Maybe you’ve heard this line from Picasso: “It took me four years to paint like Rafael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”
Basimental, 27, has been drawing like a child since he was 8. And not because he “draws cartoons.”
It’s more a matter of openness. Since he was a kid, the Baltimore anime artist has been absorbing raw matter and unapologetically making it his own.
There’s no better example than his latest pencil drawing, “Emiya Strife.” It’s one of a series of anime character hybrids he’s drawn.
Looking at his body of work, combination is a thread running top to bottom. It started with pulling things from the outer world and churning them into something new.
“I saw my older brothers drawing, and I had to try it,” he said.
Basimental’s first drawing was in elementary school. A Pokemon named “Ponyta” and its evolved form, “Rapidash.” His favorite animal (horse) and his favorite element (fire) combined.
He’s developed this combinative power over time. And in that sense, he lives out the quote, “paint like a child,” every day.
But the part about Rafael is just as important.
Anime Is More than a Cartoon
Basimental works hard. And despite anyone’s preconceived notions about anime, it’s serious work.
“A lot of people think anime is a cartoon they need to let their kids watch,” says Basimental, “but some anime is pretty dark and heavy.” Fate /Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works, for example, is a violent, moody anime about characters in perpetual war for the holy grail.
Likewise, Basimental’s art seems on a perpetual search for the roots of reality.
The name “Basimental” itself a portmanteau of “basic” and “fundamental.” An emphasis on first principles, squared. “Nothing in the world can exist without a basic, or fundamental. Being an artist is my basimental.’”
When you look at Basimental’s Instagram, you find countless iterations of the same works, repeating anatomic details, finer-tuned lines and deeper colors with each new version.
It’s the result of 8-hour days, sometimes nights, scrawling to the wee hours of the morning in search of the best version.
The bookshelf behind him is bursting with anatomy textbooks. “It’s recreating the lines and forming it into your own process, trying to get the proper shapes,” he says. “A lot of people focus heavily on lines, but masters of art will tell you to focus on the shapes.”
Such attention to the basics is hard to come by, even in art school. If first principles were popular, we might not have to single out individuals as “geniuses.” But fundamentals, by nature, are difficult.
Basimental knows this. And he knows there is always someone working harder at the basics than someone else.
His smile reveals a sense of pleasure in the grit of this work. It’s what keeps his passion intact after all these years.
In fact, the passion has blossomed into its own signature style…
Making Art Your Own
Two decades into his craft, Basimental’s work features similar themes of evolution — only, more evolved.
His characters are more PG-13. He’s also fleshed out some of his philosophy: “Anime is the reverse of reality. But it’s also real life made simple through exaggeration.”
The art is exaggeration. But still true. Almost double-true. “Meta” truth.
The evolution of Basimental, the artist, has mirrored that. It’s as though he’s run up a spiral staircase to look at the same ground, at the same angle, from a higher vantage point, for 20 years.
Emiya Strife, part of his “Amalgamite” series, is a hybrid of Cloud Strife, (a Final Fantasy character) and Emiya Archer (from the anime Fate Stay Night: Unlimited Bladeworks). The character uses a bow to fire lances at enemies.
You can own the original work “Emiya Strife” by going here…