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Art Blog

 

 

Kitsune Shini-Yokai Prints Available Now!

Aedan Roberts

When I premiered Kitsune Shini-Yokai at Dragoncon I had only completed the painting three days before I had to drive down to Atlanta. Because of this I was only able to create 10 smaller reproductions of it. This proved, excitingly, to be woefully insufficient. Because of this I made getting a high-end scan made of the piece top priority as soon as I arrived home. 

And now it's officially scanned, retouched and uploaded! So head on over to my Print Shop (by clicking the link on the bottom of this post or the one in the menu bar). There will be multiple sizing options and InPRNT offers the choice of pre-framing the work as well!

CLICK HERE FOR MY PRINT SHOP!

Kitsune Shini Yokai

Aedan Roberts

Let's start with a quick prologue:

For the past three or so years my job as a designer at Night Agency was the main reason why my painting production had slowed to a trickle. However, I've since found myself without that responsibility (Night Agency and I parted ways – very amicably – in March) and am thrilled to say I've returned to my freelance/art roots. As such I will be doing my best to create as much work as I can. I will also be attempting to do the kind of blog post you see here with all future works as they are made – big and small. Each blog post will talk a little about the work, the process of making it, the series it will become a part of, etc. That way I can better keep people up to date on the work I'm doing!

So without further ado: KITSUNE SHINI YOKAI!

I know the words are not a direct translation (my brother informs me things seldom are when converting Japanese to English) - but I've decided to take the phrases he helped translate for me and make them the names of the creatures in my Forest Spirit Series (which will hence-forth be referred to as my Yokai Series).

So a quick explainer: from a very early age my brother and I have been fascinated by Japanese culture, art, video games and animation. My brother channeled his love for Japan into making their language one of his majors in college and subsequently living there teaching English and later programming/designing at a smaller video game company. I, on the other hand, chose to channel my love for the culture and art by (mostly subconsciously) letting it influence my own artwork and, often, the subject matter I chose to depict.

Recently I had become fascinated with the basic ideas behind Shinto. I'm not really a spiritual person (and I am fairly vocally anti-religion) – however, that didn't stop me from being fascinated with the mythology and lore that comes from the world's various religions. I see them more as fantasy akin to Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter- worlds I adore, often wish were real, and sometimes sculpt my views through but are ultimately works of fiction. With all that said I love the basic ideas behind (my very narrow interpretation of) Shinto. I know that what I'm about to describe is likely FAR from an accurate reading of the religion- but taking some basic snippets I decided to craft a world and lore for a series of paintings I'm fast becoming emotionally attached to.

It all started with my Kusa Yokai (Grass Spirits):

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I initially created this piece to be a one-off little painting depicting tiny kusa yokai collecting broken blades and encountering some falling seeds. It wasn't until I was finished that I found myself inspired to take the idea further. So I got to work fleshing out the lore:

In this world everything has a spirit and every living creature has a soul. Spirits (or yokai) differ from the soul in the sense that yokai are distinct in mind and separate in body from the object/place/thing they represent. Souls, on the other hand, inhabit living creatures/plants and serves as the source of their life-force. I see yokai as (often) tiny, free-thinking guardians that have manifest from the same energy that created its corresponding physical object/idea. They live in the spiritual realm - a plane of existence that shares the exact same space as our world but cannot be seen by those inhabiting it. They can interact/affect objects and creatures in the physical plane, but tend to be invisible otherwise. The only exception to this is when living creatures are near spiritual nodes- but that is an idea I'll go into when the time comes. For now the most important thing is that there are countless yokai wandering/living in our world: grass spirits, rock spirits, river spirits, air spirits, tree spirits, sign spirits, mushroom spirits, glass spirits, cloud spirits, fern spirits, car spirits, cactus spirits . . . the list is endless and diverse.

When it came time to depict my second spirit in the series I chose one of the more fascinating and mystifying: shini yokai (Death Spirits):

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These little guys are special. They neither represent the living nor the spiritual- but the universal experience of death. They are quiet and separate from all other yokai. If I were to use an analogy it would be like the kusa yokai and various other plant-based yokai speak English while the shini-yokai speak in Binary. As such they are a source of fascination and mystery to the other various yokai.

