the thing you've made that you're most proud of?"
<JohnSu> Probably my animation Gift of Ages. It's quite dated, and isn't my highest quality of work, but it holds the most meaning to me, and the message is one that lasts longer than the usual laugh or wonder my other works might produce. This is why it remains in my featured section on my page to this day.
<thefluffyshrimp> ~Clashe asks "I heard you have a BS in Electrical Engineering. How did you find make time to draw while in school?"
<JohnSu> College was actually the most free time I ever had as a student. I took my studies at a rather leisurely pace (graduating in 5 years as opposed to the typical 4), so at the time I actually had quite a bit of time to draw in between studies.
Employment, on the contrary, has had the least free time in my life, which is why my upload frequency dropped so dramatically shortly after graduating.
<thefluffyshrimp> ~anna-mei asks "Are there any characters / stories you want to expand on?"
<JohnSu> Totally. You guys might not know it, but I've been attempting (unsuccessfully) to expand on several characters several times since their conception. The Rat King, The Gulliver Group, you name it. The problem is, it turns out telling a story is not as easy as narrating a back story.
The Bookworm was designed as a hope to kind of allow myself a way to tell fragmented stories instead of entire tales, but so far I've not been able to make good progress on that front yet either.
Surprise! Story telling is tough work!
<JohnSu> Especially for lazy people.
<thefluffyshrimp> *Cellsai asks "Your pictures are often accompanied by elaborate back stories. Do you generally come up with the guts of these back stories before drawing, or do you draw then shape a backstory around the character?"
<JohnSu> Typically the story comes after the character. First I draw the character and give them some interesting quirks, like an arm that connects to a troll, and afterwards I make up an elaborate excuse for why that is normal.
It is almost like making a hypothesis about a mystery, but stating it as fact.
Though sometimes I do have an idea in mind before I make a character, and the character's design is formed around that idea. The process works both ways, I guess.
<thefluffyshrimp> Related Question:
<thefluffyshrimp> ~diskfire asks "How on earth do you come up with all those crazy stories for your pictures?"
<JohnSu> I suppose I could give a sort of idea how that thought process goes:
"Alright, what have we got here? What's the stupidest explanation for all this? How can I make it worse?"
It's fun, because in coming up with these situations, you can find that you kind of screwed them over by putting them in a not well-thought out spot. But you can just run with it if you can say ha ha, Sucks To Be You.
<thefluffyshrimp> ~nekoninjaalchemist asks "How do you deal with no motivation?" and ~SwordKnight131 asks "What do you do if you're suffering art block?"
<JohnSu> Honestly, it comes more often than I'd like. But when the time comes, I find I can always distract myself with other tasks, like anime, manga, or games.
And sometimes I'll find the inspiration to do my next piece from there! Maybe you see something cute, or notice something strange - any of these observations can be useful as material.
<thefluffyshrimp> =ArshnessDreaming asks "You have become so good with art, Flash, and animation over the years that I've been watching you. Where do you want to go with it? Are you ultimately going to try to get a job with any particular company to make use of your art skills or is it just for fun to you?"
<JohnSu> My goal with Flash has been mostly to produce content with it. Since it packaged art, animation, and scripting all together, it seemed like a very good program for making games - a hobby of mine since middle school.
While the swf format appears to be giving way to HTML5, it looks like Adobe will continue developing Flash as a development tool, so who knows where I will be with it in the future?
No plans to use Flash professionally yet, though. Already have a pretty sweet gig with Red 5.
<thefluffyshrimp> ~angeltrin asks "Are any of your characters going to be in a game one day?"
<JohnSu> Technically some of them already are. Or were. The sisters in Tsukiboshi were actually from a game I was making in my own time, but never got around to finishing. Similar story with that armless girl who threw baby chickens with her hair.
But if you meant like commercial games, there is a slight possibility as long as I work at Red 5 that something I design could show up in Firefall!
Also, in the upcoming game Starbound, I've apparently designed a hat that is actually a little person who clings to your head, so maybe you'll see that too, one day.
