The path from animator to illustrator – Nozomi Ousaka Interview

The path from animator to illustrator – Nozomi Ousaka Interview

Today, megax brings us a translated interview with an ex-professional animator who decided to adventure into the world of freelance illustration. Enjoy!

While not directly animation, one can point out the similar necessity of time and effort into drawing illustrations. I felt this was an interesting view into the life of an illustrator who used to be an animator and the differences one has to have in those skill sets. Please enjoy reading about non, aka Nozomi Ousaka.

Non. This illustrator depicts life-sized beautiful girls with a gentle touch and dainty coloring. In this interview, we ask her the reason why she transitioned from an animator to an illustrator, what she obsesses about and how she creates images, and other varied questions about her personal life. 

Noticing Animation Directors since she was a child

What kind of child were you when you were younger?

I was a mama’s girl who was afraid of strangers and was round from eating so much. I remember hearing stories from my mom about how “[your] grandma was supposed to bring you a stick from Sailor Moon to give you as a birthday present, but Mom kept hiding it” and “you would cry from how much your stomach hurt, so you would only eat natto three times a day.”

What kind of school life did you have in middle and high school?

I played percussion in the concert band during middle and high school. In high school, I mostly played the snare drum in the drumline.  Our club was a strict one with maybe one day off a month, and since absences were more like a felony than a misdemeanor, the intenseness would creep out of you at times.  They were extremely strict when it came to school regulations (makeup, phones, ban on part-time jobs) and absences (one first year broke a rule and was scolded harshly by a third year in her section). As the seniors had scared the underclassmen into maintaining order in a lot of areas, I quit the band and was downgraded to a normal person.

Please tell us about any anime or games that you liked during that time (childhood to high school). Also, please tell us if there were any characters you liked.

I loved Sailor Moon when I was in preschool.  Back then, I loved the animation director called Ando-san, so I would get excited. “Yay! Today’s an Ando ep!” I chose my favorite episodes based on animation directors. I was such an annoying kid. (sweats) I loved Hunter x Hunter when I was in elementary school. At that time, I enjoyed the children-focused portions of it, but now looking back on it as an adult, it was unthinkable for me to watch it! Now it would certainly be a late night series…. It’s an anime where I didn’t know where to focus: the scriptwriter, the director, the animators…. I loved the cute Kurapikas drawn by Akira Matsushima-san. The way he drew his eyes and lips was so sexy. The adult male characters would go swoosh too. It felt like no animation director would draw the same character designs as the others and just do what they wanted, so as a show, I loved seeing it.

So you were very interested in drawings from such a young age. So even up until now, you would still watch anime?

I was in band during middle and high school, so I would have fun going out and playing around instead of watching anime and reading manga, so I didn’t watch anything at all back then. Now that I’ve become an adult, I’ll watch the opening and endings of anime shows and if I like that, then I’ll watch the main episodes too. That sort of thing.

Among the shows you watched, which works in particular influenced you?

Since I entered the company I liked, it has to be Kyoto Animation’s works, right? (or rather, I wasn’t KyoAni, I was (Animation) Do instead). I knew of the presence of Yukiko Horiguchi on K-On!; I was moved by how she drew such cute girls. They felt like real girls instead of just anime characters. Their bodies moved, and also the animation’s “reserve” was felt with hair and skirts. Instead of being like “Boobs BOUNCE! Legs Slender!”, she stressed that the characters feel like real girls…… They would walk like ducks and would touch things with such small hands.  I love works that depict that reality of gestures and actions real girls do cutely. As I was told when I joined the company “Ousaka-san’s drawing feel really KyoAni, don’t they?” I think I loved the style of designs from KyoAni.

This is sudden, but what kind of foods do you like to eat?

That’s my favorite question! I get the best joy from talking about food! I love yakiniku! Also rice (if there’s no rice, then I won’t eat the side dish), sushi, ramen, karaage, and potatoes. I love anything greasy. Also I love things like mullet roe and nuts when they’re served with sake. For sweets, I love chocolate with mint tastes or when there’s a lot of cocoa in it. Also ice cream and shaved ice! I could eat ice cream three times a day! (laughs)

If there’s something that you’ve recently gotten hooked on, please tell us about it.

Maybe my diet…..? I can’t say I’ve recently gotten hooked on it since I’ve continued it for about 3 years. I was around 82 kg (180 lbs), but I’ve lost 30 kg in 3 years (66 lbs)!  Now I eat two meals a day, and breakfast is something like an apple, so for me, since I love to eat things, this is truly, truly, truly a tough spot for me from the bottom of my heart.  Also, I’ve been unintentionally collecting Korilakkuma plushies and kitchen supplies for years.  And I’ve…. fallen into the swamp of that Matsu show that aired a few months ago. (Mr. Osomatsu) I’m an Osomatsu Girl who supports Todomatsu. Will I get over that sense of loss after the final episode airs… the time this book is published?

