Illustrator Marumoru Talks Creating Hyper-Realistic Character Designs for ‘Genshin Impact’ With XPPen

The illustrator talked about his art style and designing for gaming IPs at the Genshin Impact Profession Fan Art Contest.

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XPPen has partnered with HoYoFair, a dedicated fan art platform, to launch the Genshin Impact Profession Fan Art Contest. A celebration of boundless creativity and HoYoFair’s robust gaming and anime communities, the art fair also spotlights XPPen’s mission to develop innovative tools that allow creators to reconnect with their artistic practices in a modern format. Launched on March 31, XPPen and HoYoFair have introduced the #TeyvatFashion character costume design event, signaling to XPPen’s brand ethos: “Dream, Brave, True.” The ongoing art contest invites fans of the gaming franchise and other HoYoFair IPs to submit artworks imagining the professional fashion personas of their favorite Genshin Impact characters, paying homage to the mobile game’s contemporary anime-style aesthetics and immersive character development. The contest concludes on April 30, and winners will be announced on May 13.

 

With the competition underway, XPPen met up with Japanese illustrator marumoru, an artist known for his expressive character designs inspired by his learnings as a physical therapist. His distinctive art style incorporates anatomy and kinesthetic learning theory to develop hyper-realistic characters for a variety of gaming franchises, including Hatsune Miku, Azure Lane, Genshin Impact and Arknights. In the interview below, marumoru opens up about his favorite manga and anime, his background as a professional physiotherapist and theory he explores in his own art discipline and online illustration courses.

XPPen: Could you tell us a bit about yourself? How would you describe your creative style?

marumoru: I’ve been working with different domestic and international media as a freelance illustrator since 2019. I think that for a work to really reach out and grab its audience, each character must have a strong worldview and presence to create a unique atmosphere.

XPPen: What do you mean by worldview?

marumoru: When I’m creating, I often focus on the story setting, so the character’s presence within that setting takes on special importance. Although the themes may differ from work to work, I try to have individual characters tell their own story.

XPPen: Before becoming a professional illustrator, you worked as a physiotherapist. What inspired you to change professions?

marumoru: Although I found physiotherapy stimulating, I decided to change careers when I started getting more work as an illustrator. I have always loved arts that allow me to express myself, and it seemed like a fun challenge breaking into the industry, so I am grateful to the businesses that gave me a chance and supported me along the way.

XPPen: Could you tell us a bit about what goes into becoming an illustrator, what you had to do to, and if you ever felt like giving up?

marumoru: First of all, if you want to illustrate, you have to make it a daily habit. Luckily, I keep relatively normal hours, so I can set aside, say, at least 2 hours a day when I get home. On days off, I could spend more than 10 hours at it. Before taking the plunge, I worked to improve my drawing skills and thought long and hard about some of the pitfalls of freelancing, ultimately deciding to hold on for a while as a physiotherapist, attending academic conferences and training courses to keep up my professional qualifications and ensure I remained employable.

It was physically exhausting but because it was the career of my dreams, I never found it mentally taxing and never considered giving up. I know a lot of people who have succeeded in changing jobs in a wide variety of fields and have come to believe that if it’s your dream, and you press on thoughtfully and don’t give up, you can become a better version of yourself. I am still working towards my goal, and I have every expectation of reaching it some day!

XPPen: Your artwork is very Japanese in style – would you ever be interested in experimenting with something new?

marumoru: Although I think my work is essentially Japanese anime, I do like the new more than the old and am always experimenting with new ways of drawing and expressing myself. I think experimentation is the secret to keeping fresh, so yes, I do intend to continue dabbling in new creative forms.

XPPen: Could you describe in one sentence what makes your style different from other works of the same genre? Japan has exported its manga culture across the globe and has fans everywhere. It has a long history and masters like Osamu Tezuka, Akira Toriyama, and Yuuhiko Inoue, whose styles can vary greatly. Have any of these masters influenced your style? How do you think they’ve influenced contemporary Japanese manga culture?

marumoru: Because it’s one genre, it may all look the same to the casual observer, but if you want to find the real difference, I think you need to look to personality. It’s the sensibility, the taste, the personal preferences an author spends a life cultivating unconsciously that make them different. It’s hard to describe a visual world in mere words, but I think that’s a part of what drives us…Because of the age group, I think these masters may not have influenced me directly, and it would probably be more accurate to say I’ve been influenced by the worlds these giants have contributed to the history of Japanese manga.

When I was born, no aspect of life remained untouched by Dragon Ball, so as a painter, it is only logical that I would be influenced by it in some way. Personally, I am a fan of Akira Toriyama, especially Dragon Quest, and I’ve played everything in the series.

XPPen: Your experience as a physiotherapist and knowledge of the human body is evident in your work. How would you say this knowledge has informed the way you design characters?

marumoru: There’s no doubt that my observation skills have been sharpened by working with so many people’s bodies over the years, and observation skills are very important to illustrators. I am able to translate the reference models I see and integrate them into the work of art on a higher level, infinitely broadening the scope of application.

XPPen: How possible do you think it is to express a character’s personality for a game? What goes into achieving this?

marumoru: When I design a character, I like to start with the character’s back story before moving on to the personality and other personal details. Whether I choose appearance or behavior to express something can depend on the setting, though it’s generally helpful to categorize images by personality. For example, round objects are generally perceived as cute and sharp objects as aggressive. This concept can be used when designing a character to better express their personality.

XPPen: Is there anything you would like to say to the participants of HoYoFair 2024 Genshin Impact?

marumoru: The rules are simple, so even if you don’t know anything about Genshin Impact, you can still take part. A lot of people get caught up in the characters, but I hope you’ll play the game itself and check out the plot, which is great!

XPPen: Could you say a word about how you stay focused as an illustrator and preserve your style while improving your drawing skills? The perseverance you have displayed on your professional journey can encourage other creators to persevere and not shy away from expressing their true selves.

marumoru: As a commercial illustrator, you have to deliver the work that’s ordered. Perhaps there is no absolute right in the creative world, but I believe we can pursue our ideals and create works that will appeal to a wider audience. I still fall short in many ways, and I am still just learning, but I would encourage others to pursue their dreams as a creator and to never stop working hard.

XPPen: What creative tools do you use?

marumoru: The most important creative device I use regularly is an LCD pad. When I first started drawing with a digital tablet, it was hard to get used to the feel of the screen, so I really like the LCD pad, which I find more intuitive – it’s like drawing on paper. The smaller parallax especially feels like drawing on paper, so that’s a tool I love.

XPPen: Have you ever used XPPen? How did you find it? Anything that sticks out in particular?

marumoru: XPPen did ask me to try an LCD digital pen display called the Artist 22. The LCD digitizer I was using at the time was 6 years old, so the pen pressure sensor and the screen resolution of Artist 22 were way better – it was a real eye-opener for me. It also cost about a quarter the price of similar products on the market, so I was impressed by the price to performance ratio. Personally, I think it’s a great option for people looking to get into digital painting on a low budget.

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