<thefluffyshrimp> ~Clashe asks "Are you eating pistachios as promised?", ~The-Patchman asks "What kind of music do you listen to?", ~Rakugaki-otoko asks "What is your favorite video game IP?", and ~Jayeeloveart asks "What is your favorite food to eat?"
<JohnSu> I am totally eating pistachios. The bowl has since thawed, but the shells are cracking, as promised!
Music is mostly anime & game OST's and uh, idolmaster tracks.
Favorite game IP will take me too long to answer honestly, so I'll just pick one from off a shelf in my room! ...CASTLEVANIA!
Favorite food is fried carbs.
<JohnSu> I can't eat as many of those as I used to anymore, though.
<thefluffyshrimp> =Casas asks "On a normal day, what are some things that you do to amuse yourself or the people around you?"
<JohnSu> Programming is pretty amusing, as is making stupid sketches!
Most of the amusement I can provide my coworkers is through illustrations, such as one of Gabe Newell (CEO of Valve) wallowing in cash.
<JohnSu> I'm serious about programming, though.
It's fun, like building a model.
<JohnSu> Except you are building systems out of code.
<JohnSu> And unlike the model, it's fully functional.
<thefluffyshrimp> ~angeltrin asks "How was your time working with the crew of Gaia Online?"
<JohnSu> While I never worked with them locally, it was a fantastic experience! I visited them once on site and was introduced to the team briefly and sat down in a meeting as one of the background artists did voice overs for an octopus beak that protruded from the wall in one of the bg's they were reviewing. It was cool.
But most of the work was done remotely from my desk at school, where it was about as cool as it sounds. But the work was rewarding, and it was in a game, eating up peoples' frame-rates!
<thefluffyshrimp> ~terricon4 asks "If you could do anything you wanted, be it a giant art project that would take months, work with someone on another project, or whatever, what would it be?"
<JohnSu> Ohh, like a magnum opus?
Damn, it'd have to be either a game or a story, I think. Or maybe a game with a story! Or probably a very nice sandbox game that allows users to produce their own stories and live them out...
This answer will take too long for me to work out, so I'll just go on the record as saying I want to make the world's longest pizza, I suppose.
<thefluffyshrimp> ~Chrono-King asks "Why do you draw in flash?" and =achromatx asks "How long does it take you to make a full picture with background on average?"
<JohnSu> There are several reasons I draw in Flash:
1) I have it on my computer
2) I like the vector results and its ready use in swf's
3) I've grown accustomed to the work flow
A picture from start to finish can take as little as 2 hours to as long as 12 hours. Ah, but on the average, I'd say maybe between 3-4 hours? Usually the description alone takes an hour itself to write.
<thefluffyshrimp> *Dark-Videogamer asks "Did you ever predict or plan to become a convention going artist? Or had life just drifted you in that direction?" and ~Rakugaki-otoko asks "What are your plans for your future?"
<JohnSu> No, I had never thought myself as an artist-alley kind of guy. I even resisted the idea when my friends recommended I did it. I ultimately decided to do it so I could provide a service to those who looked forward to it, but it turns out that it's quite an enjoyable experience for myself as well!
In the (context of this) future, I will probably continue doing this. My personal goal is to be able to present a book/manga of some sort one day, and feel like a pro!
I will take off my shirt and flex my soft body, and then be escorted out of the hall by the staff and not allowed to return.
<thefluffyshrimp> ~Freedom260, ~BalloonBear, and ~Gravilia asks "How old were you when you started drawing?" and ~Rawshaw asks "What is your motivation?"
<JohnSu> I was 2. I drew a yellow thing and called it a ghost (this was documented on camera). I have no idea why.
My motivation for continuing, though, was probably because of the encouragement from my parents, teachers, and peers, and because I didn't know how to interact with said peers and that sitting by myself and drawing during recess was an easy escape for me.
<thefluffyshrimp> ~angeltrin asks "Did you ever meet your idols?" and ~Freedom260, ~XCturtle, and ~Nanibou-chan asks "Who are your favorite artists other than yourself?"
