Specialist Column

The Allure of Digital. How to Deal with Digital.

Baron Ueda

Baron Ueda
Illustrator / Character Designer / Art Director

After working as a graphic designer at a design company, he became independent in 2000.
He is popular for his stylish and unique illustrations that make full use of Adobe Illustrator. He has done artwork for a wide range of genres, including advertisements, book covers, and CD jackets for corporations, commercial facilities, games, animation, and fashion. He is also one of Japan's leading digital artists who continues to challenge himself with numerous unique private works.

Top banner artwork: Yogibo Racing Team & NSX GT3, 2021 (Yogibo)

Mr. Baron Ueda is one of Japan's leading digital artists. His stylish and powerful illustrations, created with his favorite Adobe Illustrator, have a distinctive personality that make them instantly recognizable as "Baron Ueda's work.” In this column, he talks about the benefits and possibilities of digital tools and the secrets of incorporating digital technology into analog environments.

How did you come to draw digitally?

When I was a student, I experienced "drawing digitally" in a design class. It was around that time that I first encountered Adobe Illustrator, which I love to use for my creative work. However, at that time, I was mainly creating 3D graphics using CG rather than Illustrator. Even when I was working at a design office, I was the most skilled user, so I became the one who specialized in 3D graphics.

Why didn't you go in the field of 3D graphics, which you were good at?

When I first started using 3D graphics, I felt that the range of expression and the final result depended too much on the capabilities of the PC and software used, and I had my own doubts and limitations. On the other hand, Illustrator was becoming a standard design tool in the digital world because of its affordability and ease of operation. In a sense, it was like using pens and paints, something familiar that anyone could use. I wondered how I could use this universal tool to show my own personality and entertain others. I wanted to compete not with good or bad tools, but with my own individuality, and I realized that this is where the real satisfaction and joy lies. That was the main reason why I decided to use Illustrator as my means of creative expression.

Metallic Woman

Upper artwork: Metallic Woman, 2009 (Roland DG)
Lower artwork: Ordeal -Okuninushi and Mouse, 2019 (Sunklarl)

What do you think are the advantages of digital expression?

When it comes to Illustrator, I think it's the ability to draw pictures in vector data (line data) using Bezier curves. Raster data (photographic data) has a resolution problem, so when you enlarge it, the data may become ragged or heavy, but vector data can maintain the original quality no matter what size you enlarge it. The same is true for colors, although this is not limited to Illustrator. When a work is created digitally, the accuracy and colors can be retrieved as they were at the time of creation. In other words, it has excellent reproducibility.

It's an image that transcends time.

That's right. Realistic works of art deteriorate rapidly as time passes, but I don't think the artist would want his work to be appreciated in a changed state. For example, most of the time we see old Buddhist statues without any color, but many of them had vivid colors in the beginning. I'm sure that the artist wanted us to see them as they were at the time of their creation. With digital data, this is now possible.

Is the beauty of a digital work that it has no physical form of its own?

Yes. The work itself is data, so you can't hold it in your hands, but that's why there are so many other advantages. For example, you can draw characters and move them around on the screen or turn them into 3D graphics. When you output your work, you can not only print it on paper, but you can also make it into wallpaper, folding screens, fusuma (sliding doors), or even three-dimensional figures. The flexibility to freely change the shape of the work is one of the major attractions of digital.

Card design for the Werewolf

Werewolf, “JIN-ROU” Interactive psychological game, 2013 ~ (Gentosha)

Digitalization has many advantages, but the reality is that many industries are not adopting it as quickly as they would like.

Digitalization means changing the way things are done, right? Therefore, there may be a psychological resistance to it. It's the same with any kind of work; we have a track record and attachment to the way we have been doing things. However, it is important to think positively that introducing digital technology will allow us to aim higher, rather than negatively thinking that it will change the way we have been doing things. I think this is a great opportunity to rethink the way we work and to encounter new knowledge and experiences.

Do you have any tips on how to incorporate digital technology into various business?

If, after trying digital, you come to the conclusion that it's better to keep analog, then that's work that should be done in analog, and there's no need to replace it with digital. But if it can be done digitally, then let it be done digitally. This is also the case when I create my own work. Illustrator can instantly draw the straight lines and beautiful curves that I want, just as I want them. So, I leave that part to Illustrator, and concentrate on the creative part: what to draw, how to express myself, and how close can I get to something I'm satisfied with. I don't want to be dominated by digital technology, but to use it well. In other words, it's important to identify what you don't need to take care of in your work.

Does this mean that digital has the power to enhance creativity?

Yes, it does. Digitalization has many advantages, such as cost reduction, effective use of space, and the ability to produce the same quality of work even for people without experience. But the most important advantage is the ability to create time by eliminating waste through the power of digitalization, and to be able to use that time to create better things and to challenge new things.

It means that you will be able to do a better job.

Right, I think it means that work is evolving. This is the same as the history of human evolution. Ever since we hunted and lived in ancient times, we humans have evolved by creating time to do new things. For example, when we learned to use fire in the Stone Age, we were able to shorten our meal times compared to when we ate raw meat, and with the extra time we had, we were able to make tools to improve our hunting success rate, and we had time to grow plants and start farming. With more time in our mind, we can enjoy our meals and make ornaments by grinding stones. By repeating this cycle of making time and creation, we have developed our lives and built our civilization and culture. The digitalization of modern work may also be an "evolutionary" process that is necessary for us to do good work more creatively and survive.

Golden Maiko-Standing Image of Maiko with Lotus and Pond, 2016 (PABLO Kyoto Store)

Coworking Space YOLO-BASE

Golden Sun, 2019 (YOLO BASE)

What is the most important thing about digitalization?

The reason why I use digital technology is because it is the best way to bring out my personality and creativity. Therefore, in any job, I think it is very important to think about how to use digital technology to bring out the potential of the company and the people who work there, rather than the importance of digitalization itself. People's abilities and creativity have infinite potential. Digital technology can bring out that potential. I think it would be a very happy thing to be able to use our own abilities to the fullest, to do good work, and to move and entertain many people.

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