If you've ever played a Final Fantasy game, then you've laid eyes on Yoshitaka Amano's artwork. Even if you're not familiar with his name, Amano's sweeping character and monster designs are unmistakable. He's contributed to Final Fantasy's bestiary with acrylic and watercolors since the series' start.
Archipel, a YouTube channel that makes documentaries about Japanese creators and artists, recently uploaded a short profile of Amano. The veteran character designer has interesting things to say about his process, his past, and his current drive to break into the world of fine art.
If you've ever been curious about how Amano fell into his role as one of the Final Fantasy series' top illustrators (for starters, he draws a logo for every Final Fantasy game and spin-off that comes out), this video offers a strong summation. Amano started his career as an animator at the age of 14, but he eventually decided to become an illustrator because he "wanted people to look directly at his drawings."
Amano says his ideas flow without effort; he never suffers from any kind of block. (Must be nice.) His deep appreciation for illustrating both Eastern and Western myths caught the attention of Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, who invited him to join the team as a designer. Amano, who liked the idea of having free rein to illustrate a new fantasy universe, accepted. "I had to imagine new universes that include fantastic elements," he says. "I was free to draw anything I could think of."
Amano deeply cares for the Final Fantasy universe, which he feels are "beyond fairytales." The video shows us glimpses of some of his original character paintings, including the evil Golbez from Final Fantasy 4 and Zidane, Final Fantasy 9's mischievous hero.
Though the Amano documentary is only around 8 minutes, it's informative. More than that, though, it's relaxing. It's great to see Amano nestled in his comfortably messy studio, surrounded by piles of his work. He really does give off the impression of an artist who's capable of drawing effortlessly for years to come.
Amano's character designs don't feature prominently in Final Fantasy 7—that's designer Tetsuya Nomura's department—but his influence can still be seen and felt in certain parts of Final Fantasy 7 Remake.