<JohnSu> Yes, in fact! I've met a number of people I admired at AX at the artist alley, such as ~CaptainOsaka. And once during PAX I saw Freddie Wong on the sidewalk and stopped him, interrupting the conversation he was having with his friend, and then took a picture with him without introducing myself! Hm.
Favorite artists would include ~joodlez, who I adore for her painting and lighting technique, and ~Rakugaki-otoko, whose retro-style and mecha-geometry remain a source of inspiration for me to this day. Also probably another guy who I will remember in 20 minutes and regret not listing because it should have been so obvious.
<thefluffyshrimp> ~AKALink asks "What aspects of art do you admire most? Creativity? Quality? Etc?"
<JohnSu> Hm, probably... Evocation?
If I can look at a piece and feel affection or fright or intimidation as the artist intended, then I think they did a good job. I guess this is kind of a cheat answer, but I think the weakest pieces are the ones where you look at it and you feel absolutely nothing.
<JohnSu> Turns out "evocation" might mean something other than what I thought it meant.
<JohnSu> But that following paragraph should be a pretty good indicator of what I was trying to say!
<thefluffyshrimp> ~lord-of-the-trout asks "You mentioned you wanted to draw Aya more. Was that more Single-page paintings, or a short comic series you had in mind?"
<JohnSu> I wanted it to be a series of short episodic stories. Kind of like Kino no Tabi, or Mushishi, where a character moves from place to place, witnessing the strange peculiarities within an area.
<thefluffyshrimp> =MidNightsCastedAngel asks "What's your favorite genre to draw?", ~Jayeeloveart asks "What is your favorite style of art?", and ~Chrono-King asks "Do you prefer drawing guys or girls more?"
<JohnSu> I suppose I'm a bit more inclined to the fantasy genre, since I'm allowed to make a lot more mistakes there ("His feet are too big" "He's a hobbit!"), and it lends itself to a lot of interesting imagery with smooth, organic curves instead of the strict rigid geometry of industrialization.
My favorite style of art is anime, of course, and I prefer to draw ladies. I can do a lot more things with their hair, and they are aesthetically pleasing.
<thefluffyshrimp> ~BalloonBear asks "How did you find a job as an artist? Was it hard or did it come as a breeze?" and ~The-Patchman asks "Do you have any advice for new artists?"
<JohnSu> Surprise! I don't have a job as an artist!
Unless you are referring to that contract period with Gaia where I was animating. In that case, they approached me through e-mail, I think after looking for Flash animators. I recall they were looking at Adam Phillips at the time, too. I do remember being insecure about doing art professionally, though. That's a high bar, in my mind!
As for advice for new artists, I'd say...if you're not confident about your work, at least keep drawing in private so you get better! And if you're not confident enough to practice, surround yourself with people who are not as good at it who will praise you?
Hm. Not sure if helping or making things worse.
<thefluffyshrimp> =Casas asks "When you have children, how will you hide your shame?"
<thefluffyshrimp> (lol, that question)
<JohnSu> I will hide them under the house, feeding them through a hole in the floor. Of course I will love them and speak softly to them, but this will be for their own good. And when the last one has emerged from their chrysalis, I will examine them for any remaining hints of their hideous parentage. If all looks well, they will be released into the city to carry out their duty, as I have carried out mine.
<thefluffyshrimp> ~JGottwald asks "How has your experience working on Firefall affected you, your art, and/or your career plans the most?" and ~Rakugaki-otoko asks "what is your favorite thing about Firefall?"
<JohnSu> Working on Firefall has really shown me a lot of the process of making a game and the things designers need to consider. Kind of makes me want to make my own! Again.
Art-wise I don't think I've seen any noticeable differences, but I do absorb techniques I see here and there. You can probably see the most intentional display of it in Tankmage, where I tried to incorporate styles I had seen in the game's design.
My favorite thing about Firefall is the cool dudes I get to work with on it! Though if you're talking about the game, it would probably be the feel of running through the world and jumping on rocks.
<thefluffyshrimp> ~BalloonBear asks "How would you describe your own art and how does it relate to you personally?" and ~centersolace asks "Every artist puts a bit of themselves into their work. Out of the many characters you have created, what is the one that identify with the most?"
