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Interview: The Street Fighter Art Attack - Jab Strong Fierce

At the Jab Strong Fierce art gallery show in southern California, Gamasutra catches up with three of the artists who presented work inspired by Capcom's Street Fighter series.
[At the Jab Strong Fierce art gallery show in southern California, Gamasutra catches up with three of the artists who presented work inspired by Capcom's Street Fighter series.] The art exhibit Jab Strong Fierce is currently on display in Alhambra, California at the Nucleus art gallery. Bringing together installments inspired by Capcom's Street Fighter game series, over forty participating artists have contributed work, from diverse backgrounds in the film, animation and video game industries. The opening night of the exhibit saw a cosplay competition and Street Fighter IV tournament. Following Eric Caoili's extensive coverage, we hear from three of the artists who lent their training to depicting the World Warriors within new visual contexts and discussed their results at the event. Ben Zhu, owner of the Nucleus gallery, designed the illustration for the official flyer. Animator and illustrator Brianne Drouhard brought a multiplicity of comic poses to her depiction of the ninja Ibuki. Rodney Fuentebella, a concept design artist for Pandemic Studios, offered an impressionistic depiction of Ryu and Chun Li. The conversation provides a window into the video game-fueled artwork that is currently on display at Jab Strong Fierce:

Jab Strong Fierce's Street Fighter cosplay competition
What prompted you to create the Nucleus art space? Ben Zhu, owner of Nucleus: I come from an illustration and fine art background. I love all aspects of art, whether it be animation, graphic design, sculpture, installation or fine art. It started out, I had a lot of friends that were in the movie and videogame industry, and they were not getting as much attention as they deserved. When I was working in videogames, I knew I needed a social and creative outlet outside of work. That is kind of what the original idea was. When did you first arrive at the idea of having a Street Fighter art exhibit like Jab Strong Fierce? We've had the idea of having a Street Fighter event for awhile now. There are many themed shows here, and when we heard that Street Fighter IV was coming out it seemed like the perfect time. We started looking for artists then, about six months ago. The Jab Strong Fierce image that appears on the frontpage of the Gallery Nucleus website is your design. What were you looking to communicate with this illustration? I wanted an eye-catching image with iconic Street Fighter elements, yet keeping some of those elements abstract so that the viewer can engage and interact with the piece a bit more closely. I also wanted a strong sense of energy, like an explosion that is trying to contain itself. The piece is all done in Photoshop. It started out with me throwing random elements of Street Fighter screenshots and other images into a sort of collage. I then played around with the smudge tool and also ran some filters through the whole thing. It was a fun process that allowed for many of interesting accidents.

Attendees of the opening day of the event
How long have you been working on your piece for the show, "Hunt for Red Panda"? Brianne Drouhard, illustrator: I started on my piece about a month and a half ago. Ben informed me of the show in December. Had you developed much of a background in the Street Fighter series previously? I grew up in a place that was really rural, but I did buy a lot of game magazines, like EGM and GamePro. I also had a subscription to Nintendo Power in the '80s and '90s, back when they used to have comics. Capcom games, like the Street Fighter and Darkstalkers titles, had some of the best designs and illustration, as was the animation in-game. I'm very familiar with all the characters. How did you decide upon Ibuki as your subject of choice? I tried to think about which characters would be represented in the show, and needed to find someone that I liked that might not be there. I picked Ibuki because I like ninjas and her pants are so weird. I mean, they don't make sense for fighting. Not good fighting pants. But for your purposes, good pants? Yeah, good pants. It was also good practice: I started a storyboard job recently and I need to get better with my posing and action in general. All the characters in Street Fighter are active, but I thought with Ibuki I could play with knives and acrobatics.

Artist Rodney Fuentebella
For the pieces that are here at the show, are you drawing on an established historical style? Rodney Fuentebella, concept artist: A lot of people say that I am influenced by impressionistic work. I try and go for raw emotion with all my fine art pieces, where you could kind of imagine yourself in it. There are a lot of lost edges and found edges: it is not fully defined for you. Are there impressionists in particular that you find emotionally accessible? Artists like Sargent that do portraiture type pieces. He did a lot of watercolor and oils on Venice, and they have that sense of place, where the people and places he depicted were real and they were through his eyes. Was it difficult taking fictional characters and giving them this personal quality that you admire in other work? Well, I've been a fan of Street Fighter for a long time, so for me there was an emotional link to it. I was one of those people who would take my quarters and go to any 7-Eleven I could find in San Francisco with an arcade cabinet. What was it about these two characters Ryu and Chun Li that you wanted to have represented in their portraits? I always felt they were characters a lot of people could relate to. Like with Sargent and those impressionist works, I like to show them in a moment, like just before the fight. I like those moments.

The Street Fighter IV tournament.
[Jab Strong Fierce runs until May 11 at the Nucleus art gallery. Images courtesy of Capcom. Photos by Jeriaska.]

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