If you’ve picked up the new issue of SciFiNow, you’ll have seen the latest instalment in our collaboration with the folks at Poster Posse: Orlando Arocena’s gorgeous take on Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s hit manga series Death Note.
We took the chance to pick his brains about his style, inspirations and dream commissions…
How long have you been working as a vector illustrator and what’s your background? Is this something you learned through education or another route?
Well, I’ve been playing with vector since 1997. My first commercial vector was of Toxie, the Toxic Avenger, when I was employed at the famous TROMA Entertainment studios in Hells Kitchen, NYC. I graduated from Pratt Institute Brooklyn with a BA in Communication Design, but unfortunately during my four years at Pratt the computer arts curriculum was very lacking and nothing like it is today. Remember, back in ’94 the internet wasn’t strong and smart phones weren’t a ‘thing’ yet, so I graduated without any computer skills into a commercial landscape that had just gone digital practically over night.
Haha, you noticed! Yes, to some degree there is some visual representation of my heritage within some of my commissioned and personal pieces. Whether it’s the choice in colours, the lighting, or the different patterns. I believe culture is very important. Culture doesn’t always have to be associated with one’s ethnic roots. But it can also be attributed to the community of interests that one associates greatly with and contributes to. Movie culture, gaming culture, street culture, creative culture… As an aside, I hate using the word ‘work’. That word really bothers me because I would rather keep a positive, healthy attitude and call what I do ‘play’ since I have too much fun, even when it gets challenging.Your take on Death Note brings something new to the table. What was your creative process when tackling a subject that has been done so many times before?
When I was given the opportunity to collaborate to do the Death Note cover, I immediately had to investigate and put into perspective the overall established creative landscape, meaning: I had to check it out and make sure that what I wanted to create hasn’t been done yet. And during these investigative explorations I’m trying to soak in the vibe of the subject matter. In short, I had to take a quick crash course into the manga, the English derivatives and also any YouTube videos of existing visual references. As a result, I simply wanted to create my personal Pop-Deco/Word of Mouth portrait of Ryuk.
When you take on something like Death Note, that has an illustrative style of its own that people will be aware of, how much to you pay attention to that existing style?
Generally, I don’t. I mean, I respect and understand the creative style that may be associated with the origins of a particular character. But if a commission requires me to do my interpretation of a character, then guess what? I’m happily going to do my stylised version.