<JohnSu> I would describe my art as "what-if" art. "What if" this stupid situation? "What if" we turned this trope on its head? And it goes on.
It's possibly one of the reasons why I don't often draw normal things or things I've already drawn before, since I don't want to explore what I've already covered or what needs no covering.
Out of all the characters I've made, I relate to the "John Su" character the most. We have the same name!
<thefluffyshrimp> ~BalloonBear asks "What was school like for you?" and *TehMangaka123 asks "Did you ever have an embarrassing 'Weeaboo Phase?' Or any other awkward transition in your artistic style?"
<JohnSu> School occurred for me in three phases:
1) Everything before high school: this was okay, I guess. Not my favorite time, and probably when I was most socially awkward.
2) High school: my favorite times within school were here! I had classmates who knew my name, and excellent teachers, and everything was happy. Happy everything.
3) College: my favorite times outside of school were here: the first time I had access to high speed internet.
As for the weeaboo phase, I certainly had it. I would draw many anime characters, give them all Japanese names (and at one point I named all my Pokemon after the Japanese staff that appeared in the credits. -_-).
To this day fear that some of it still remains and I am simply unaware of it desu.
<thefluffyshrimp> *Lozey asks "How long has it taken you to get to the level that you are at now?" and ~luminaireterrial asks "What do you think is the most rewarding part of being an artist in your part?"
<JohnSu> All my life.
<JohnSu> The most rewarding part of being an artist is being able to share an idea in your head that people can quickly and easily absorb.
The second most rewarding part is being able to make pictures of things you wanted to see but nobody was making.
<thefluffyshrimp> ~SlimeAttackk asks "What has been the most inspirational thing that has been said to you?" and ~Almetheus-Nol asks "What is the craziest gift you've ever gotten from a fan?"
<JohnSu>The most inspirational thing has been internalized and lost from the fast-access part of my memory.
The next closest thing is probably "lol" because it inspires me to keep running with it.
<JohnSu> Craziest fan gift has most likely been this clay key-chain of myself. It's so cryptic...
<thefluffyshrimp> ~BloodxEagle asks "Is the art you like more gravitated towards your own styles and ideas or completely different? If so, what type or types?"
<JohnSu> Actually, it's the other way around! My own art style has gravitated towards the art I like. Typically I find I like stylized art more than realistic.
<thefluffyshrimp> ~luminaireterrial asks "How did you train your mind to have such an interesting imagination?"
<JohnSu> Um, I guess through practice?
Ironically, this is the most uninteresting and least imaginative answer I could have given.
<thefluffyshrimp> Alright everyone! The official interview with `JohnSu is now complete! I want to thank you all for joining us today and for supporting the ASKtheARTIST project.
<thefluffyshrimp> If you can wait for just a minute, JohnSu is kind enough to be joining you all in AtAChat in just a bit for a little bit of free chatting with you. Please thank him for his dedication in answering so many questions!
<thefluffyshrimp>Thank you again, `JohnSu for the privilege to interview you today, and for your patience and dedication in answering SO many fan questions for our ASKtheARTIST event!
<thefluffyshrimp>To be notified of when the recorded interview is posted, AND to be informed of all upcoming interviews, please watch us at #ASKtheARTIST, or follow us through Tumblr/Twitter (username: askartists) and our Facebook page --> [link]
<thefluffyshrimp> We also will be interviewing the following artists in the months of December and January: . Watch our group for the notifications and times!
<thefluffyshrimp> NEXT INTERVIEW: *moni158 - When: Friday, December 28th, @ 7pm PST!
<thefluffyshrimp> And a special thanks goes out to tonight's moderator who recorded the interviews for us, ~Keeper-of-Souls and ~Melancholy-Minds!
<thefluffyshrimp> Thank you all again for supporting the ASKtheARTIST project! Let your friends know about us! And if you have any recommendations for more artist interviews (other artists that you would like to see us interview here), please note us!
<thefluffyshrimp> In case you folks are interested: deviantArt / Facebook page and group / Twitter / Tumblr
<JohnSu> *jazz hands*
this is where the transcript officially ends
the following occurred off the record: [link]