Two friends from Itoshima Arts Farm interviewed English 2D animator Paul Nicholson, who is currently in residence at Studio Kura. You can read the original Japanese version at the Ito Arts Farm website. This is Ale’s translation, so even though the interview on this post is in English it may not be exactly his words.
Paul Nicholson / UK
2D animator working in the UK. He started animating in 2007, and he has taken part in many projects in places like Shanghai and London. Some of his works include The Amazing World of Gumball and Scooby Doo. Studio Kura in Itoshima is his first residence program.
He studied contemporary art at university and worked in many jobs in restaurants, a sweet shop and even as a jazz singer, before settling at his current position. He is very interested in gastronomy, including Italian, Arabic and Japanese cuisine.
- You usually work on animation projects like The Amazing World of Gumball, which is being aired in Japan, or Scooby Doo. And this is the first time you participate in an Artist in Residence program. So why did you choose Japan as your first place to visit as a resident artist?
First, I love Japan’s anime, manga and contemporary art. My favorite animation artists are Satoshi Kon and Masaaki Yuasa. And my favorite artists are Yoshitomo Nara and Makoto Aida. I like Nara’s work because it’s so charming, and then Aida’s work is very technical and polished. I also love Takashi Murakami’s work, being so cute and accessible but sophisticated at the same time.
- How did you get knowledgeable about Japanese animation?
- It was through games. I played a lot of games as a kid, like TwinBee. Then I got the chance to play a Ranma 1/2 game, and there was this old man who turned into a panda and I thought it was fanastic. So I looked it up and it turned out to be based on anime. I only played games when I was a kid. I didn’t start watching Japanese anime until I was an adult.
- What led you to choose Itoshima for your residence, instead of a city?
I live in London which is a large city, but i’m from the countryside so I always feel more at home there. After this residence I will be back to London to do more animation work, so I felt like spending some time by the countryside. When I asked my Japanese friends if there was any residence program in the countryside, they looked it up for me and found Studio Kura.
- How did you feel after actually coming to Itoshima?
- With both the mountains and the sea so near, it’s the best! Also, animation and contemporary art aren’t the only thinks I love about Japan. I love Japanese food too, and Itoshima’s vegetables are super fresh. I love them!
- So you like Japanese food!?
- Yes! I love sashimi, natto & yesterday I made okara. But I guess my favorite is sesame paste. Goma-dofu is delicious! And later today I’m going to try motsunabe in Tenjin.
- It feels somehow rare that you made okara!
- Maybe. My father is an engineer and since he got relocated many times, I have been to many countries as a kid. Egypt, Sri Lanka, France… So I was raised with influences from many cultures.
- Changing the subject, what will your exhibition be like?
- I work with animation all the time, but this time I feel like showing works where I dig deeper into what I’m most interested in. The exhibition will focus on characters.
- There is a rabbit among the characters of The Amazing World of Gumball. When we draw rabbits in Japan, we usually draw their ears long and thin. But your rabbit’s ears feel more flat…
My own characters are loosely based on animals such as foxes or tanukis, but i approach the design in a slightly more abstract way. When i’m designing a character i look for a logical & precise balance of shapes & colours, rather than simply communicating a fox, tanuki or octopus.
- Do you have any protips to give characters balance?
That’s a secret, it’s like recipes 🙂
Balance is an important point for me when designing a character, but other people may have different “important points”. We have a workshop scheduled, and I hope I can help people find what their own “important points” are & what their own “secret recipe” is.
Later, our staff learnt that he loves the work of Studio Ghibli, and one of his favorite animes is Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro. He was very sad that he would not be in Japan this July to see Studio Ghibli’s new feature film.
He also plays guitar & sings with a punk band in London.
He has some favourite Japanese bands too: The Blue Hearts, Shonen Knife and Perfume.
He has been to punk concerts at Yojigen, a venue in Tenjin, and he is enjoying his Artist in Residence life in Itoshima.
Interviewers: Toyoda, Makizono (photographs, editing)
Place: a table in beside the entrance to Studio Kura