Umx note: This book was published in early April 2016; The final episode of Mr. Osomatsu aired March 29 on TV Osaka.

 From an Animator to an Illustrator

Please tell us how you got your pen name.

My name is Nozomi, so my parents and friends would all call me “Non-chan.” I just put it as my pen name. My mother told me the reason she named me Nozomi was “if [she] had a daughter, [she] wanted to call [me] ‘Non-chan.’” So when I was born, I was already “Non”-chan.

When did you start to think about drawing pictures for a career? Also, if there was something that inspired you to do this, please tell us about it.

Both of my parents draw for their careers (though my mother stopped before I was born), so I thought I could also do that kind of work. I was already aware of this since I was in preschool, so there wasn’t anything in particular that cued me thinking about it.

You’re also active on the doujin market. Please tell us about when you first drew a doujin if you can.

My first doujin was in 2011 if I remember correctly…. I participated in Index Osaka by drawing something in the vocaloid genre. I printed 200 copies and sold 200 copies. I remember thinking “ah, I’m lucky!” (laughs) Also I brought compact goods like postcards and badges with me….

Please tell us about any events that left an impression on you when you were working as an animator.

When I was at my farewell party, one of my juniors said to me “Actually, I saw Ousaka-san’s pixiv account.” I didn’t place anything magnificent for anyone to see on it, but I remember feeling incredibly embarrassed. (sweats) Sorry that wasn’t quite an event that had to do with anime production.

Why did you debut as an illustrator on pixiv?

I started feeling like illustrating was oriented towards me. Instead of having characters move in animation, illustration was more fun for me as I could draw one image of a cute girl. So I daringly switched towards being an illustrator. Drawing the promotional images (the key visual for anime merchandise and such) was more fun for me than drawing key animation or in-betweens for the productions. That feeling was only increased when I started to become involved in the novel for Love, Chunibyo, and Other Delusions.  “Ah, I was born to do this!” (laughs)  I heard a lot of people say “so why not continue as an animator who does a lot of promotional illustrations?” But I think animation has to move, so I felt that continuing on as an animator who loves promotional illustrations would be incredibly rude to the other animators who work on actual animation.  My big moment of realization was when I was hoping for someone to search for me to draw illustrations or manga while I was working as an animator (full-time employee). As I was at the studio, I felt that kind of work for me wouldn’t arrive, so rather than continue in anime, I quit and moved towards the path of illustrations.

I’m a scheduler by nature

Please give us some specifics on what kind of materials you use for references like magazines or items.

I look at other illustrator’s images and flip through gal game magazines.  I love looking through fashion magazines or gyaru magazines, but when I try to draw clothing that I saw in those magazines and thought was cute, it appears rather ordinary when a 2D girl wears it. Due to those experiences, I use somewhat gaudy feeling clothing worn by gal game heroines as reference when illustrating.  I also use modern idol clothing and high schooler clothing when they’re on TV. As I’m older, I don’t know what modern girls would wear, so I watch and think “ah, so that’s what fashion they’re into now, that’s what accessories they’re wearing,” and use that as reference.

How long does it take you to complete an illustration? Also, what part of the process (rough drafts, line art, coloring, finishing, etc) do you find most enjoyable?

A rough draft takes about 10-30 minutes, line art takes about 1-2 hours, coloring takes about 1-2 hours, and finishing about 20 minutes or so.  There’s not a lot of insight into my lineart or painting, so the time that I’m working isn’t that long at all.

That’s considerably fast work as an illustrator, isn’t it?

But if you include things like the amount of time to think in my head until a rough draft is formed or the near day length I spend reviewing the rough draft to the line art, “the time it takes to complete one image” in total spans about 3-4 days. (sweats) Also, I have no ability to concentrate at all, so I’ll take one hour breaks or naps and so there’s an awful lot of useless time…. Incidentally, my favorite thing is the rough drafts! It’s the work where I draw to find the cutest way to draw the girl. From there, I proceed with the line art trying not to disturb the expression. It’s awfully nerve-wracking…. If I insert a draft between rough drafts and line art, then the face becomes completely different, so I’ll just directly pen from the rough draft for the expression itself.

What is the most important thing to consider when drawing an illustration?

In the case of “my own” illustrations, I’d say it absolutely has to be “draw the girl’s face as cute as possible.”  Also things like “there’s no need to do anything beyond the directions; you don’t need to have a panty shot.” That’s because there’s been no demand from the fans for me to draw slightly erotic images.

Please tell us anything that you pay attention to when painting and color matching your illustrations.

Something like “make sure it comes together?”

Sorry, I’m honestly very weak at adding color. I’m aware that my color senses amount to zero.  Whenever I see my images, I think “they’re plain, but it doesn’t come together well.”…. I focus work on just the eyes and hair when I start to color. Excluding those two, I feel that the quality of the coloring of the other portions depends on how much effort I have left and when I can’t pay any more attention.

Please tell us your favorite body parts and gestures.

