Designing characters with the kind of personalities that leap off the page is a special skill that a lot of artists aspire to master. When a clear narrative is built around a character on a single still image, it can draw you into that character’s story even when you have no information about what that story might be.
Ian Olympia, known to his audience as wickedalucard, regularly creates characters whose story is built into their form, ready to be teased to the fore.
We caught up with him to find out more about the characters he designs and his hopes for their stories.
Kirstie: How did you get into art?
wickedalucard: I’ve been introduced to art at an early age, around pre-school, but I think the same goes for most of us. Since I was always alone in our house because of my parents’ jobs, I would always scribble on the back of scrap documents scattered in our house.
During my gradeschool days, I wasn’t the friendly and outgoing type, so I spent most of my school breaks drawing at the back of my lecture notebooks. And when I reached 5th grade in 1995, I met a classmate who I discovered to be very good at drawing. She inspired me to become much more interested in improvement.
My interest in drawing went on until I stopped going to university and started my first day job in 2001. I would always draw during my free time.
Kirstie: Who were your earliest influences?
wickedalucard: It would be Akira Toriyama’s Dragonball. During that time, media was very limited and I was only exposed to the things that were aired at the local TV stations. I wasn’t even aware of “anime” and when I first saw Dragonball Z, I just called it as Japanese cartoons, and it really caught my attention. It gave a certain intense feeling that is different from the usual cartoons I grew up with. I was in 4th grade that time and I remember having all my lecture notebooks filled with my Dragonball AU comic pages where they’d battle my made up Red Ribbon characters.
Then I was introduced to many more titles that quickly became my obsessions. Titles such as Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailormoon, Yoshihiro Togashi’s Yu Yu Hakusho, Nobuhiro Watsuki’s Rurouni Kenshin, Kosuke Fujishima’s Ah My Goddess, and many more, and also a whole lot of game illustrations like Darkstalkers, Samurai Spirits, and The King of Fighters to name a few.
This was during the days where internet was not yet a thing (at least in our country). But when internet became accessible, I was quickly absorbed by artists like Shirow Miwa, Falcoon, Ayami Kojima, and many many many more!
Kirstie: Who are your predominant influences now?
wickedalucard: I’ve been lurking around Pixiv a lot and I’m also collecting so many artbooks so it’s very difficult for me to distinguish a predominant influence. I guess if I could name a few current influences, it would be: ASK, nineo, kinako, J. C. Leyendecker, Akihiko Yoshida, Kkuem, and many many more. So many that a page for a list might not be enough. Although when it comes to inking, Shirow Miwa still tops my list.
Kirstie: What is your favourite material to work with?
wickedalucard: I make all my client work using digital medium, and I also do my personal illustrations there. Back then I was using Wacom Intuos 3, but right now I’ve switched to a Cintiq 22HD. In terms of program, I used to work on SAI and Manga Studio 4 EX a lot, with a bit of Photoshop post processing. Now I mainly do all my work on Clip Studio Paint EX.
I seldom draw using analog material, but when I get the chance, I would always start my drawing with a 0.7 red coloured lead mechanical pencil. Then I’d use Unipins for inking. Lately I’ve been obsessing over Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. It is super good and I’d always find myself running out of ink and scramming for a replacement. I’ve also started using pen nibs (Maru, and G-pen) in creating analog inked illustrations.
It’s difficult to pick a favourite! For me, both of them give off a distinct feeling of pleasure and creativity so I treasure them both. But for work illustrations, I always prefer digital as it has fewer restrictions in terms of client delivery and production flow.
Kirstie: If you could design the poster for any movie, what would it be? What would your design be like?
wickedalucard: I’ve never been asked about this before so I’m caught off-guard! If ever I’ll be asked to pick a movie, I guess it’ll be A Tale of Two Sisters! I really liked that film, so although creating a poster for that will be the death of me, I think it will be an interesting experience! As for how the design will be? For now let’s keep it as a secret.
Kirstie: What is the first piece of work you were really proud of?
wickedalucard: I guess it would be my first original manga format comic. It was around 5 or 6 volumes, and each volume had around 70+ pages. I started the project during my 1st year high school in 1996, and I continued until I was in 3rd year in 1999. My classmates were my first audience, and later on, students from other classrooms started enjoying it as well (and demanded newer chapters /pressure). Eventually, I had to stitch the notebooks together, sort of my homemade tankobon.
Sadly it was lost when I moved out of my parent’s place, in around 2005 or 2006.
Kirstie: How have you changed as an artist since then?
wickedalucard: Illustrating as my profession, a bunch of years back, I had difficulties finding clients so I was desperately trying to acquire a lot of work. After a few years it lead to a lot of opportunities and connections, and before I realized it, I was already overworking myself and neglecting my personal projects.
Recently, I’ve started to improve my daily routine and I’ve also started to pay close attention to how I manage my time and work schedule. I’ve started taking the weekends off, and intentionally squeezing time for personal projects. I’ve slowly started to give myself some room to breathe while keeping my goals intact.
