The panel was opened by an introduction by Anime Limited president Andrew Partridge. Tenjin (appearing as a guest on behalf of Viewster) opened the panel by beaming in English “Hello, good afternoon! I’m from Japan. Thanks for coming this session!” before wryly adding “I’m from Japan and I can’t speak English, okay?” The rest of the session was conducted via translator.
Asking for a show of hands as to who was familiar with him received a high response, with Tenjin explaining to the rest of the audience his work as an illustrator with a primary focus on box art for plastic model kits and mechanical setting work for anime productions. He revealed that while usually he has only done live drawing sessions using paper, this was his first time using a tablet and computer as he does when actually working on a project.
Tenjin took the audience through examples of his work. This included a Spitfire for a Hasegawa box which he had drawn with a mouse as he lacked a tablet at the time (prompting him to reveal Wacom had lent him use of a USB cable for the session as he’d forgotten to bring his) and box art for kits from Dunbine, Votoms, Yamato and Gundam. As many of his pieces show human characters interacting with the machine the actual kit represents, he explained that he likes doing this as the meeting between man and machine in such scenarios is where story occurs. He highlighted that with Gundam kits Sunrise check every box art and with the one he was currently displaying (UC HARDGRAPH Core Fighter) they had requested him to make Sayla’s breasts bigger, to which he refused. Additionally he highlighted that his preference and trademark are weathered mecha, leading to him usually being hired if a piece specifically calls for such a look.
An extensive focus was given to Tenjin’s work on the Macross franchise, including work on DVD box arts, model kit boxes and even supervision on the construction of a life-size Valkyrie for a Japanese exhibition. He also displayed the production art he had done for series such as Hellsing (apologising to any Londoners) and also work outside of the anime spectrum such as advertisements, portraits of celebrity icons and his recent work on Bandai’s Star Wars model kits.
The live drawing session of a Valkyrie box art began with Tenjin explaining originally he used to draw on paper and then scan the sketch into his computer but now he does everything using a tablet (as he’d mentioned earlier, his preference and recommendation is Wacom) and Photoshop. Once he has the image drawn it’s time to use layers in order to divide the image into the differing tone intensities. He recommends studying how light works in reality to achieve an understanding of how shadows work and vary. Additionally, if working in digital based design be aware of the time saves that it allows you over traditional media. At the same time as advising this, Tenjin commented that he personally works to ensure that his pieces show the clear hand of an artist as was common in pre-digital pieces. He feels that this is a key charm that audiences and clients look for and thus artists should maintain.
Text for markings was highlighted as one of the easier things to apply when producing box art in Photoshop, given the various tools it has to distort and reshape items. Tenjin commented that for model kits there will usually be a sheet of specific markings included in the box, thus his art must accurately reflect those. Weathering should be applied as the next stage. He clarified that even if the piece you want to illustrate doesn’t need to be heavily weathered, using the technique sparingly will better sell the machine you’re illustrating as existing in a real space. Weathering, he explained, helps give a machine personality and so you should consider the identity of the pilot and the way he or she has likely used the machine up to this point.
As a continuation of his advice on shadows, Tenjin commented that light was just as important in illustration. He told the audience that if they looked at the other attendees they would notice light was hitting each of them in different directions. This holds true for machines too, so artists must apply light and shadow correctly.
With the piece finished, he stated that professional artists will work within personally set clear rules and always work in a way that a piece can be easily edited if so needed. With mecha in particular, he advises using low angled perspective and people at ground level to communicate the mecha’s massive size. Further, colours shift when something is further away from you and thus should be expected of a towering mecha. He advises studying artists to research this factor in play in real life. He jokingly summed up that with all this passed on knowledge everyone in the audience was ready to start a career as an illustrator the next day.