Illustrator Lius Lasahido’s work is heavily influenced by the realist American style of the fantasy genre. (Photos courtesy of Lius Lasahido)

Lius Lasahido, Master of His Art

JANUARY 25, 2015

Illustrator Lius Lasahido’s work is heavily influenced by the realist American style of the fantasy genre. (Photos courtesy of Lius Lasahido)

Lius Lasahido is one of the many rising names within Indonesia’s growing comic and fantasy illustration scene. With an immediately identifiable style, Lius’s work, a mix of digital and physical drawing, is so much more than technical proficiency, though that is something he clearly has in abundance.

Having worked with major fantasy franchises such as the immensely popular and influential “Magic: The Gathering” collectible card game as well as role playing games (RPGs) such as “Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2,” the massively popular mobile RPG “Rise of the Crypthoids” and “Drafted: 100 Days,” Lius is someone many local illustrators aspire to be, both in professionalism and visual grace.

The 32-year-old honed his skills at Jakarta’s Caravan Studio, which has also bred a few other notable names in the illustration scene. There, he began working professionally in providing drawings for a growing list of clientele both here and abroad. Though it varied, the work mostly consisted of coming up with characters and landscapes for physical and online fantasy games, the number of which grows by the day.

Lius grew up with the same influence most Indonesian illustrator his age did: Japanese manga from the early 1990s; Hong Kong manhua that were very popular in Indonesia in the early ’90s, with series such as Oriental Heroes; and American superhero comics from the ’80s and primarily early ’90s.

“During those times, the [Japanese manga] Dragon Ball was very popular. Every kid my age was into it. That was the comic that got me into drawing,” Lius says of his what started out as a hobby in the third grade.

In high school, more influences came into play, and Lius began delving more seriously into drawing, learning how to draw the human anatomy and understanding visual perspective, among others techniques — the various theoretical aspects of drawing.

It only made sense that he would go on to study visual communication design at Bina Nusantara University — something he did during the era of the Internet’s growing prominence in Indonesia.

Though he learned an abundance of art and design styles, and took an interest in different genres of comics and movies, the fantasy genre held a personal spot in his heart. But when asked why, he is at a loss for words, being able to rationalize only that: “The movies and comics I like had fantasy themes; the artists that inspire me come from a fantasy background; a lot of the projects I am handed are from the fantasy genre.” It almost seems like Lius’ passion was thrust upon him by some quirk of fate, though the way he speaks of it makes it clear there is a deep connection with the genre’s break-from-this-universe element. Many of his characters and landscapes evoke a mishmash of influences that provide a fun game of see-the-references for comic and pop culture fans.

Lius incorporates a good amount of digital processing and painting into his drawing, though nothing about it suggests a relinquishing of the human touch. His portfolio offers plenty to admire, but it is easy to see a particular interest in characters — super humans, animals or fantastical beings. The magnified machismo and playful sexuality of his characters are a strong element, but Lius draws into them looks of pensiveness, questioning, even sorrow; his appreciation of body language and expression is rivaled only by his stylish shading. Their finish appears in a variety of styles, with soft and rougher brush strokes, and darker and lighter ones. There is little of the cutesy style that permeates many Japanese manga; instead the pictures are of the realist style.

Lius also uses digital means to add a sense of depth to his landscapes and backgrounds, which are for the most part fantastically moody, even grim, in nature. Here, his style is reminiscent of retro-futurist illustrators such as Syd Mead, who evoke a sense of fantasy-modernist awe through the scope and absurdity of the landscapes they create.

Lius himself refers to legendary names in the fantasy genre, such as Jeremy Lipking, Mian Situ and James Gurney as his biggest influences.

“They are masters at illustrating a story. In terms of composition, gesture, mood, and details […] their uniqueness is what drives me into studying their craft.”

Lius sees Indonesian studios as being reliable and fast, much to most clients’ satisfaction.

“Indonesian [illustrators’] characteristic is in the amount of ornaments [drawn] and unique composition,” he says.

For most of his current published work, the American fantasy genre holds the biggest influence (even as Lius draws characters from other genres, such as the massively influential Japanese anime “Neon Genesis: Evangelion”). His various blogs and online portfolios are filled with these American comics and fantasy board game-styled characters.

None of this rings a bell to Lius, who prefers to let things flow naturally from his hands and fingertips.

“I don’t really notice whether or not I have a specific style. But as we grow [as illustrators], we become more sensitive with what makes us comfortable in terms of storytelling, composition, coloring and such. When we become comfortable with a certain methodology of working, and do so continually, that is where our style develops,” he says.

Lius learned digital processing during his final thesis in college, when he had to revisualize a comic about the well-known Indonesian folk hero Si Buta Dari Gua Hantu (The Blind Man From Ghost Cave), which he originally drew in pencil and traditional ink, before applying colors digitally.

“That’s when I fell for digital media, which also helps [with working] in the industry.”

Lius, who spends almost all day drawing, says that the most crucial element in fantasy drawing is in realizing what the picture is trying to communicate.

“What this means is trying to turn a brief [from the client] into a visual form that the intended audience will understand,” he says.

For Lius, the most important thing, above all, including his own ego, is satisfying the needs of the clients’ brief.

“You just have to do it all very well.”