For parts, I love drawing profile faces. When I draw a girl’s face in profile, their e-line doesn’t fit at all. If it was someone in 3D, then their face wouldn’t look beautiful, but conversely, that horrible ratio appears very cute on my illustrations…… I love a profile face with the mouth appearing just a bit displeased.

Please tell us what is your favorite composition or situation (or something you noticed when drawing).

When her fingers are close to her face like with her pinky standing out from her hand. I love that kind of feminine girlish image.

Please tell us what do you focus on and what do you try to include when designing characters.

I want to pay attention to the parts where you take one glimpse of this girl and know her personality…..  For example, twins may have different personalities, so you would make sure their expressions are completely different. “If every girl has the same expression, then they’re dolls.” I endeavor  to not do something like that…..or I try not to.

Who is your favorite character that you’ve drawn in the works you’ve handled up to this point?

Shimamura in Hitoma Iruma’s Adachi & Shimamura. There were no clothing choices or hairstyles point out, so the author and editor left it to me to come up with her design. I would give her a ponytail, I would give her braids, I’d dress her in whatever clothing I liked at the time. It was fun.

Please tell us what is your most memorable work and a story about that work if possible.

When I was working on a gal game. As I’m a manual person who works on things according to schedule, not being able to work because there was no details, not being able to draw because the script hadn’t been finished, and not being able to work on my own schedule was memorable. The project itself wouldn’t move so there was nothing to be made. It was a good and bad experience for me to have that kind of lackadaisical….progress. (laughs)

Please tell us if there’s any particular work environment or tools that you need to have to work.

There’s really none in particular….. As I’m really ignorant of computers and software related to this field of work, I’m fine with it as long as I can use it. For about the first year I worked as an illustrator, I used the pen tablet I used while in middle school for work….. If I’m working using analog tools, then I really treasure the “erasable blue pencils” and “erasable red pencils” so I stock up on those!

Please tell us three things you think are important to continue this career.

  1. Deliver by the due date.
  2. It’s not enough for only you to be able to understand your own images.
  3. Don’t close yourself off from society.

I think you’ll be fine if you’re able to keep those three items in mind and don’t break them, though you could blur the others beside 1….. There’s no need for pride or policies. (laughs)

Please tell us how you take a break.

I have three male cats and two female cats, so I take the two female cats into my room and have girl talks. Granted, I’m the only one talking. (laughs) Of course even girl cats are cute. They’re my treasure. They heal me.

How do you spend off days?

I go shopping, the stone saunas, beauty salons, trips, mixers, and have my nails done.  At a glance, these appear like common things to do, but I’m not necessarily like that, so it’s not just that I want to do common things. I’d really like to spend the entire day in bed. I’d sleep, someone would bring me food, and then I could go to the bath. That would be nice.

Incredibly happy when there’s time when being told people like her illustrations

Please tell us your thoughts on publishing your first artbook.

I’m incredibly happy and thankful. Also, I have a negative personality, so…. I have a lot of nervousness that this won’t sell that many copies. Selecting all the images that I’ve drawn up until now was fun, but I’ve once again have a lot of gratitude towards all the people who have moved to make this book happen. I’m thankful to all the editors and designers for their work.  And then looking at work I’ve done several years ago makes me feel like it honestly might not be me anymore.

Please tell us your aspirations towards potential work in the future.

I’d like to become more knowledgeable since it feels like I’ve chosen what to draw from a select group of patterns…. There’s a lot of times where I finish an illustration and it feels like it has similar characters and is similar to one I’ve done before.  Also I think I’m not that knowledgeable about the readers’ needs, so I’d like to know more about them.

What goals do you have for yourself for in the future?

I’d like to become someone who looks at the broader picture. I have a kind of nagging, warped personality where, even when I’ve not made a mistake, I’ll apologize to the other party. For example, even when I don’t commit something wrong, I’ll become emotional and then heartily lose in the end…. I use a lot of pointless energy so I’d like to live while using the absolute minimum amount of effort and calmly, coolly survive.

Finally please give a message to the readers.

Recently I’ve welcomed some fans who have said “I’ve seen your work since (blank) years ago!” to me and at the time I was simply happy without thinking about it. When I thought about that more, these people spent several years of their important lives loving these images from this unknown illustrator, so I recently have become truly, truly grateful for their fandom. For those of you who have become aware of me through this artbook, I’ll be pleased if you enjoy this even a little. For those of you who have cheered me on up until now, please continue to warmly watch over me as I’ve gone through this growth process…. I’m truly thankful for all of you who have picked up my, non’s, artbook.

Thank you for your time.

Support us on Patreon for more analysis, translations, staff insight and industry news, and so that we can keep affording the increasing costs of this adventure. Thanks to everyone who’s allowed us to keep on expanding the site’s scope!

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J.P. Turcotte
4 years ago

What an interesting read!

4 years ago

This is a great interview! I’d love to see more pieces like this one.