Kai Shinomura Talks About His Digital Mediums, Influences, Creative Process and More

by Rubén Palma
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Kai Shinomura, is a multimedia artist who focuses every new artwork, whether a depiction of a character, item or scenario, on building out a world of his own. His visual style maintains a balance between complex and clean, often satisfying to look at and follow the integration of details with their contrasting visual elements. Born on Vancouver Island and now living in Vancouver, some of Kai’s first artistic endeavors were simple paintings of the nature that surrounded him. Being terminally online, now a lot of his inspiration comes through digging online for characters from older tech/related company robotics projects, manga, or generally just what internet cultural item/phenomenon he finds interesting at any given moment.

Hi Kai! It’s a pleasure to sit down with you! First question that I always ask. How does a regular day look like for you in Vancouver ?

Typically, if I’ve got some work to do, after my coffee I’ll try to start with getting a solid chunk of that done in my morning. Somewhere around 4 or 5 hours after I’ve been up, I’ll walk somewhere I can acquire a little treat, maybe a snack, maybe another coffee xP. If I am free for the rest of the day, I’ll probably spend most of that progressing my personal projects, or jusss chillinnn.

I’m curious. Growing up, what kind of kid were you? What did you enjoy doing and how did you spend your time?

I was always drawing, looking for bugs, snakes and reptiles, and later on, played soccer. I got a PSP when I was 11, so prior to that, those were all of my go-tos. I also loved playing with things like bionicles and toy figures until I was probably older than most, maybe like 12 lol. I enjoyed watching my dad make music when I was young, and I remember thinking all the art on his DJing posters looked really cool.

Do you remember how old you were when  you started to play around with different graphic design programs? 

When I was either 7 or 8, my dad showed me how he made music in Reason, and although I thought it was cool, none of what I was looking at at the time made any sense to me, and really, I  wanted to know how photo editing worked, so he showed me some ancient photo editing program that I can’t remember the name of. This didn’t immediately become something I started doing, as at that time I didn’t have access to his laptop yet, but when I was 9, he bought himself a new desktop and I was able to use the old laptop, and that’s when I first started using Gimp. I went from Gimp, to Photoshop, to then becoming interested in making silly short films, and started learning Final cut X and After Effects.

With that in mind. What made you gravitate towards 3D and digital art, and not something more traditional like painting or ceramics for example?

3D is, in terms of a medium’s affordance to creative freedoms, something that I still find, for my goals, the most capable. I would love to get through manufacturing one of my creations as a physical at some point, even if just to learn the process, but still I find myself prioritizing getting a new idea out of my head the second I think of one.

Alright so at some point you start working with 3D modeling. How did you get introduced to that? And how long has it taken you to get as good as you are now?

I started when I was making dumb little short films, and was looking at how I’d be able to implement an effect where a bullet was going slow-mo, without me owning any cameras that shot over 60fps. When I came across a youtube tutorial that outlined how much easier to do the bullet in 3D as opposed to any other way, I gave things my first go at a 3D software. I also did a bit of modeling around this time for maybe a year, but had not approached things seriously until covid lockdowns started 7 years later. From there(early 2020), I’ve been pretty fulltime with 3D. 

Where does the inspiration for the various cartoons and characters you create come from?

Bubblegum Crisis characters are some of my fav, but Kenishi Sonoda’s work in general. Masamune Shirow of course too haha. 

Can you walk me through your creative process? From beginning to end-result?

Sometimes my initial idea or inspiration comes deliberately after looking for inspo, but a lot of the time an idea will just come at some random time in my day. Once I do have some semblance of an idea in my head that I’m liking though, I’ll make a moodboard with all the things having an element I’d like to reference. I’ll start working, going off my first inclination designing what I think the most important or visually prominent elements could look like in a rough and easily editable state. Usually for the first third or half of a project I end up making the most changes as I see through how elements of the proposed initial idea will actually work together. This more or less continues until I am done modeling. If I have already decided textures and the treatment of the model’s elements, I’ll just execute that and will get to rendering. A lot of the time I end up trying more than one colorway or finish to the texturing of my scene/character, looking for what I like the most. From there I just go about my rendering and take these renders into photoshop. I compartmentalize my renders a bit to allow me to edit the lighting and look of things more precisely as well!

What motivates you?

Ultimately I love the idea of having each component or device that I have some passion for, exist in some way in my artworks, while maintaining visual consistency, all playing a role to create a particular world/universe.

How would you describe a perfect day?

One where I wake up at such a responsible and adult time in the AM, don’t have any or too much work to do, and can finish it all within the first few hours of my morning. Then, I’m having such a dope and awesome creativityAF burst all-day after that, so I can pursue whatever personal projects I’ve got going. Maybe in the middle of the day I go out and visit a new food spot or store and find a new place that I love. For dinner I get Vietnamese or Indian food/WhatEvEr I’m feeling, and in the night I hang with friends or go back to my personal art, and can go as late as I please because I have nothing to do the next day :D.

Any future projects coming up?

I am pretty excited about one artist magazine that I will be contributing some artwork to, but asides from that it is all personal works, one of which I’m near done, and the rest I have just begun drafting up my ideas for roughly and still have yet to finalize much direction 

What song(s) are you currently listening to the most right now?

Low – Damon R. 

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