Interview with Mitzi Sato-Wiuff
A Sea Monster in Watercolor
Interview with Mitzi Sato-WiuffArtist Spotlight
by Constanza Ehrenhaus
Mitzi, your art has a clear manga style. How did it evolve into that?
Although I've done realism in the past, my current fantasy art style is a result of my years of doodling from my school days (elementary and junior high school). I was born in Japan, and like most kids there, I grew up reading manga a lot, though I probably had an early start on that even among my peers. So my doodles were influenced by the vintage shoujo manga of the late 70s and 80s -- very clean, tediously done with lots of details. I also think that the manga style of art is generally influenced by the traditional Japanese art such as woodblock prints and tattoo art where the line art is an important, integral part of the whole look. I do feel that my current style reflects my personal approach and taste, and therefore more authentic to me, compared to the works I used to do for fine art exhibitions.
Who are the artists that inspire you?
I find something to inspire myself in most anyone's work and enjoy a wide variety of genre and media. I'm usually inspired by originality of vision and uniqueness of style more than technical skills. Any art that presents a new way of looking at things or a truly magical, personal vision always catches my attention. But I've found much inspiration in the works of the following artists and they're my favorite: Aubrey Beardsley, Gustav Klimt, John Singer Sargent, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Reiko Okano (my favorite manga artist), and Waki Yamato (also a manga artist).
Even when you work digital, your work has a softness that is more characteristic of watercolors. How do you achieve that look?
I've always liked the transparent colors where you can see layers of different colors rather than flat, opaque colors filling an area. I tend to go for this look whether I'm working in watercolor, colored pencils, or digital. In my digital work, I use Corel Painter program. First, my line art is done traditionally in pen on paper. I've experimented with different approaches, and I found that this is what I like the most -- mixed media of traditional pen work with digital coloring. I scan the line art, then color the work free hand on my Intuos 3 tablet. I use 'tools' in the wet media selections with opacity set at very low percentage. The colors are gradually built up by repeated application of light 'washes'. My digital coloring technique is just about the exact copy of the way I do traditional watercolor. Many washes of colors are used to build up the desired colors, while giving the whole thing the look of transparency. Layers I use are utilized much like traditional masking steps, so most of my works only have 6 or so layers, which I believe is very low in digital art. You can see a simplified demonstration of my method in a progressive showing of works-in-progress in one of the psuedo-tutorials I've made.
"Lady of the Forest"
"Shades of Blue"
Why do you favor monochromes, as opposed to more variable palettes?
I think the more accurate term to describe my works is 'limited palette' rather than 'monochromatic'. There's a predominant color, but there are also subdued hues of colors from other groups thrown in. I've never been a big fan of the rainbow, technicolor artwork that utilizes every color on a color wheel. I like to stay with a limited palette for the overall feeling of serenity and unity that it evokes. It's also a result of my approach. At the beginning of the coloring phase, I always set a 'paper color' -- something in the mid to light range of the values within a piece -- which is just like working with a colored paper. That's something I used to do a lot working with colored pencils when I was a signature member of the Colored Pencil Society of America back in the late 90s and early 2000s. Because all the colors I use are transparent, the 'paper color' will show through to varying degrees throughout a piece of work and give that harmonizing effect that keeps everything "together".
I see you speak Japanese. Is that your mother tongue or learned later in life?
I was born in Japan to Japanese parents, so it's my mother tongue. Mitzi is a nickname derived from my Japanese name, Mutsumi, which most non-Japanese people have a hard time pronouncing correctly.
It is not a usual language to know. Do you find it helped you with your career?
I can't say that it's been particularly helpful in my current art career. It's been quite irrelevant for the most part. If anything, it gives me maybe a slightly varied perspective on things to fall back on occasionally, like when I'm trying to come up with an idea for a given theme or prompt. I can always look for inspirations in my Japanese culture and/or Eastern traditions to come up with something what my fantasy art peers would think quite original and unique. I am a foreign language teacher to American students (private tutoring), just happy to share what I know with those students that are looking for something different to learn.
How did you decide to join PSP Tube Stop?
I originally had a licensing agreement with another PSP tubes company that went out of business several months before my contract term was up. I was approached by several companies, one of which was PSP Tube Stop. I have an adventurous streak in me, so I was delighted by the fresh opportunity and the approach to the business the owner brought to the table, not to mention the artist-friendly contract. When I signed the contract, the site wasn't live yet, but I felt really good about the whole thing and never worried about going with the 'unproven' company at all. In fact, my tubes are doing better than ever with PSP Tube Stop, so I'm very happy with my decision. I'm also grateful for PSP Tube Stop for taking a chance on me, a relative newcomer.
What do you like about tubes?
I like the legitimacy of them the most! These tube companies legitimately provide the art for people to use, while respecting copyright of the artists and increasing awareness of the right way to obtain and use art for personal enjoyment. In the age of easy art theft and rampant use of found images online from graphics on web site to outright illegal business such as selling prints for profit, I think the tubes and tube businesses do it right. The royalty is also generally the highest for any licensed products. It's also fun to see what creative tags people come up with using your tubes and other elements available from scrapkits, etc. I also enjoy the interaction on places like Facebook where taggers would post their tags for everyone to see and comment on.
Where can out readers find your art?
My official web site is http://www.aurorawings.com/, where all my fantasy artwork and related links can be found, including my shop at Zazzle and my Blogger blog.
My home on the web is my deviantART account at http://aruarian-dancer.deviantart.com/, where I interact the most with people and the largest variety of prints are sold.
My Facebook fan page is http://www.facebook.com/FantasyArtofMitzi where I hold giveaways of my merchandise periodically.
My line art for digital download and rubber stamps are available from http://scrapbookstampsociety.com/index.php and their Etsy shop.
My fabric blocks are available from http://www.fantasyfabricblocks.com/catalog.php?category=195 where you'll also find other products like color-me-sheets and cards.
My coloring book, published by Ellen Million Graphics, can be found on Amazon.com.
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