My third painted canvas gown, Vampire Hunter D, was created in 2015 in collaboration with The Squishy, my sometimes photographer. She created the chest and shoulder armor pieces, which she then primed and shipped to me for finishing and painting. This was my first painted costume project using black canvas which mirrors my 2D work on black paper. It was exciting to try painting in this technique. I was pleased with the results.
There were many more pieces involved in this project than the previous two, and I knew I had to choose the right place to start so I would not lose motivation. I began with the most iconic piece to me: the hat. I wanted to get the size and shape as accurate as possible to lock in the silhouette. I am not a milliner and considered various materials before settling on craft foam. I created a pattern using butcher paper before cutting it out and sewing it together. I used heat to turn the seams which led to the happy accident of melting the foam a little giving it a faux leather look. I finished it by lining the brim with wire encased in bias tape so it would continue to manipulate and re-shape as I wore it. I sculpted the hat jewel with Sculpi clay as well as resin-cast jewels based on several Yoshitaka Amano art reference pictures. The gauntlets and shin guards I constructed using craft foam. I painted the gauntlets with the ‘villains’ from the Vampire Hunter D movie (I used Yaya Han’s Camilla cosplay as a reference).
The sword was another new construction skill I learned while making this piece. I was lucky enough to find a warped wooden dowel which runs the length of the sword and acts as the spine. I am very proud of how the sword turned out and love holding it. I hesitated to depict D on both the chest armor and the cape, however, in the end, I couldn’t think of anything that worked better, and I wanted a way to feature Left Hand.
Vampire Hunter D was one of the first animes I saw in my teens after Sailor Moon. Yoshitaka Amano’s work became influential to me as an artist. I was enamored with his linework, the rich textures, and his use of red and gold highlights. In 2018, I was blessed and flattered enough to get to present this piece to him at a panel hosted by Dark Horse comics during Kumoricon in Portland OR and get to stand next to an original we witnessed him paint live on stage (pictured below). It was a humbling and thrilling experience!