Back to Writing / 5-24-2005

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Computer illustrator Tsubasa combines reality and fantasy to create powerful images that evoke an immediate and complex reaction from the viewer. Pushing us to walk the line between desire and tantalizing fear, his art is incredibly rich and compelling, and it remains with the viewer long after we've looked away. We spoke with Tsubasa about the origin of his ideas and their translation into art.

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Sez G: Is your background in illustration or computer art?

Tsubasa: My education is in Architecture (during pre-computer, hand-drawing days...a long time ago). I fell into computer design 15 years ago when my boss at the time sat me down in front of a Mac Plus and said "Figure out how to do it." I don't have any real illustration capabilities aside from on the computer. I can't draw!

Sez G: Many of your images are an amazing blend of reality and fantasy. How much of it is photography and how much is computer generated? Can you walk me through the process of their creation?

Tsubasa: The images that are "portraits" of real people are a combination of digital photography and 3D-modeled CG (kind of like sculpting on the computer).

The portrait starts with a simple digital photo of the subject. That photo is then brought into the 3D modeling app and the CG parts of the image are modeled, textured and rendered. The last step is combining the digital photo with the CG parts in Photoshop. It's a fairly straightforward process. The original photos are usually pretty funny to look at after seeing the finished pieces, because the subject is usually in my living room with the TV, couch and normal house stuff behind them.

Sez G: Your settings evoke hooks, blades and barbed wire. Yet they envelope the bodies in a smooth, shiny, sensual and erotic way. Tell me about this juxtaposition.

Tsubasa: I don't really make a conscious effort to exploit that kind of relationship between the harsh and the sensual. It just kind of happens. It probably has something to do with the "there is not shadow without good without evil" concept. I really just try to visualize whatever is in my head and hope that someone gets something out of it.

Sez G: Your characters live in a razor sharp, dangerous and even terrifying world. It's like science fiction - except somehow they always seem very human. How do you maintain this visual intimacy with the model or character and keep them from appearing hollow or robotic?

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Tsubasa: "Terrifying" is an interesting word. The use of it really exemplifies how these images can be interpreted in so many different ways. I think that diversity in reactions is a good thing. I've always been a fan of the robotic erotic arts (i.e. Sorayama), but I am not really that good at doing robotic work myself. I think some of the forms have a robotic feel but maintain a slightly organic quality that maybe relates to the human side of things.

Sez G: Do you have a corset and shoe fetish? Or are they just visual inspiration?

Tsubasa: I do have a fetish for corsets and heels when worn. But not by themselves. A woman with a great set of legs in stilettos is definitely my favorite. What is more important, perhaps, is what I have been told about the way a woman feels when she is wearing heels and/or a corset.

Sez G: Have you ever made any of your artistic fashions into real "clothing?"

Tsubasa: Not yet, but I have talked to a couple of people about fabricating some of the shoes from my images as sculptural objects.

Sez G: You've said that the internet was a true catalyst for your art. How does your work translate in a gallery space?

Tsubasa: Most people who have seen prints of my work in a gallery and have been to my website comment that the gallery experience is completely different. Website images don't carry the same kind of detail and size that prints do. I think people feel that they can get much more intimate with prints because they can get closer and see more detail and gain a better understand of what an image is.

My larger prints are usually printed on a slightly metallic photographic paper that gives a really nice sheen to the images. You can't get that from a computer monitor. On the other hand, my website has nearly every image I have ever made. You can't get that in a gallery (well, I suppose you could…).

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Sez G: Your 3.5 minute animation, Reflection at the Speed of Light, is amazing. What was the creation process like for you? When you watch it, do you feel that your art (and the contents of your head) are that much closer to reality? It seemed almost tangible…

Tsubasa: That one was a real learning process. My computer is not incredibly fast and rendering frames at 30 fps is very time consuming. Animation is kind of a love-hate thing. I love the results and people's reactions to the results, but making them is an ordeal. You concept, maybe storyboard (I usually don't), start the modeling and animation process, render the frames out (5400 for 3 minutes), then comp and add titling and music. And along the way, revise and revise again. I have huge admiration and respect for the folks who do feature length, hi-end animation films.

Personally, when I watch my own animation, I see the mistakes or things I could have done better if I had just spent a few more hours here or there. I would much rather watch people who are watching the animation than the animation itself. As far as reality goes, I think in a weird way, the animations do bring the work closer to reality if you believe that what you perceive is reality. As an artist, if what you are making is invoking some kind of real emotional response, then I think it has become a kind of reality and is successful.

Sez G: What's coming up for you in the future?

Tsubasa: I'm still working on images, but I've slowed down just a bit. I used to do an image every week. Now it's about 1 per month. I just went to Berlin for the German Fetish Ball (they played some of my animation work there) and am contemplating hitting Erotica in November. In October, I am planning on doing Dragon-con in Atlanta and somewhere between all of that, I hope to get a small, picture book going. I am also in the very beginning stages of a third animation...argh, let the nightmare begin.

And the viewer will reap the benefits! To learn more about Tsubasa, go to

Tsubasa - by Sez G.