Panel: Bringing Characters to Life

Natsukoarts Design Studio: Shoji here. We have a fabulous panel with Natsuya Uesugi today talking about character design and making your characters really come to life.  Natsuya talks his process and we get some insight into the new concept art project that Natsuya is working on. So sit back and enjoy the ride. Welcome Natsuya.

Natsuya Uesugi: Thanks for having me.

Natsukoarts Design Studio: Tell me a little about your new project. You are working on concept art for grydscaen: dark I understand?

Natsuya Uesugi: Yes I am working with an artist to create concept art for grydscaen: dark. We are using the grydscaen: darkness web series and images from the grydscaen RPG Trading Card game to bring the characters to life. There will be artwork for all the main characters in dark. It is really a great project.

Natsukoarts Design Studio: Great. I hope you would let Natsukoarts Design Studio post it for you?

Natsuya Uesugi: I think that would be awesome if you could do that.

Natsukoarts Design Studio: My pleasure. Tell me a little about your process for creating a character. Pick one or two you like the most and tell us a little about how you came up with their look, personality and backstory.

Natsuya Uesugi: Sure. Lets start with Faid Callen the leader of the Packrat hackers, a host and a strong fighter. Faid is a killer and he will not hesitate to protect himself and his loyal Packrats if he needs to.

Natsukoarts Design Studio: So how did you come up with Faid?

Natsuya Uesugi: Faid was one of the early characters in the grydscaen series when it was still called “gridscan” which I did keep as the name of the network. Faid was not originally the leader of the Packrat hackers who were led by someone named Blade who later changed names to Set. Blade was originally Faid’s mate pair and that stayed in the series just with the name change to Set. After working with Blade as the leader of the Packrats while I was in art school I got kind of borer of him. Faid had a better personality and I had not published any grydscaen books at the time so it was easy to give Faid the Packrat leader position since there were only storyboards to date.

Natsukoarts Design Studio: What was it about Faid’s personality that made him more attractive that Set his mate pair?

Natsuya Uesugi: Faid is charismatic and can lead the whole of the Packrats. Set didn’t have that power. Faid is also a host and arrogant and is opinionated. Because he lived on the streets and was also a drug addict and a host he knew how to fight. The Packrat clan has challenges for position and Faid has been able to beat out any challengers who came at him and tried to take away his role as the leader of the Packrats. These challenges are done with ang knives.

Natsukoarts Design Studio: Tell me a little more about how you designed Faid to give the artist direction for the concept art?

Natsuya Uesugi: Faid always had his signature flaming red dyed hair. When I originally came up with his character he had that red hair which he dyed to make brighter because it makes him exotic and since he is in the Echelons in the Pacific Territories which is designed around Tokyo, Singapore and Indonesia, I wanted to make red hair something that was out of the ordinary. This makes Faid stand out. He is also a model and hot which he is well aware of which feeds into his arrogance. All these traits and an episode of the grydscaen: darkness web series were provided to the artist to help with the concept art.

Natsukoarts Design Studio: What other character do you want to talk about?

Natsuya Uesugi: I want to talk about Jester the Level 9 hacker and insane gothic aristocrat leader of the Jester hacker guild. Jester is peculiar and he has high end taste in clothes. He is androgenous and has been known to wear skirts and elaborate clothes and platform boots. He is eccentric and hacks into cars, streetlights, the stock market and the government. He is the lead character in grydscaen: dark. He shows up in grydscaen: tribute in two short stories as well where he is a minor character.

Natsukoarts Design Studio: Was Jester a newer character for you?

Natsuya Uesugi: Jester did not show up until grydscaen: tribute was written because I needed hacker guilds. He ran the Jester guild which was central to the “Rogue” story about Rom, the homeless teenage Level 9 hacker so that is where he came from.

Natsukoarts Design Studio: How did you develop Jester’s personality?

Natsuya Uesugi: Well the story “Simulatrix” is the first time we see Jester and his deviant side really as he wants to have sex with Blue who comes to get a game avatar from him. This sado-masochistic side of Jester was a central part of his personality and affects him. He has a “thing” for young attractive teen boys which will be his undoing. He picks up 18 year old young hosts outside The Hole x-rated magazine shop and we see him trying to do that in one scene in grydscaen: dark.

Natsukoarts Design Studio: You said Jester was insane. How does that affect his personality?

Natsuya Uesugi: It makes him unpredictable and he can turn on you and be unreasonable at any second. We see that a bit in grydscaen: dark.

Natsukoarts Design Studio: Alright. So how do you come up with your characters and their names? What types of research do you do?

Natsuya Uesugi: The name is one of the first things that I come up with. That is what defines the character and is the first thing you see. Once I have the name which usually just “comes to me like divine providence” – I don’t look up baby names or anything or use name directories. Well once I have the name then I work on the personality and how the character speaks and what drives them. If I can find their drive, likes and dislikes I can start working on their personality and who they are. Sometimes I will draw them. When I did the grgydscaen RPG Trading Card game I realized I had most of the characters except for Naito who is on the cover of grydscaen: beginnings and Raven who will be on the cover of a later grydscaen book.

