The artist side of the Pony fandom is one of the most explosive and productive fan art communities on the web. By crossing borders of nations, race, and gender, it has a wide cross-section of fans who bring countless styles, experiences, and ideas into every work of art. Today, we feature an interview with Rai, moderator of the popular My Little Chubbies ask tumblr (also known as pekou on DeviantArt and Bronibooru). In it, Rai talks about how she became an artist, what motivates her, and even has a few words to say about the recent Twitch Plays Pokemon movement!
Want to find out what makes Rai tick? Read on!
ComradeCosmobot: So, what got you interested in art in the first place? I know a lot of people take art classes in school, but very few tend to actually take them and run with it. Was there something or someone that inspired or encouraged you to start drawing?
Rai: It was actually my brother and sisters that inspired me to keep drawing when I was little. My family is very artistic, so seeing my siblings draw Disney and Dragon Ball Z characters was a common thing growing up.
Sounds like you had a bit of friendly competition!
Kind of! Watching my older sister especially made me jealous of her skills in referencing other illustrations, so I always made sure to doodle close by her. I remember showing her my finished products a lot, haha.
I take it you have a pretty good relationship with your siblings then! That’s always a great thing to hear! Do you have any interesting stories about their influence on your artwork that you’d feel comfortable sharing?
Hmmm, well, I do remember a good chunk of my early memories of drawing being influenced directly from my brother teaching me how to copy from reference, too. Instead of just watching like I did with my sister, he actually sat me down and gave me a cartoon picture to reference off of. Then he’d see how well I did. I’m not sure why he decided to teach me how to reference, I was only seven or eight at the time, but I know it helped pave the way to the artist I am today (:
A little while ago, I was listening to an interview you had back in 2012 with Ask the Tumblr Ponies. In it I was surprised to learn that you mentioned that your life’s aspiration was not necessarily to become an artist but rather to become a social worker. Are you still working towards this goal?
Not any more, actually. Right now I’m not too sure what I’ll be doing in the future. At the moment I’m working part time and freelancing on the side to keep me afloat with bills. What I’m hoping for is to sustain support online and hopefully become a freelance artist full time rather than having it as a side job, maybe I can make a career like that. (:
So it sounds like what started out as a hobby has a chance of being something bigger for you.
I’m really hoping so! Art work is a big part of my life, and to have it supporting me financially would be so amazing, haha!
By the way, I’ve noted that you’ve been posting a bunch of Pokemon art on your personal Tumblr lately. Have you been following Twitch Plays Pokemon at all?
Oh jeez, I think I’ve had that silly stream up on my browser since day 3! Of course I’ve been following TPP haha! Have to say, one of the coolest fandoms (if you can call it a fandom) that’s ever sprouted from Pokemon. I was pretty hyped finding out they were moving on to Crystal, my absolute favorite generation. Can’t wait to see all the content from that one!
I’m looking forward to it too (it’s in the background of my browser as we speak!) Turning to your work, one thing that’s struck me about your work is the sheer variety of styles you’ve worked in, from the simple designs of the early chubbies to your more recent work which tends to feature soft styling and expressive eyes, if not outright adopting something of a pop-art comic style. Is there anything or anyone you think has really influenced the evolution and development of your own unique artistic style?
When I look at my earliest or even my most current pieces of artwork, I always see an artist that has influenced some thing in that illustration, whether it be the way I blended colors, shaded, lined, etc. I know one of the first artists who inspired me work was CT (crookedtrees). His use of color and semi-realism was something I really strived for and wanted to emulate. However somewhere down the road my work became more simpler, and cartoony looking. Not to say I don’t like it that way, but that’s definitely been the work of other artists showing me different techniques and inspiring me for something completely different from what I originally wanted!
Currently the most inspiration I take from is suikuzu; her work is gorgeous and never ceases to amaze me!
Besides your family and fellow artists on DeviantArt and Tumblr, is there anyone else who has influenced your artwork?
Not from what I can remember. It’s all been family and artist friends who’ve inspired me greatly over these years (:
It sounds like you’ve tried to go out of your way to learn from others how best to tackle your craft. Is there a particular technique that you found particularly challenging to master or a piece of yours that was particularly ambitious in your opinion? If so, what was it that made it such a difficult task?
One of the biggest hurdles I went through was developing a better sense of style with my backgrounds. For the entire month of September, I illustrated detailed backgrounds on my commissions, something I rarely pushed for because of the daunting task of illustrating everything with the correct perspective. I have to say, it definitely helped me paint grass, trees, and water better!
Can you give us a little insight into what goes into one of your drawings? What sort of equipment or software do you use?
I use MangaStudio5 and a Bamboo tablet! That’s really all I can tell you with equipment that goes into my drawings. But I do recommend for beginner artists to use paint tool SAI. It’s a great first-time digital artist program! Very user friendly!
You’ve obviously been drawing and creating for far longer than the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fandom has been around. What was it that got you into the fandom in the first place? Was it art of ponies that got you into the fandom or joining the fandom that got you into drawing ponies?
Joining the fandom that got me into illustrating ponies (:
I had no other past experiences drawing animals and didn’t have the desire to until I fell into the fandom quite on accident! I had many friends telling me about the show and saying how different it was from the last generations of MLP. After finally cracking under pressure, I turned on episode 1, then 2, then 3… and by the end of the week I was finished watching season one and couldn’t wait for the release of season 2. Drawing MLP wasn’t something I was anticipating at all, but the show style was something that really sparked my creativity.
I think that story is one that a lot of creative people in the community would find very familiar! Of the various artists, musicians, and other creative types that you’ve befriended in the community, are there any that you think deserve some special attention?
Oh definitely! Some of the most amazing people I’ve befriended deserve so much attention, it’s crazy. Some I can think of on the top of my head are artists like mochaspar and biscuitmango, especially (:
mochaspar does a lot of chibi like drawings and one of the her most notable ask blogs is crayonderpy! It’s adorably drawn and too cute not to follow. Biscuitmango also illustrates an adorable blog called asksugarcloud. She’s been around for as long as I can remember, and she’s one of the most wonderful artists I’ve ever met.
Now, obviously, our readership probably knows you best from your ask-tumblr askmlcblobs. What got you interested in starting a tumblr with these strange little critters?
Honestly, it was just a spur of the moment. I doodled them as a joke but as soon as I realized they were catching on I decided to do a little ask blog for them. I was hoping to keep it around for a month or two, but now it’s been nearly 3 years with the little guys and they’re still going strong.
Running a popular ask blog like that must be challenging, if only for the sheer number of asks you must receive. Has it been difficult to moderate the blog?
Oh, most definitely. There’s been many times where the blog has been on hiatus just due to the fact of lost motivation. Running an ask blog like askmlcblobs has its pros and cons. It’s a pretty darn simple style, so illustrating asks is pretty easy! But the con is the short leash I’m given to experiment and try new things with it, also. It’s such a cute blog that giving it anything more than just cute would seem out of place to me.
Oh yes. I love story-driven ask blogs or just an ongoing series post by post. But I learned quickly that something like that is just not up my alley as an artist and a writer. I love drawing comics, but keeping some thing on a tight schedule like that isn’t some thing for me. I’d rather stick to 2 updates a week of short panelling instead (:
As you know, this week, in honor of International Women’s Day, we’re running a number of feature articles celebrating femininity in the context of ponies and the fandom to try to raise awareness of and allow people to discuss gender issues. What have your experiences been as a female in the Brony community?
Honestly?? It’s been very positive! I haven’t received really any negativity for being female in the brony community, and that’s so great. There’s really not much I can say on the topic due to all of my experiences being very gender-neutral with artists and friends alike. By the way, I think it’s a great thing for you all to celebrate International Women’s Day!
Do you have any words of advice for younger artists who might look up to your work?
Not to be intimidated by the brony community. We’re a great bunch of people and overall pretty welcoming to new artists or any craft you might be interested in, be it fanfiction, plush making, or making music!
Great advice! Anyway, Rai, I think that’s about all we have time for and I want to thank you for joining us for this interview!
You’re welcome! Thank you for inviting me! ■