Kirstie: What inspired the name ‘wickedalucard’?
wickedalucard: It came from Kouta Hirano’s manga Hellsing. Back in 2005, I was obsessing over that manga and I was also obsessing over Alucard. Since the name Alucard was already taken when I made my very first online gallery on Deviantart, I had to add another word. When I started becoming serious with illustrating and when I also started working digital, most of the people I know were against it so I wanted to use a word which can be interpreted as both negative and positive. I randomly decided to add “wicked”, hence wickedalucard.
Kirstie: How did you develop your art style?
wickedalucard: I didn’t really pay close attention to developing or finding my own style. I just drew the things that I enjoy drawing. I’ve learned to separate the things that inspire me from the things that I use as references, and from there I’ve narrowed down the things that I incorporate with my work and procedure. By repeatedly doing this, my creations started to have a pattern or direction that people can easily identify. I constantly experiment and try different things, but I’m really honoured to hear that people can identify my works.
Kirstie: What drew you to manga style illustration?
wickedalucard: I think it’s just a matter of preference. I enjoy it a lot and I’d love to create more work in this area.
Kirstie: How do you create such distinct personalities in the characters you draw?
wickedalucard: I pay close attention to the characters’ facial features. I try to relate to my drawings as much as I can so I can relay what they feel. I just want to avoid creating something that will seem artificial or fake. It almost seems like I want them to communicate with the viewer even with the slightest detail or gesture.
Kirstie: Your characters range from the adorably innocent to the darkly sinister. Which characteristics do you tend to lean towards? Why?
wickedalucard: I enjoy both of them, but I find it difficult to create bubbly and cute characters. Maybe because in real life, I’m very serious and not as cheerful.
Kirstie: Do you have any plans to build a narrative around any of the characters you’ve created?
wickedalucard: Yes! When I create characters, especially for random doodles, I can’t help but imagine who they are. The things they might’ve gone through, or why they’re wearing a certain outfit or fashion sense, the scars they have, or possible powers they might possess. I try to imagine as much as I can, and by doing so, it makes it easier to fill in the visual details of the character.
Kirstie: What’s the most interesting idea someone has ever commissioned you to draw for them?
wickedalucard: Probably one of my earliest commissioned pieces. I was asked to create a light and colourful mood, in a very simple yet vibrant rendering. It was an illustration used as a CD jacket for an indie music creator. The client gave me a lot of freedom to create whatever I’d feel necessary for the piece, and maybe because of that, I was able to feel the project as something personal. It was weird in a way that there were no revisions or adjustments, it’s almost as if I was paid to create a personal drawing out of very few suggested themes.
Luckily, this illustration gave way to a lot of opportunities years after! Up until now, whenever I look at this certain drawing, I can’t help but remember the fun memories it gave me.
Kirstie: A few years ago you created your own manga, Echofreak. How did you come up with the idea for it?
wickedalucard: It was around 2005-06 when I was obsessing over an OC. I drew him almost every day, and eventually, I started developing his background story. During that time, I was really absorbed in Asian horror movies, and I also had a hobby of reading fictional books and manga within that genre. At the same time, I was also just new to discovering a lot of game titles with intricate and stylish character designs. All of these things gave me so much enthusiasm to create and develop my own story and set of characters.
During that time I even created a group and we made a self-published comicbook anthology! But because I was too ambitious and naive at that time, things were all over the place. I realized late that I needed to improve certain areas, do more research, and develop certain techniques to further improve my creation.
Years after, I then took on a bunch of manga related client projects, as well as manga assisting jobs. I wanted to be further involved in the industry to widen my perspective and to learn more from people who worked in the field. And last 2014, I decided to get back to the actual pages of Echofreak.
Kirstie: Do you plan to return to it in future?
wickedalucard: Yes! Absolutely!
Echofreak‘s hiatus really saddens me. Like I previously mentioned, now I’m trying to manage my time more in a direction that gives me room to create and go back to personal projects, so I’m looking forward to getting back to Echofreak‘s pages! Hopefully it would be some time soon!!!
Kirstie: What are your hopes for the story? Where do you see it going?
wickedalucard: Right now I’m strengthening the background story of the characters, and as I work on them, I can’t help but feel this certain thrill or excitement! I think the series will be mainly focused on the characters and their development. On how they’ll interact with their situation and goals.
Please look forward to it!
Kirstie: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
wickedalucard: I think that we should value our journey as much as we value our goals and dreams.
We need to create more, so we could come across more problems, and in the process, find solutions. By creating more, we can produce our personal time stamps, which in the future, will serve as pieces that will take us back to what we were to what we are at the moment. Our personal measurement of our improvement.
We must also continue to look at the things that inspire us, and appreciate the works of our peers. By looking at the world, we learn and see things in the audience’s perspective, and by looking at it from that angle, we can discover and learn things that we can’t see by just staying focused backstage or in the creator’s view.
We’d like to offer a huge thank you to wickedalucard for taking the time to talk to us! To keep up with his latest work, you can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube. You can also support his work on Patreon and see his full portfolio on Deviantart, Artstation and Pixiv!