――First, tell us how you came to be an illustrator.
At first, I actually thought about becoming a web designer. I had always liked drawing, but people had said it was difficult to make a living doing that, so I went to a school that taught web design so that I’d have a skill. But I ended up doing animation in software like Adobe Flash, which was common at the time, and one of my works got me my first job. I got to do the job I really wanted to do instead of just working with tags in code, and I’ve been drawing for a living ever since.
――So you’re familiar with digital art but now you mainly work with a pencil and paper.
When I first started working, the Internet was what you could call digital, but analog methods were still needed in the work process, so it felt a little more personal than it is now. So, for example, you could upload pictures on the Internet, but the pictures themselves needed to be drawn on paper. I think that experience was what led me back to a pencil and paper.
――Tell us what points are most important when drawing.
Generally, illustrators start with a rough draft and then move on to their final drawing, but for me, the rough draft is the most important part. At first, I don’t look at anything; I just think about what I want the drawing to look like and what the composition will be like. If I’m looking at something, I get too caught up in details. I fixate on areas that I shouldn’t and I can’t help becoming rigid in my thinking. When I’m creating elements like the pose, movement and expression, I need my mind to be a blank slate.
――It’s important to draw the viewer in, isn’t it?
I mean, I’m just happy to get what’s in my head out on paper. (laughs) When I’m in the rough draft stage, I don’t like to stop drawing if I can help it. If I start thinking about the small details, I quickly lose the picture in my mind. Incidentally, when I’m drawing manga, I spend two hours concentrating on the rough draft for each page. Inking the final version only takes about five to ten minutes. If I spend the same amount of time on the final version that I do on that early work, I over-focus on form and my touch becomes too rigid. I like to keep it as natural as possible.
――Does the paper need to be comfortable to draw on?
It does. About a year and a half ago, my husband found the MD Notebook at a stationery store. I saw potential in it and began drawing with it and it worked very well with the drawing I do. It’s too thin for final drawings, but its light weight is perfect for rough drafts. I used to do a lot of my drawing with a mechanical pencil, but I feel like a classic pencil glides over MD Notebook paper the best, so I’ve tended to use classic pencils ever since. They give my drawings a softer look and the process where I’m getting the picture out of my head and onto paper is smoother now. And the scratching sound the pencil makes when I’m drawing is soothing for me.
The paper size I’m working with now isn’t particularly large. If I draw on large paper, I’ll end up going into too much detail, and that leads to me thinking “Maybe I should change this a little”. And then, like I said, I lose that image in my mind, or I get so attached to my draft that I can’t bear to discard it. I think just getting pictures on paper and moving from one idea to the next is more my style.
But that doesn’t mean I’d do just as well with, say, copy paper. I also value the connection I have with the stationery I like. I like that the paper in the MD Notebook is cream too. I feel like it’s easy on my eyes. (laughs) That feeling comes through in what I draw.
――Let’s finish by talking about any new moves you’ll be making in future.
Various things. I draw manga by myself at the moment, but I want to try something with more of a story. I like exploring my worldview, and I sometimes let my thoughts run free about various things. When that happens, I want to create something longer. I’m not interested in creating something that people will read or watch to pass the time; I want to create something that people will really get absorbed in. But it still needs to be something they’ll enjoy reading. In any case, I want to make something that will contribute in some way, something that will nourish people’s minds.
Kana Urbanowicz is a creator whose work includes illustrations, animation and manga. She worked for a design company for ten years before becoming a freelance artist. In addition to her work on illustrations for picture books and other books, animation stickers and character design, she has released many original works.
Mateusz Urbanowicz is a freelance creator from Poland. His works are wide-ranging, including pictures, illustrations, animation, comics and videos.
He currently lives in Tokyo, Japan with wife Kana, and the two now work on projects together.