Japanese artist Hiroshi Yoshii creates 3D illustrations so lively they seem real. Like a mother bringing a child into the world, Hiroshi hardly misses a day in creating a new character for fear it will otherwise never be born. He posts these new characters on his own blog The Daily Work after hours of painstaking and precise digital labor. Inspired by the Japanese comics and television he was not permitted to enjoy as a child, as well as by everything from Star Wars to architecture, animals, and music, Hiroshi is driven by excitement for his creative process and by pure love for his 3D creatures.
The Daily Work 1636 by Hiroshi Yoshii
Do you see each character completely in your mind before you begin your design, or are you discovering the character as you go?
I used to just experiment by trying a little bit of this and a little bit of that until I found something that worked or discovered a character coming to life. But that methodology takes too much time. I never know when a new character will actually come to life using this method. These days, I create my pieces based on an initial pencil sketch. Since now I am always sketching, I have a few thousand ideas stocked up. From time to time, I will brush up my sketches and keep improving them. When I am doing my sketching, the characters seem to call out to me “Make ME!” So when that happens, I put them into my list of pieces to make next.
TDW 1745 by Hiroshi Yoshii
TDW 1622 by Hiroshi Yoshii
Do you think of your characters as having gender, age, mood, and personality? Or do you leave some of this interpretation up to the viewer?
No, I am only interested in the form and the colors used for the character. Once that is done, I really have no interest in the name, gender, personality, etc., of the character. Those aspects are really up to the viewer or the client who sees a certain character and exclaims “Hey, that is a really interesting character! I’d like to use that one as a mascot.” It’s up to the user or the viewer to decide what kind of character they want it to be.
TDW 1731 by Hiroshi Yoshii
TDW 1666 by Hiroshi Yoshii
TDW 1619 by Hiroshi Yoshii
How long does it take to develop each character, and what software and tools are you using now?
At the moment, I primarily use Luxology modo. I can model, add color, and do rendering with modo. Using these tools, I can create a character in as fast as one hour or one day. But when I’m creating characters on order for a client, I spend much more time on the details.
TDW 1715 by Hiroshi Yoshii
Watching a video demonstration of your 3D work shows how painstaking a process it is to create each character. Putting this amount of energy and time into this work, especially in the beginning and without having a sense of where it would lead, must have felt like a big leap of faith.
Fundamentally, I enjoy doing this. If I didn’t enjoy it, I would have given up already.
Here is a high-speed video demonstration of how Hiroshi creates a 3D character:
You create almost one new character a day for your blog The Daily Work, and have said you don’t like to miss a day because it means that character won’t be ‘born.’ What makes you feel the urge to create a particular character in 3D, and do you dream about characters that want to be born?
I began The Daily Work back in February 1999. My goal was to stock up one character a day. In the beginning, I primarily used Painter to create 2D items. From 2002, I started mixing in ZBrush to make 3D items, which eventually, from 2004, led me to working almost entirely in 3D. It was more interesting for me to create in 3D. Also, depending on the methods I use to make each character, including the particular software I am using, this makes the characters really different, and this is was interests me. Recently, I get more and more work from people who have seen The Daily Work (TDW). So I guess I can now say that TDW is my real job. I don’t want to waste any time by taking a day off.
TDW 1614 by Hiroshi Yoshii
TDW 1639 by Hiroshi Yoshii
You number each character, but do you also give them names? Do you have favorites among all the ones you’ve done?
When necessary, I assign a name, but 2/3 of my work has no name. I’m not really the best at coming up with new names. Other people have given names to my work in the past, and usually I tend to really like those names.
I have a handful of works that even I think are spectacular pieces — but as for which these are, that is a secret. Even some of the pieces I thought were just failures have been called masterpieces by other people.
TV Dog by Hiroshi Yoshii
TDW 1652 by Hiroshi Yoshii
I see that some characters seem to reference an animal (a bird, a fish, a turtle, etc.), and some are more alien-like. Where do you get your inspiration and ideas?
Yes, I get a lot of inspiration from animals and birds. I especially like soft and gooey animals like octopus, squid, and jellyfish. I also get hints from fruits. One of the reasons I started making things with the style I have today was learning about a fruit called the Kiwano twenty years ago.
TDW 1659 by Hiroshi Yoshii
TDW 1746 by Hiroshi Yoshii
The Kiwano fruit, which looks to have inspired the character that follows...
TDW 1640 by Hiroshi Yoshii
What influences your color choices?
I like mixing colors in such a way as to recall musical chords or harmonies. I also find inspiration for the colors I use from the clothes I see people wearing around town or various architecture.
TDW 1660 by Hiroshi Yoshii
TDW 1700 by Hiroshi Yoshii
I know you have done a lot of commercial work for magazines and books, and now in addition to your animation work and 3D work, you’re starting to make what you call ‘art toys.’ Tell me more about this work and where you see this going.
I want to create ‘casual sculpture’ toys. But over the years, I have not been able to sell the limited number of toys I have been able to produce. I still have a lot of interest in producing toys, but I realized it is more realistic to think about creating toys in the context of my character work that actually employs me. So that is what I am actually doing now.
TDW 1633 by Hiroshi Yoshii
I understand it was seeing the movie Star Wars when you were in high school that made you want to become an illustrator or graphic designer. Were you artistic as a child, and if it had not been for the inspiration Star Wars’ special effects gave you, what path do you think your life would have taken?
I actually was drawing manga (Japanese style comics) even before I saw Star Wars, and I always knew I wanted to have a job that had something to do with drawing pictures. But, yes, it was definitely Star Wars that really turned me into the artist I am today. If I hadn’t seen Star Wars, I would have ended up as some totally different kind of artist.
TDW 1737 by Hiroshi Yoshii
TDW 1711 by Hirsohi Yoshii
Is there anything about Japanese life or culture that particularly influences your work or makes it possible?
When I was a kid, I was not allowed to watch TV, or see animated films, or read manga. As a result, I don’t share the same memories about TV and animation that other people my age do. But because I was not allowed to see and read those things as a kid, it made me realize I wanted to be a manga artist or an illustrator myself, and it let me take a different route than most other Japanese people. This makes me happy.
TDW 1738 by Hiroshi Yoshii
TDW 1760 by Hiroshi Yoshii
TDW 1729 by Hiroshi Yoshii
Do you have any advice for young artists?
The most important thing is to stay focused and don’t give up. If you don’t finish the piece you are working on today, you won’t be able to create a new piece tomorrow, and you won’t grow as an artist.
TDW 1611 by Hiroshi Yoshii
What are some of your favorite things, whether they impact your work or just make you happy?
The reason I keep creating so many characters day in and day out like some idiot: Because I want that great feeling I get from being excited about what the character I am creating at that moment will turn out to be. I get excited just thinking about it and can hardly wait for the piece to be finished and to see what it looks like. Then when I start thinking about what the next new character will be like, I start to get excited all over again.
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