Tomonori Shimizu: A Contemplation of Beauty

by Joshua Diokno   

Tomonori Shimizu’s passion for the arts is noteworthy in that it has always been inspired by others’ works—that he finds them to be espoused by the mere sight of beauty. But at the very core of it all, isn’t art indeed a contemplation of beauty? That artists are simply carried, without a fight in their muscle to produce art upon the sight of the ideal? Of course, this might simply be chalked up as something completely elitist, “Art for Art’s sake”. But even that needs to be challenged. Is there anything wrong when artists choose to create when their fascination of beauty is aroused?

When you look at Tomonori Shimizu’s art online, you’ll be thankful that he derives inspiration from the aesthetically-pleasing. His portraits are almost life-like, their expressions speak to the spectator to the point of being haunting.

Let’s get to know Tomonori in this short interview and see how artists of his caliber are set on the path they tread on.

Xeno Creatives (XC): We understand that with just about any craft, passion takes precedence. In your case, how did it start becoming a passion? Would we be right in assuming that you consider it a “calling” as a lot of your contemporaries do?

Tomonori Shimizu (TS): My passion for the craft is most aroused when I see the wonderful works of other artists. Whether it is a movie, a game, analog art, or an individually-produced work. When I see a great work of art, I think, “I want to make such a great work of art myself.

XC: Was there ever an art piece (digital or otherwise) or artist who served as a catalyst for your involvement in the craft? When did you get involved fully in the 3D industry?

TS: I first became interested in CG production when I graduated from high school in Japan, almost 30 years ago. When I was in high school, I loved the Final Fantasy series. For movies, I thought the liquid metal of the T-1000 in Terminator 2 was awesome. Then I enrolled in a Japanese technical college and started learning CG. What made an impact on me when I was in technical college was the Tekken movie. At the time, I wondered if it was possible to create such a realistic human being using CG. Since then, I have wanted to create “realistic people”.

XC: Now that you’re an active part of the industry, would you say you have pegged a solid place in it?

TS: Unfortunately, I cannot say that I have established a firm position in the industry. There are many better artists than me, and there’s always a new, young talented artists who would be gracing the scene, so I still have a hard time finding a new job.

XC: How does your day look like in production?

TS: A lot has changed between the pre-pandemic era and now. I’m home all the time now.

Japanese game companies typically work from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Since I work from home, I get up around 9:30 a.m. and then from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. I create the assets needed for the project, but I also do some house chores.

After 7:00 p.m., I finish work if there is enough time in my schedule, but if the deadline is close, I sometimes work overtime. Sometimes I work until 21:00 or 22:00 when it is late. The time I go to bed depends on the day, but I do some independent work before I go to bed.

However, since I do not belong to a company at the moment, I do not work at a fixed time.

XC: What are the common challenges that a 3D artist like you encounters daily in a project?

TS: I don’t know about studios outside of Japan, but I think that my skills are fixed if I just do my job.

I like photo-realistic portrait CG and would like to be involved in such projects. However, in Japan, most of them are “anime” style. I would like to be involved in such projects, but most of them are “anime” style in Japan, so I can’t improve my realistic modeling and texturing skills at all just by working.

Also, in large projects, there is often a division of labor in the detailed parts of the work.

For example, the person modeling the face may be separate from the person modeling the clothes, or depending on the studio, the hair may be created by a different person, and the textures by a different person. This is more efficient as a project, but the skills of each individual tend to be fixed.
I think everyone thinks at least once about whether they want to be a specialist or a generalist.

XC: Your works online are awe-inspiring. The likeness of your creations to the icons they try to emulate are uncanny. If we are to pick our favourite, it would be the Ana de Armas piece. How about you, do you have favorite pieces? If so, why are these your favorites? Also, what would you consider your biggest or most exciting project to date?

TS: I guess you would say my favorite is my own work? I don’t consider myself superior at all.

I am always trying all the time to make my work better. So I don’t always like my own work very much.

But I think I am getting closer to the level I want to make my work than I used to be.

As for other artists’ works, I think Ian Spriggs is great, isn’t he?

His work has no so-called “uncanny valley” at all, and he really looks like a natural human being.

I would be very happy if I could create work at this level.

I can’t go into too much detail about my work, but it’s a game for the PS5 that hasn’t been released yet. This was the biggest and most exciting for me because it will be a Japanese AAA game.

XC: If you were to market yourself what would you highlight as your edge?

TS: I don’t know if I have an advantage, but if I had to sell to a Japanese company, it would be realistic human modeling.
In Japan, there are far more people who make “anime” style models.

XC: If you weren’t a 3D artist today, what would you be working as?

TS: I was a track and field athlete in school and had a reasonably good record, so I think I would have worked as a track and field athlete or in a sports-related job.

XC: What is your message to other artists in these challenging times?

TS: This is something I keep telling myself, but I don’t think you can do CG production without curiosity and ambition. If you don’t constantly learn new techniques, tools, and workflows, you will become obsolete, so I think it is necessary to look at great works and try them out yourself. Nowadays, even individuals can create high-level works if they work hard enough, so I hope that artists around the world will get excited about it. There have been many dark topics in the past few years, but let’s all work together to make the game and video industry more exciting.

Want to see more of Tomonori Shimizu’s amazing works? Click here!

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