Terra’s Black Marker

I recently got to meet one of my very favorite artists, Katsuya Terada at the opening of his art show, Terra’s Black Marker, at the Compound Gallery in Portland Oregon. Terada is a prolific artist known for his work in video games, comics, animation and commercial illustration. If you’re reading this blog there’s a good chance you’ve seen his work before even if you don’t recognize his name.

Katsuya Terada was the character designer for many video games including Sega’s ground breaking fighting game Virtua Fighter 2:

Terada Virtua Fighter

He set the look for the short film Blood: The Last Vampire, a work so gorgeous it made James Cameron exclaim “The world will come to consider this work as the standard of top quality in digital animation.”

Terada has done illustrations for Marvel Comics:

Terada's take on everybody's favorite Canadian Mutant
I love how the striations in Iron Man's armor recall coiled steel (which is echoed in the rubble he's standing on

He’s worked on live action films such as Hellboy, Godzilla Final Wars, Sucker Punch, Cutie Honey and Yatterman (which on a related note was totally awesome):

And he even designed a shoe for Nike!

Old school gamers and other hip cats might recognize his contributions to early issues of Nintendo Power including these evocative scenes from The Legend of Zelda:

All the above is just a fraction of the full breadth of his work.

Terra‘s Black Marker was Katsuya Terada‘s second official art show in the US. The show mostly consisted of black and white drawings culled from his sketchbooks.

Katsuya Terada Bearbrick for Terra's Black Marker Show at the Compound Gallery

There was also a really sweet Bearbrick:

Katsuya Terada Terra's Black Marker Show at the Compound Gallery

Pencil sketches for the long running role playing game series Wizardry:

Katsuya Terada for Terra's Black Marker Show at the Compound Gallery

These were probably original pieces created for the show.

The centerpiece of the show was a series of marker illustrations created just for this exhibit simply titled Spiral # 1 through 6.

Much of the artwork was completed on site, with the illustrations jumping out of the page, past the frames and into the wall of the gallery.

Katsuya Terada at work

Terada hard at work. This image is from Terada's blog: http://cacazan.blogspot.com/

Spiral #1 - a rose for 'The City of Roses'
Spiral # 2 (left
and Spiral # 1 (right))
Detail of Spiral # 2

They were astonishingly precise illustrations, drawn freehand with no underdrawing using just a black permanent marker.

Spiral # 5 - suggested listening: Weird Fishes/Arpeggi by Radiohead

These were fearless works of art with confidence in every stroke. There’s a thrilling sense of performance to each illustration as your eye moves across the page, especially considering that there was no room for mistakes and back tracking. There are so many interesting little detours throughout each composition, but they all flow into a coherent whole. It must have been a thing to behold Terada drawing these!

Detail of Spiral # 5
Spiral # 4
Detail of Spiral # 4
Detail of Spiral # 4

Meeting Terada was pretty dang cool. I’m happy to report that the show was a great success. I arrived about an hour after it opened and most of his pieces had already been sold by then. Luckily I was able to snag 1 of each limited edition print from his spiral series. I’ve heard anecdotally that the night before the show opened, the president of Nike purchased every original Spiral drawing for about $6000 a piece (which I think is a bargain). I don’t know if the buyer was really the president of Nike, but I do know that they were all sold out before the show opened. It makes me very happy to know that a world class artist like Terada is able to live comfortably from his work.

There were many other professional artists in attendance at the show, from local comic book artists to animators and concept artists who had flown in from Hollywood. They were easy to spot since they tended to be the people geeking out and asking Terada for his autograph and a picture (I am guilty as charged).

Katsuya Terada signing autographs at Terra's Black Marker at the Compound Gallery in Portland Oregon

Terada took all this in stride. He was very down to earth and had the relaxed demeanor of a man who is doing what he was born to do. I joked that he should charge much more for his art (OK actually I was completely serious), and he just laughed and pointed at the walls and said these are just sketches. They’re just for fun.

That really stuck with me.

For all his decades of experience, the tens of thousands of hours he’s poured into his craft, he’s still having fun. And that fun is infectious. The best thing I can say about Katsuya Terada is that his artwork is so exuberant that it always makes me want to draw draw draw! If you feel the same, I highly suggest you grab some paper, put the pen to the page and just see what happens!

Long live the Rakugaking!

Some doodles I did after the show

Additional Photos from the Show:

Oil painting of Devilman!

For more information on Terra’s Black Marker, please visit the Compound Gallery website, where you can see more work from the show and purchase original artwork and prints:

If you’re interested in learning more about Katsuya Terada, here are some great links: