In Part One of this series, we brought you an interview with the Art Director on the Language Learning Space, Ian Brown. In Part Two, we talk to two of the incredibly talented artists that helped bring the LLS to life: Alastair Sew Hoy, an illustrator and animator influenced by Japanese manga, and Blythe Ashton, an animator and character designer.
What is your favourite episode from the LLS?
Alastair: I only worked on the Japanese episodes, but I would have to say the Hiroshima episode where the characters pay their respects to the victims of the atomic bomb blasts. I liked it mainly because of how touching the subject matter was. I also had to illustrate this crazy montage of the characters standing in the burning ruins of Hiroshima.
Alastair’s favourite episode: Hiroshima from the Japanese Language Learning Space.
Blythe: My favourite episode is Flower Power featured in the Japanese LLS. It was a great challenge to my artistic abilities and it really pushed me that extra mile to produce work I’m proud of.
A frame from Flower Power, Blythe’s favourite episode.
What was your favourite part of working on the LLS?
Alastair: Working with such a great team of artists, really. Being amongst other like-minded people and under a creative director who really knows what he wants is the best part.
Blythe: I loved working with the people most of all. It was such a fun experience. I’ve never worked with such a collaborative team before. We all helped each other to make this comic truly spectacular!
Blythe, what was the biggest challenge you faced while working on the LLS?
Blythe: The biggest challenge for me was dealing with backgrounds and perspective. I mostly draw character designs so coming onto this project was a challenge but a fun one at that!
An example of Blythe’s character illustrations.
A frame Blythe worked on for the Indonesian Language Learning Space.
Alastair, where did you find the inspiration for the Japanese manga episode?
Alastair: [We were looking at a style of manga that was aimed at young boys], which in itself entails a certain kind of look – even within the world of manga. I dug out my small collection of manga that I personally liked, just to get me into the mood to draw in that kind of style. I tend to read a lot of unusual titles like Naoki Urasawa’s Billy Bat series and Kio Shimoku’s Genshiken.
And what process did you go through to change the characters from illustrations into manga comics?
Alastair: The brief specified that the characters would enter a manga styled off Osamu Tesuka’s Astro Boy series. I basically read through a bunch of the older comics and got a handle for how the characters looked and the kinds of drawing techniques employed back then to replicate not only the style but also the tactility of printed manga (down to the half-tone patterns!). Also I originally started my love of drawing with manga, so being paid to draw it really is a dream come true!
A couple of pages from Astro Boy, a manga series by Osamu Tezuka.
A frame from the Wall of Manga episode in the Japanese Language Learning Space.
What was the biggest thing you learned while working on the LLS?
Alastair: I learned a lot about composition, lighting and colour theory while working on this project, so I have to thank my Creative Director immensely for that. Also we had to employ a lot of photo-bashing (photo manipulation) to get a lot of the artwork done in time, so I think I also dramatically improved in terms of my rapid concepting skill.
Blythe: I’ve learnt how to manage my time properly and to follow a schedule. Artistically I’ve learnt how to embrace colour and produce consistent work. This whole experience has increased my confidence immensely and I would love to do it all again.
Lastly, as an illustrator, what do you enjoy most about your job?
Blythe: I enjoy that I’m able to turn one of my passions into a career and produce works from my imagination. I love that every project helps improve my skills. Drawing alongside other people and seeing how they approach their work gives me a whole new perspective on approaching mine.
Alastair: The fact that as an illustrator you’re creating a story, world and life from nothing gets me every time.
Want to find out more about LLS? Take a look at our previous blog posts, or log on if you’re a student/teacher. Stay tuned for Part III where we speak to Miguel Gonzalez, the artist behind RAC Wheels!