Artist interviews - a new feature on Animetion where we speak to artists influenced by manga and facets of Japanese culture.  For our first interview we speak to UK artist Niki Hunter, who is well known in the anime community.  She often attends events where you can purchase her artwork and she will draw your caricature.  She has been drawing professionally for fifteen years, seven years of which was spent working in the games industry on such projects as the Theme Park series.  She has also produced logos for several companies, as well as artwork for many other video games.  She is currently freelancing full-time. 

Animetion:  How long have you been drawing/been an artist?

Niki: "I've been drawing ever since I was a tot... once I was given access to paper and pencils/pens/crayons, that was it! So it's basically been a life-long thing for me."

Hero by Niki Hunter.

A: How long have you been a professional artist?

N: "Around 15 years now."

A: What/who inspires you?

N: "All sorts of things and people inspire me.  I can get inspired by music, by other visual media or something as simple as looking at a single colour.  Life's experiences inspire me, as do the more obvious things like anime and manga.  As for who inspires me, it's not just other artists but my heroes in general, some of whom I'm lucky enough to count among my friends.  Animals and pets are also very inspirational to me."

A: Who are your favourite artists?

N: "Osamu Tezuka, Hayao Miyazaki, Yoshitaka Amano, Ayami Kojima, Nobuteru Yuuki, Satoshi Urushihara, Yukito Kishiro, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, Hyung-Tae Kim, Roger Dean, Rodney Matthews, Ray Harryhausen, Salvador Dali and Gustav Klimt to name a few."

A: Do you concentrate on one theme in your work or several?

N: "Definitely more than one... I can't remember the last time I just concentrated on one particular theme, but that's probably because the general nature of my work is such that I have to be very diverse.  I get asked to produce a lot of different things.  But at the same time I think that if there were a consistent theme running through my work, it would probably be something to do with vision.  That is, my own personal vision of things as I see them in my mind's eye... it's something that I generally like to get across in my artwork." 

A: What has been your proudest moment as an artist?

N: "Probably seeing my character designs 'come to life' in the X-Box game "Sudeki".  That was pretty amazing to see; my characters translated into 3D, animated, even voiced and lip-synched.  I also heard samples of the characters' Japanese voices, that was really awesome too."

A: what has been your worst moment as an artist?

N: "One of them must have been when I entered the first IMAF competition, only to discover afterwards that the postal service didn't deliver my entry (even though I paid for recorded, guaranteed next-day delivery).  Gutted!!" 

Mao Mao by Niki Hunter.  This was a design for the video game Sudeki, which didn't make it into the final game.

A: What sort of materials do you prefer using?

N: "Pencils, pens (biros are so underappreciated!) and Photoshop, generally.  I like alcoholic markers and acrylic paints too, but I rarely get the chance to use them these days." 

A: Do you have a dream project?

N: "I'd say yes, although it's hard for me to define what my dream project would be now.  I've been blessed in my career so far in that I've already had the chance to work on a 'dream project' or two.  But I'd love to design characters for an actual anime and/or see my characters made into toys!  Also, I'd love to produce more marketing/merchandise artwork for musicians, given the opportunity." 

A: What tips would you give to a budding artist?

N: "You get out of art what you put in, so draw as much as you can whenever you can.  And enjoy it!  That's the most obvious tip, but if you're looking for a career in art as opposed to just doing it for fun/a hobby then there are lots of things to consider.  Personally I've found that life drawing studies (at college) have been an invaluable asset in developing my character design skills.  Also, when seeking art-related employment it helps to have a diverse portfolio showing the full spectrum of your capabilities, as opposed to just focusing on one or two particular styles that you personally like working in.  You've got to be prepared for the possibility of a potential employer not going a bundle on your primary style (I've encountered quite a few people who don't like anime, for example).  So, the more flexible you are artistically the more employable you are, generally speaking.

Sometimes it's easy to get downhearted on the journey to becoming a better artist.  But practice and persistence pay off, so never give up on your dreams!"

A: Do you have your own website / are you on deviant art?

N: "Yes; there's www.vk-uk.com but admittedly my husband and I have been too busy to do much with it of late, so my deviantART's probably the best place to go to see what I've been up to: http://niki-uk.deviantart.com"  

(click any thumbnail for a larger image)

Peg-Chan in the Crow's Nest by Niki Hunter.  This was piece was entered into IMAF (www.imaf.co.uk) into the open/character design for the children's section  The Harlequin by Niki Hunter, which she entered into the IMAF competition open/character design (adult section) - www.imaf.co.uk  Inu Daruma by Niki Hunter.  You can purchase products featuring this character here: http://www.cafepress.com/niki_hunter  Japan Food & Drink Festival by Niki Hunter, which was shortlisted as a design for a Japanese Cultural Event  Honou To Hyoushou by Niki Hunter - an early webmanga project

An expressions sheet by Niki Hunter for her character Peg-chan  Doctor Who anime by Niki Hunter - a piece of Timelord-tastic fan art!  Tocker's Tower (night version) by Niki Hunter, entered into IMAF 2006 (www.imaf.co.uk) under Character Design

Chibi Archer by Niki Hunter  Harlequin mascot by Niki Hunter, a companion piece to The Harlequin.    Cyber-goth Kotaro by Niki Hunter, a BJD (Ball Jointed Doll) with face and photography Niki   Spirit Of Icarus by Niki Hunter, entered into the one-paged theme story category for IMAF 2006 (www.imaf.co.uk)  Slylphide by Niki Hunter

All images are copyright Niki Hunter and are displayed here with her kind permission