Natsukoarts Design Studio: So you try to draw all your characters? Does that help get them really visualized for you?

Natsuya Uesugi: Yes, some authors use stock images of real people to design what their characters look like. I find that cheating or not being creative. I don’t do that. I try to draw them out with the drawings. Like when I was illustrating the “graphic noiz” manga based on the books because I had to draw the manga using the book characters. I hadto draw the characters over and over again. I had to be able to visualize them in a way that worked with the story.

Natsukoarts Design Studio: Interesting you bring up graphic noiz. What are you doing in that space?

Natsuya Uesugi: Still working on the final graphic noiz book 6 in the series and thinking about how to illustrate and what will be the story for graphic noiz manga 3. I was originally going to illustrate book 4 but I might do part of book 5 instead. I haven’t decided yet.

Natsukoarts Design Studio: I haven’t seen much art out of you lately? Do you have artist’s block?

Natsuya Uesugi: When I did graphic noiz manga 2 in 5 months that was 100 pages of artwork right off finishing graphi noiz manga 1 a month before. It was so much drawing. I needed a break. I will get back to graphic noiz later. Right now I have the second book in the The Seer of Grace and Fire series in beta, grydscaen” beginnings in production for release this month, and grydscaen: desecration which will be released next month in edits.

Natsukoarts Design Studio: You sure are a busy writer. Tell me more about character design for you.

Natsuya Uesugi: Some characters involve a little personality research. Like for Rom the homeless youth I looked into LGBT youth homeless statistics and wrote up a short story that eventually became “A Storm’s Coming” which talks about Rom’s plight on the streets. I studied homeless youth and actually went and met many on the streets in New York City and Los Angeles.

Natsukoarts Design Studio: That research must have really helped you understand homeless youth’s lives better, right?

Natsuya Uesugi: The streets can be dangerous and I am glad to support Natsukoarts Design Studio and all you do for homeless youth awareness.

Natsukoarts Design Studio: Thanks. We keep the visibility and stay in the fight. Homeless youth need to be seen and heard.

Natsuya Uesugi: I agree. What else do you want to know about my character process?

Natsukoarts Design Studio: Do your characters ever evolve from when you first create them and then after you have been writing them a while?

Natsuya Uesugi: Well the main character in grydscaen Lino Dejarre was originally a character in “Eton Boy’s Jacket” a web comic that I was writing about boys in an elite boarding school. He was the main character in that story. He was a junior high school student and all the drama of high school was what the story was about. After the ninth grade I got into grydscaen more and that is when the character Lino first evolved and I put Eton down and started designing and creating comic book pages for gridscan as it was called them. Lino had to move from being a junior high school student at 15 to be a 19 year old clandestine psychic government operative fresh out of art school. His personality had to get more complex and he had to mature, still a teenager but as an operative he had life and death decisions now to make. He also became the son of the Viceroy and being in the royal family trying to keep that hidden became something he was ashamed of, his lineage.

Natsukoarts Design Studio: You really get deep into your characters. You are telling me you have been with grydscaen since high school? This is really your story isn’t it?

Natsuya Uesugi: grydscaen is definitely something I am most passionate about.

Natsukoarts Design Studio: That must drive you to continue and want to finish the series. How is that going?

Natsuya Uesugi: We are moving right along and will have the series ultimate conclusion soon.

Natsukoarts Design Studio: I can’t wait. How are the reviews for grydsacen: dark?

Natsuya Uesugi: Everything has been so positive. I am so glad the book is well received.

Natsukoarts Design Studio: That is great. What is the next book you will be publishing in the series?

Natsuya Uesugi: grydsacen: desecration which is volume 5 will be published in October with book 6 grydscaen: metropolis scheduled for a November release. Then it just gets better after that.

Natsukoarts Design Studio: Awesome looking forward to it. Let me ask one more character question before we wrap up. What makes a character special to you? Lets take Faid again. I have seen some of your online interviews recently. You mention Faid is one of your favorite grydscaen characters. Why is that?

Natsuya Uesugi: Because Faid is a strong gay male who sticks to his beliefs and never compromises. He never lets anything come between him and his goals and looks out for his Packrat hackers with his life. He is a solid leader, passionate in his work and his love of his mate pair Blue. He is just the model of maifu.

Natsukoarts Design Studio: You can definitely say that. I like Faid. He is strong and determined in grydscaen: dark and also in your web series grydscaen: darkness. Did you want to say a few words about the darkness free online series. I see you have a new episode out today.

Natsuya Uesugi: grydscaen” darkness is a free web series based on the characters of grydscaen: dark and takes place after grydscaen: dark ends. Check it out on the grydscaen blog at

Natsukoarts Design Studio: Thanks for stopping by Natsuya and talking character development with us today. We love having you on.

Natsuya Uesugi: Thanks for having me. Appreciate it, Shoji.

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