No one knows their motivations or why they do what they do. They look like tendrils of shadow with pebbles for heads, each with a mask-like face seemingly carved into the stone. Arms reach out composed of the same void of their bodies. They appear from nowhere, attracted to the dead or dying- searching for souls. What they do with the souls they collect is unclear. Do they consume them? Act as guides to usher them into the next phase of existence? Derive strength from them? Or are they simply collecting the accumulated experience and individuality contained inside? Who knows.

My first shini-yokai painting depicted a dead field mouse with a cluster of shini-yokai hovering over the already-decomposing body. Some gaze down on the mouse in seeming prayer (I wanted to give the appearance of a wake) while a few have found the tiny soul of the creature hovering just above them. The first one to spot it has begun reaching for its prize - about to take hold of it. 

I was so enamored with these mysterious yokai I decided a single tiny painting of them was not enough. I wanted to flesh them out and create an entire scene- and possibly an entire mini-series concentrating on just them. As such my third painting in the yokai series became Kitsune Shini Yokai:

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I wanted the painting to be to scale with whatever dead creature they were attracted to- so the painting ultimately ended up being 20"x40". I was also curious how I would go about translating a decomposing fox into my style so chose that as the subject matter. I'm fairly proud how it turned out:

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So yes- Kitsune Shini-Yokai is my most recent addition to the Yokai Series. There are MANY more to come (including more focusing on shini-yokai) so stay tuned for more lore and finished works!

And if you have any questions about the process or the world of my yokai feel free to comment here or shoot me an email. Always happy to flesh things out!

STAY TUNED!

DRAGON CON 2016!

Aedan Roberts

It's been a bit since I've updated this. There is a reason for that: I've been entering my annual "HOLY SHIT I ONLY HAVE A MONTH LEFT BEFORE DRAGON CON" crunch-fest. Every evening/weekend/spare moment has had me in my studio desperately trying to squeeze out just one or two more pieces before I have to pack it all up and lug it off to Atlanta.

And that time is quickly approaching. In less than a week I will be on the road and I am gripped with the usual excitement/dread/fear that I experience every time I'm staring at a particularly tight deadline. Hopefully the work I've been able to squeeze out will be enough and the momentum I've acquired this month will continue into the following months- we will have to see.

As for Dragon Con? I wanted to write up how the event will go down for me and where to find me:

Once again I have managed, through the good graces of the wonderful and hard-working staff of the Dragon Con Art Show, to procure not only an entire Bay to display my newest works (and a couple older ones) but also a Booth in the Artist Bazaar! Check out the map for directions to my work:

So pretty much you enter the art show and take an immediate left, walk all the way to the end of the aisle and I'll be there in the corner, next to a big black partition.

I will also have some work in the print shop, which will be located where the Comic& Pop Artist Alley used to be (not entirely sure where that went, but whatever). The show tends to be a massive maze of amazing works- and this year it has only gotten bigger. But don't fear, with this handy map you will find me. Please find me. I will be bored without you!

Hope to see you there!

 

FIND ME!

My Nüdtendo Series featured in Animize Magazine!

Aedan Roberts

For a little while now I've been doing photoshoots with the amazing Roberto Araujo for my cosplay. I honestly believe the quality of his work is a product of not only his talent, but also the warm, welcoming manner in which he treats his subjects. You just feel comfortable around him, and trust in his ability to capture you in the most flattering light possible. So when he approached me about doing an editorial about some of my artwork in an upcoming issue of his magazine ANIMIZE I leapt at the chance.

We decided to concentrate on my Nüdtendo Series since the subject matter would fit best with the other content- which is to say brilliant photography of the male form. We spoke of the motivations behind the series, the intent of the chosen expressions, along with videogame/nerd fandom in general. I had a blast reading it when it arrived- so go check it out! And honestly it's worth keeping up with the magazine beyond just this article- it tends to host some fun, fascinating people and things that sometimes escape the wider audience it deserves.

A massive thank you to Roberto for giving me the honor to be included in his magazine. You are such a good friend and amazing peer.