Welcome back to the Artists of Color interview series! Please excuse my hiatus- convention preparations have taken over my schedule this entire month. But I am excited to return to you with the work of French character designer and illustrator Boell Oyino. I first came across his stunning work on facebook, following his appearance at IFCC this year. I hope you enjoy reading his answers to my questions, and that you fall in love with his singular vision and enigmatic characters as much as I have!
1). Tell us about yourself! What is your background, and how would you describe your work?
Hi everybody, and thank you Mia for this interview – my first one ! My name is Boell Oyino, last child of my family, I’ve got one big sister and one big brother. I’m a freelance character designer and illustrator. Before that, I worked for 3 years in an indie game studio as a 2D artist, on the game Shiness, honing my skills after work. With the passing of experiences, I came to that refined style with these organic / geometric loose shapes.
2). When did you first fall in love with art, and realize that you wanted to pursue it as a career? Did your parents approve or disapprove?
I started drawing at the age of 14-15. Before that, I was more focused on video games (Secret of Mana, Zelda, Mario, Advance Wars, Captain Tsubasa), anime (Cowboy Bebop, Vision of Escaflowne, Dirty Pair, Saint Seya), manga (Captain Tsubasa), cartoons, (Hey Arnold, Redwall) and books (Tales of the Otori).
At 15, a friend of mine on the internet told me about art forums that could be fun to join, and I did so. I joined two french art communities: Allfanarts and Café Salé, and learned about Photoshop especially. Little by little, I was dedicating more and more time to this hobby.
At 18, I felt giving up about drawing because my parents rejected my art career project – still a dreadful project for most parents hahha – and I was at university, studying economics. But I couldn’t stop practicing this hobby which had turned into a passion. That’s when I realized that.
3). Are you self-taught, or did you go to art school? How important was this training to becoming a professional artist?
I’m self taught. I learned with books (anatomy books and Loomis's books, “Drawing the Head and Hands and Creative Illustration) and feedback from the art community. I didn’t have a lot of time to draw with the university (I didn’t go to all courses), work, and music school (I played guitar from 2005 to 2017). So I was always balancing between all these activities to save time for drawing.
Finally I got my Bachelor in Economics without repeating a class – no time for repeating class! After that my parents changed their minds: they wanted me to have a “normal degree,” just in case. So I attended a 3D school, because I thought even if I would work in 2D, having 3D knowledge would help to find a job later.
Going through these hardships helped me to approach things with philosophy. I mean, I couldn’t stand university in one hand. But in another hand, there were really interesting courses like Sociology, Statistics and how to use them, History of Economy and how some ideas / ideologies won over others, making the world we are in today. I also learned how to make researches (we had a lot of exposés and essays to produce), and besides that I made good friends there!
But will this nostalgia feeling be that good if I didn’t manage to catch my dream job? I don’t think so, and that’s why I try to heartily give my really utmost to have no regrets – not so easy when I have to deal with procrastination!
4). You have such a unique style! I absolutely love your vibrant, expressive characters. Can you talk about your various artistic influences, and how you approach your character work in terms of posing, costuming, etc.?
Thank you! When I was a kid, I wanted to be a ventriloquist and during my teenage years, I read a lot of manga and watched theatre pieces. Later I discovered fashion and dance, and also added them to my artistic influences.
I like to push things when I’m posing the character. I give them some signature moves that cosplayers will have fun to reproduce!
I’m rather a line-guy than a mass-guy, and when I start a drawing it’s always with lines. I tried to paint like Ayami Kojima and Jana Schirmer around 2008 – 2010, but it’s definitively not my voice. So I pay attention to line weight and rhythm, the balance of the pose, and for colors, I prefer working with high key values. My loose line, I got it with the passing of drawing in the bus and sub. As it’s all shaky, I had the idea of lessening the force I put in my wrist to use my arm or forearm instead.
I started making a collection of art books, and my favorite ones are those of Alphonse Mucha, Yoshitaka Amano, Hirohiko Araki, and Ayami Kojima.
5). What is a major obstacle that you have faced in pursuit of your art career? How did you overcome this, or is it something that you still struggle with?
Actually, I just recovered from a burnout. Last year I went to Japan to see my big sis, and then came back to France with fresh ideas. I’ve just started freelancing for the last few months. If you have to face this kind of hardship, don’t be alone, talk about it, and plan some activities to tackle it down.
Still there is the unflagging foe: procrastination! I try to do some workouts to enhance my combative spirit. And I would say something about self-promotion. When I started drawing, I was thinking that if you are good enough, people would hire you. But if people don’t know you, how come? They receive hundreds of mails each day, so to stand above the mail mass, I attend professional events. I’m also quite present on social media. Networking is really important, especially for freelance artists. Don’t be isolated.
6). Does representation matter in art?
Yes it does, and I would like people not to have blinders. In France it’s said the audience is not ready. So some people prefer to present our multicultural world in a not-so-multi on screens and other medias because, you know, people are not ready, you know, it’s too ahead of our time, you know.
Hopefully there are more and more people who are rolling up their sleeves to make things happen.
7). If you could communicate one thing to artists about representing a background or experience that isn’t their own, what would it be?
Do your homework, read books, watch documentaries, films, ask your friends, or attend some related events if you can, and pay attention to the source of the info. It’s an in depth task which adds so much value and authenticity to your IP/project.
8). Do you have a favorite character of color (from film, television, literature, comics, or any piece of art)?
No, although most of my work implies character design, I don’t have a favorite character!
9). Who is the most underrated creator of color you wish everyone knew about?
10). What piece of advice would you give to young aspiring artists of color?
What I would say :
- it is possible ;
- work hard to be really good at what you do ;
- do networking ;
- join art communities (don’t be isolated) ;
- learn the fundamentals (anatomy, perspective, colors and light) ;
11). Any current projects you can talk about? What is your ultimate dream project that you canʼt wait to work on, or be a part of someday?
Yes, sadly I can’t talk about client work. Currently I'm working with my big sister on our Carmelo manga project. It’s about the birth and rebirth of an opera singer.
Otherwise I feel drawing for 2D RPG games and fashion brands. Fingers crossed!
Thank you so much, Boell, for sharing your story and your gorgeous art with us! And thank you, readers, for joining us for this interview series. If Boell's answers resonated with you, please comment and share his interview far and wide.
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