Japanese pixel artist Syosa joined PixelJoint 1.5 years ago and has developed a refreshing new style, beautiful animations and the cutest girls! A 23 year old living in Osaka, Japan and studies Neuroscience at Osaka University. When not creating pixelart and video games he analyzes cell morphology and performs experiments from morning to night. About 4 Years ago, Syosa became addicted to making computer games and found himself practicing pixel art.
LOL: Hello Syosa, nice to meet you! I understand creating your own computer games originally drove you to discover creating pixelart. Why pixel art? Was it for the style, the look, or did you just find it more enjoyable once you started playing with it?
SYO: This question relates to the reason why I decided to start making games. Many classic retro games are very complicated and not always user-friendly. I think that makes them look vigorous and still attracts many people to them. I wanted to make my own retro style games. So I studied retro games like Mario and Megaman ('Rockman' in Japan), and started making my own action games using pixel-based art and animation.
When I pixel, I do not only use my artistic sensibilities. I have to beat my brain to develop the most efficient palette, due to color and size restrictions. I find pixelart is very similar to Japanese Haiku. However, I find there are certain things which only pixel art can illustrate, and I find myself lucky to have found pixel art to express my visions.
LOL: We are glad you have chosen to make pixel art too! You mentioned you have to 'beat your brain', what difficult palettes and tight restrictions have you worked with?
SYO: I've worked with 2 to 5 color palette challenges, size restricted challenges and downsizing challenges in Japanese pixel art forums.
This is an old 2 color work of my laboratory professor:
An example of downsizing pixelart:
To me the most important thing in creating pixel art is the color palette development. This is not the easiest thing to define or explain. I find many pixel artists develop very rigid and linear color ramps when developing their palettes. I try to find more organic and dynamic ways of creating my palettes. Hopefully the image below explains this better than my words can.
I often ponder which is a priority in my pixelart, restrictions or expression. Japanese pixel artists favor limitations, while I tend to favor expression. I know the classic pixel-traditions are wonderful, but sometimes disregarding certain techniques and restrictions is important to develop new styles and to hopefully motivate the pixel art community.
LOL: In Japan, are there communities that are comparable to PixelJoint, and what are the big differences?
SYO: There are 2 major differences between Japanese pixelart and Pixeljoint’s. First, downsizing (sample above), editing and refining other people’s work is very popular. Skillful people like refining beginners pixel art for them to study and beginners develop their style by altering others’ skillful work. Of course, you first get permission from the artist before we alter his/her work.
Secondly, it is very rare that Japanese people comment negatively, they usually just praise others. You may feel this custom is strange, but in spite of criticizing others we refine others' work.
LOL: Thanks for explaining that! Of course, we have the Work in Progress (WIP) forum here, where edits are made, but I assume that is quite different from people editing or improving finished works. Are there any Japanese (pixel) artists who inspire or influence your work?
SYO: There are many people who influence me...
The largest Japanese illustration forum is Pixiv. It is similar to deviantART.
These are some of the best and my favorites.
Pixel artist: Ape • Pixiv • Gallery
Pixel artist: Uruti • Pixiv - I love his works so much (does not have his own site).
Artist: Kinoe • Pixiv • Gallery
Artist: Kozaki • Pixiv • Site
Artist: Mocha • Pixiv • Blog
I'm also inspired by many Japanese video games like.
KOF • Odin Sphere • Princess Crown (Jpn) • Final Fantasy Tactics (Jpn)
LOL: Whoa, that is quite a list! Yes, I have visited Pixiv before, I tried to browse using a translator, but didn't get very far. Thanks for the those direct links!
I've noticed that several of those artists draw the same characters as you; It's nice seeing different interpretations of similar characters! Speaking of characters, you seem to like to draw girls a lot, and often in a cute and girlish style. Why so?
(Yes, Syosa is male)
SYO: There are very few girlish styled games like Pop'n Music. Girlish styled pixel art hasn't been developed much. So I like to demonstrate we can draw a figure in a girlish style with pixelart. It is very difficult to make cute pixel art which can compete with other illustrations made with Photoshop, Illustrator or watercolors you see on Pixiv.
I do draw cute males and animals too. The king of puppets and A writer & a dragon. Currently, I am focusing more on creating boys and animals in my art.
LOL: Hehe, I had never realized that the The king of puppets is male! Now that you mention it, it is quite silly I didn't.
Another thing you are really good at is animation. I suppose that you started with that because you needed it for your games, but you must have put quite some time in developing this skill! My personal favorites are the unicorn (which is very complicated, but perfect) and the box (which is cartoon-ish, and perfect again!). How do you do it, and do you have some tips for the PJ community?
SYO: In my blog you can see the processes of most of my art and animations. I don't have the process for the box, because it took only about 30 minutes to create, but click here for a WIP image and explanation of my Unicorn seen below. For this pixelart I did use a reference; Jack Hamm's, How to Draw Animals.
LOL: Thank you for that WIP image, such an extensive explanation! It is really interesting to see this being built up! Yes, a book will surely help if you don't have any horses in your backyard :)
• During this part of the interview Syosa was on a business trip for the Japanese Congress for the Japan Neuroscience Society.
LOL: About your job. Do you feel there's any connection between your interest in pixel art and Neuroscience? They both involve the concept of smaller objects (pixels, neurons) forming something greater (an image, a brain)?
SYO: Connection...hmm. Pixels and neurons are different from each other. Neurons have a function of self-organization, but pixels don't. Brains work in pathways, but images have meaning as a whole...
But, both of them prefer high efficiency. Pixel art looks best when there is no wasted colors, and neurons prune their needless dendrites and spines in their developmental process. I love such a sophisticated design. So... I think the connection between my interest in pixel art and neurons is there.
LOL: High efficiency, yes that would be a great description for both pixels in pixel art as neurons! With this, we are getting close to the end of the interview. Is there anything you would like to add, or say to the PJ readers?
SYO: Both 'A Writer & A Dragon' and 'Knight2' took over 20 hours to complete. Especially to design their hair and clothes and textile and the color combination took long time. But it is essential to make good things. I think it's most important that you don't compromise yourself when you make pixel art.
LOL: One final question: What is your favorite color? ;)
SYO: My favorite color is (R,G,B)=(84,58,84), a dark purple color. Because I can make so many color ramps and gradients from this single color. Integration of shadow colors makes pixel art looks more beautiful, I think.
I enjoyed this interview. Thank you very much, Lollige!
LOL: And I thank you too! I enjoyed it and I learned from it too!
This interview was conducted via emails over a period of 9 days. Some information has been modified to make it more of a chronological story. Some questions and answers have been edited and re-translated for this feature. Thanks to Skamocore and jalonso for all the corrections.
Don’t forget to check out Syosa's Blog!
BLOG NOTES FROM SYOSA: In the left bar you will find the download links for his games: Revolver, Usabarasi and Gravedigger. They might be difficult to play if you don't know Japanese, so here are instructions for the newest game 'Gravedigger':
Use the arrow keys, and the Z and X key. The aim is to bring bodies and bury them. You can get some bodies if you push the key 'X' at the entrance of the graveyard, and you can dig a hole if you push the key 'Z' in front of the burial place. After you dig a hole, you bring the bodies to the grave pit and bury them with the key 'X'. But the corpses revive after a while. So you have to knock the graves constantly and suppress their revival.
Remember, making games is making worlds. -Syosa