Artist interviews - a new feature on Animetion where we speak to artists influenced by manga and facets of Japanese culture. 

For our fifth interview we speak to professional UK artist Paul Nicholson, a.k.a. Terratag

Terratag was launched in 2002 and was soon noticed by the anime community, due to the range of anime-inspired t-shirts the project has produced.  He has done a lot more then produce t-shirts though.  Terratag has also worked with Production I.G. on the series Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex, being the first Western collaborator to work with the studio.  Other clients have included Studio Gonzo, Manga Entertainment, Sony, Habitat and Harvey Nichols, amongst many others. 

Terratag is in regular attendance at trade shows such as the MCM London Expo, and also sells art canvases and prints as well clothing.  His designs include Japanese cultural influences other then anime and he has succeeded in creating his own fresh style. 

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

Terratag: "As far back as I can remember, I have been into drawing.  Furthermore, if you take being artistic in it’s broader sense, I have always worked my hands - drawing, Lego, plastic model kits, etc. - So, you could say that I have always had the creative bug."
A: How long have you been a professional artist?

T: "From my early teens, I was into

customising clothing.  Around ‘84, as a BMX kid, I cut stencils and spray-painted designs onto long-sleeved T-shirts, creating my own (on the cheap) race jerseys.  I couldn't afford the official merchandise, so had to get busy with a can of Halford's spray.  The first professional work would be a series of denim jackets I customised for a local boutique, when I was 16.  The artwork was inspired by WWII aircraft nose art and was hand painted using Dylon fabric paints."

A: What/who inspires you?

T: "There are to many to mention.  So, I prefer to let the viewer draw from the work their own conclusions and, in doing so, will often make connections that were unintentional or subconscious.

I am a definitely a Japan nut and Japanese culture definitely permeates my designs.  The way I work, is to take Japanese themes and to mix it up with European and, in particular, London-based styles.  At the moment, the main inspirations are robots, graffiti, J-pop and Tokyo/London night life. 

I am not comfortable belonging to a niche, so like taking a little bit of this and a little bit of that, the end result being a unique hybrid."

A: Who are your favourite artists?

T: "Masamune Shirow has consistently been a fave of mine. As the creator of Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell, he is a major force is in anime and manga.  His manga are incredibly well written with great art-work and fantastic mecha design, alongside some of the sexiest women in manga.

Other artists I admire are the mecha designers, Hajime Katoki, Shoji Kawamori and the Five Star Stories creator, Mamoru Nagano.

I would also include in my list, not so much an artist but an organisation - Production I.G.  They are the company that animated Ghost in the Shell and Stand Alone Complex. I love their artwork and stylistic direction in films.

But it isn't all boy's stuff and mecha, as I am a massive fan of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. My Neighbour Totoro was one of the first anime films I ever saw and remains one of my favourites and there is not a robot to be seen."

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

T: "When running a business, it is difficult to work on only one thing at a time.  The challenges are the same faced by anyone starting a business.  The day to day runnings, paying bills, ordering stock, printing designs, maintaining the website, shipping, etc. Yeah, I know, it's a boring answer.  Not very glamorous or cool, but if you don't get on top of this shit, it will take you down.  You just have to get organised, knuckle down and work hard.  There is no easy way through, unless your daddy is rich." 

A: How did you get involved with Laughing Man and Afro Samurai?

T: "This was a classic piece of good fortune. A few years before working on Laughing Man, I had done a spot of design work for a Japanese game developer and music label, Frognation.  Having sent a load of stickers to the guys at Frognation, they got plastered everywhere, including a laptop - that laptop happened to be owned by Dai Sato, script editor at Production I.G.  Whilst working on early drafts for the first series of Stand Alone Complex the director,

Kenji Kamiyama, saw the laptop, liked the sticker designs and one thing led to another.  I was invited to Production I.G. to meet the writers, animators and Kenji Kamiyama.  As you can imagine, being a huge fan of both Masamune Shirow and Production I.G., this was, to use a cliché, a dream come true."

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

T: "I guess you could look at Terratag as being one big mother of a project.  Over the years we have released many designs; those that have not been well received and slow to sell and others that keep going strong.  But, whether a design tickles the masses or not, creating them is always enjoyable and something I take great pride in.

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

T: "I am sure if we all could change things, new problems would surely arise.  With hindsight, you would change what you recognise as something you could have done better.  The paradox being, that you would not be in control, nor predict, how these changes would develop and in what direction.
What's more important is how you learn from your mistakes and improve your sense of foresight."

A: because your work appeals outside of the anime community, will you be doing a wider range of designs?

T: "Those of you reading this, who have been following the brand, will be aware of the introduction of designs that move outside of the ‘anime box’.  About 2 years ago, we decided to work on broadening the appeal of Terratag."

 A: What sort of materials do you prefer using?

"Ever since I was a kid, I have always loved drawing.  So, definitely good old pencils and paper do it for me.  Since the early 90's I have been PC, my weapon of choice being a vector graphics program called CorelDRAW.  To back up what I create in CorelDRAW, I also dip into Illustrator and Photoshop." 

A: What future events will Terratag be attending?

"2009, saw Terratag attending many events throughout the UK and Europe.  With the summer over, there are much fewer events, but a big one on the horizon is MCM London Expo. So, see you all down there."

A: Do you have a dream project?

T: "Other than what I am doing as Terratag, I would love to design more robots."

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

T: "
Find what it is you love and work hard.

A: Do you have your own website?

T: "Why, of course - www.terratag.com"

(click any thumbnail for a larger image)

All images are displayed here with the kind permission of Paul Nicholson

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