Duration: I have been working in this field for about two and half years.
Location: I currently live and work in Detroit, Michigan.
Education: I have a BFA in illustration from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan. The summer after graduation, I also attended the Illustration Academy, located in Kansas City, Missouri, for five weeks.
Career path: I have always loved storytelling. In kindergarten, picture diaries were my favorite homework assignments. In elementary school, I folded paper into books and drew manga in them. I’ve always loved reading and constantly went to libraries to read fiction books, and oftentimes wrote stories and poems. Before my senior year of high school, I decided to go to art college and pursue a creative career, so I drove to a different high school every day to take the necessary art class to create my portfolio. I studied illustration and took some design classes at College for Creative Studies, and found myself coming back to my passion for storytelling through illustration.
Artistic influences: I was constantly moving between Japan and America when I was young. When I think about Japan, I have a sense of nostalgia, longing and melancholy. Those feelings inspire me when I create work. Though my roots are in Japanese culture, Western culture has also influenced me, as I grew up in America and studied art here. I don’t find myself distinguishing which parts of my work are influenced by which culture; whether it is the subject matter, the color palette, the story or the mood, it comes out as a blend of the two cultures. I find beauty in both, and am grateful to have both be a part of me. I’ve also always loved fantasy and the idea of transience—of always having a narrative, and combining the realistic and fantastical elements to create visual and conceptual contrasts.
Favorite project: The series of fairy tales I created with a variety of different mediums, which was inspired by Japanese culture and fairy tales from around the world. Through the project, I learned a lot about ideation and how to come up with a single image that portrays the story in the most poetic, captivating way; it was also my first attempt to create a series of illustrations. With this project, I received the Award of Excellence from Communication Arts, as well as the honor of having a few pieces from the series featured in the Illustration Annual.
Work environment: My work environment is a studio space in my home in Michigan, with a large wooden table in the middle where I usually create my pieces. I have my laptop and scanner on a small, white desk in the corner by the window; this is where I find myself having more coffee breaks than necessary with my golden retriever. I live about an hour away from Detroit, where I sometimes visit to get involved with the rising art scene.
I like to set a mood for myself when creating a piece, so I pick a song or soundtrack that fits the feeling I want to portray in the work; sometimes, I loop it until I finish the piece. I’m not even listening to the song in the end, so the music in the room doesn’t distract me. Other times, I binge-watch—more like listen to—films or Netflix series, but I try not to listen too closely, as I can get easily distracted.
Approach: I use multiple mediums, focusing on the textures and mark making to give more attention to the piece. When working in traditional, I use color pencil, watercolor, acrylic, ink, gouache and pastel in layers. Because of my multicultural background and how it shows through my works, I have people from around the world tell me that they were able to relate to my artworks, and that’s something I’m very delighted about.
Aspirations: To pursue illustration full-time within the next five years. I’d love to create book covers for clients like Tor Books, Penguin Random House, Soho Press, Simon & Schuster and Folio Society. With my love for games and fashion, I would like to explore those fields as well. I’d also like to create my own book and work on animations in the future.
Philosophy: Do not deny who you are, and keep true to your passion. Keep trying new things and challenging yourself as you never want to be static, and constantly be eager to learn and grow as a person and an artist. Any challenges and difficulties you come to face in life are because you are capable of overcoming them.
Fun fact: I speak both English and Japanese fluently, and love reading books in both languages. My dog is also bilingual.