Reiko Murakami is an illustrator and concept artist specialized in creature design and surreal horror illustrations. She is also known as raqmo, working for companies such as Hobby Japan, Square Enix, Capcom, INEI, and Harmonix. Her work has been published in Exposé 11 and 2DArtist Magazine, also she has been featured in the Japanese Digital Art Masters Gallery on the 3DTotal Japan website. More of her work can be seen at reikomurakami.com and facebook.com/raqmoful.
First off I’d like to ask you a question in the spirit of Nightmare: What scares you the most?
I’m scared of corpses. It’s funny to say that since I’ve been painting a lot of zombies lately, but the idea something that I’m feeling so special and close to isn’t actually permanent scares me.
A lot of your personal horror work seems to center around merging humans and beasts. What is it about these hybrid forms that appeals to you, or alternately, scares you?
I’m interested in capturing a character’s internal struggle. Over the course of the years I found it feels more appropriate to let my characters free from regular human bodies. I don’t necessarily try to make their bodies look scary. The design is a result of my attempt to capture their emotions.
What is your favorite medium to work with?
I paint digitally, but I like sketching with pencils first. Pencil is the first medium I ever used for making art, and drawing is still very important for me. In fact, my paintings are basically a collection of contour lines with colors.
Who has influenced you artistically?
For creature design, Japanese manga artist Kazuhiro Fujita is my original source of inspiration. His horror adventure comic Ushio to Tora was my bible when I was in elementary school. I was an animation major at college and I didn’t take any illustration nor painting classes, so I’m still a little behind finding good influences for my painting from the masters in art history. I have been taking Illustration Master Class and the teachers there have been a great influence in recent years.
What inspired the image appearing on the cover of this month’s Nightmare, entitled “Our Void”?
I made the piece when I was working at the concept art studio INEI in Tokyo. One day we had free time, so we decided to paint for practice. I just painted whatever felt appropriate . . . I was making random brush strokes, copying and pasting the composition to find an interesting shape. All the sudden I got an idea that this is a creature, a demon, that comes at you to remind you how empty you are. I made its torso empty, so that it’s missing its heart. I like playing with the idea of my creatures recognizing the audience and staring at them without making physical eye contact, so I made the eyes empty also. The gaze, however, had to be more prominent so I gave it huge eyes flaming behind its shoulders. This demon knows you are nothing underneath your skin. You see it and you recognize its empty eyes, but there is the other set of eyes that capture you with the screaming gaze that you can’t escape from.
What kind of world do you envision the creature in “Our Void” comes from?
I think it lives in the dark room in your heart, where all the other dark emotions reside. I believe everyone has their own personal hell inside their mind.
You have worked as a concept artist and illustrator for several games, including the recent zombie-themed app, Deadman’s Cross, from Square Enix. Illustrating for the card-battle RPG required you to create a lot of zombies. What techniques did you use in order to make sure each card had a unique look but fit seamlessly alongside the others?
I can’t tell too many details about the project due to the NDA, but one thing I try is to recognize their personalities. Zombies were once human, therefore they had unique personalities . . . at least once. I try to find the story about them, and sympathize for their loss. That’s probably why a lot of them have a somewhat melancholy feel. Keeping the sense of humor is another thing. I guess my zombies turn out to be sad, gross, and kind of funny.
Is there a horror movie, short story, novel, or television series that has inspired or intrigued you? What do you like about it?
Again, Ushio to Tora by Kazuhiro Fujita is the biggest influence in my horror art. His creature designs are very unique. His monsters usually have a simple shape, almost like humans, but there is always something odd about them. Probably the scariest creature I’ve ever seen in my is life from a manga called Fusuma. [You can see the creature in the following illustrations: http://bit.ly/fusuma-1 and http://bit.ly/fusuma-2. —eds.]
His comic made me realize that the scariest form is actually something close to a familiar shape with slightly unusual features added.
When you illustrate, do you have any little rituals? For example, is there a certain kind of music you like to listen to, or certain type of beverage or food you like to have on hand?
When I do character art, I try to imagine how the character is feeling. It’s a similar technique actors and animators use, putting oneself into the mind of the character and trying to understand it. On the other hand, when I do illustrations that require a lot of pure rendering labor, I listen to TV shows. I need something to fill the silence for these kinds of work.
Do you have any special hobbies you’d like to share with us?
Learning how to paint has become my hobby in these past several years. I love finding good tutorials and tools to share with people. My recent hobby is gathering useful information in English and distributing it to my fellow Japanese artists and students on twitter. I think it’s frustrating that a lot of non English speakers are missing these great resources available for free. I mainly tweet in Japanese, but you are welcome to visit me at twitter.com/raqmo.
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