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Art Blog



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 Kami 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-organized-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 that are interesting, 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 quickly becoming emotionally attached to.

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


I initially created this piece to be a one-off little painting depicting tiny kusa kami 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 kami) differ from the soul in the sense that kami 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 kami as (often) tiny, free-thinking guardians that have manifest from the same energy that created its corresponding physical object/idea. They live in the spirit 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 kami 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):


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 kami. If I were to use an analogy it would be like the kusa kami and various other plant-based kami speak English while the shini-yokai speak in binary. As such they are a source of fascination and mystery to the other various kami.

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 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 just on them. As such my third painting in the Kami Series became Kitsune Shini Yokai:


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:


So yes- Kitsune Shini-Yokai is my most recent addition to the Kami 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!


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.

Bob The Motherfuckin' Drag Queen!

Aedan Roberts

All my pop-related rantings go in the Pop Bin, of course, and I'll be making a quick post there about this as well, but since this is a rare cross-over between the two worlds I decided to write one here as well!

BEHOLD! Bob The Drag Queen, current contestant of RuPaul's Drag Race Season 8, in her NYC Live Premier Runway Look- drawn in the style of my Nüdtendo Series (costume designed by Domino Couture):

For a bit of reference of what it was based on:


Why, you ask?

Well first of all I am a HUGE fan of BtDQ. So far she's had a run on her season about as strong as Bianca Del Rio. Second of all- I was inspired to doodle this little lady up as a prize for Drag Race Bingo (a fun game people play at Eastlands during the Drag Race Viewing Parties I have had the pleasure of attending (hosted by Ariel Italic and Lady Bearica Andrews).

The final piece, shown above, will be given away as the First Place Prize during the Finale of RPDR Season 8. So if you want to snatch up this silly little doodle (gouache, oil pencil, and gold leaf)- you know where you need to be in a few weeks time!

I'll be at 2016 NYC MoCCA Fest!

Aedan Roberts

I'm going to start this post with a quick, sheepish confession: I'm absolutely horrible about remembering to submit applications for art shows and conventions in a timely manner. Even with the addition of Google Alerts, alarms, and really wonderful friends sending me proper reminders I tend to find myself realizing the next day that I needed to do it- and by that point everything is sold out and all space filled. I've also noticed that this has been getting more and more intense as these shows become ever-more mainstream. I was at an event the night Illuxcon tables went on sale and even with the alarms reminding me at the very moment the "doors" were opened I still was too late. And this terrible habit is especially true for MoCCA Fest. I have never- not once- managed to register and reserve a table on time, and this year was no different. Worse than that all my friends were already paired up and all my usual avenues to work around the issue seemed to be unable to help.

Yet for the second year running now it has been through the EXTREME kindness of one friend in particular who has made MoCCA Fest possible for me. And while his or her name will be withheld (unless he or she is alright with me mentioning it here) I am eternally grateful for their generosity and kindness in thinking of me when the opportunity to help arose. It reminds me just how important it is to be there for your fellow artists. We are often the people who get the short end of the stick- which makes it even more important to offer support to each other in our times of need.

I am also making it a life-goal to get better at submitting in a timely fashion so I can stop being such a burden to my generous friends. :-)

With that all being said: I am pleased to announce that I will, in fact, have a table at this year's MoCCA FEST!

While I still don't know where I'll be placed I do know one thing: I will be there, nestled in with all my fellow illustrators, animators, artists and friends. Come find me, say hello, maybe buy a print, an art book, or some Nüdtendo Trading or Playing Cards!

For info on MoCCA Fest (where, when, how, etc.) Go here. And for quick directions see below: