To discover more about this masterpiece of historical storytelling, do read this review on NPR.
I was delighted to learn that two of my illustrations were selected for publication in Spectrum 22 – The Best of Contemporary Fantastic Art.
The winning illustrations are Year of the Ram and Compendium.
Year of the Ram
Spectrum’s 22nd annual book
When I was an elementary school student in Tokyo in the 1980s, my classmates and I loved reading. We would often be found lost in the books of Roald Dahl, E.B. White, Jack London, J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, among others, in the library, hallways, or on the long, monotonous school bus rides.
One of our favourite picture books was by a lesser-known author, and told the story of an old explorer, who travelled the world to document its colourful monsters. This explorer had managed to discover and catalog all existing monsters except one species, which had proved elusive. Part bestiary, part alphabet book, this was the story of the explorer’s (futile?) quest to find traces of this last, mythical monster.
Our teachers, typically so supportive of reading, seemed to frown upon this book—they felt that it was not sufficiently educational or moral, but we loved it. As there was but a single copy of this book at the library, we had to eagerly wait for it to be returned before—at long last!—enjoying it ourselves.
As an adult, I often thought of this book, recalling how much my brother, friends and I enjoyed it, yet failing to recall its author’s name and very title. Indeed, unlike ubiquitous classics such as Charlotte’s Web, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or The Witches, it never surfaced for me to serendipitously happen upon it, whether in my adolescence or time in college. Occasionally, I would ask colleagues and peers if the book’s plot was familiar to them, sadly to no avail. Even my wife, a picture book writer and illustrator herself, could not identify this now mysterious book.
How does one look online for a picture book, when the only search terms are ‘monster,’ ‘explorer’ and ‘alphabet’? The mission’s difficulty is evident to anyone who has used a search engine. Undeterred, I spent innumerable fruitless hours prowling the worldwide web in hope of a chance encounter. Nevertheless, the search appeared to be hopeless, proving vain for 20 years.
Until one day, I found the book.
There it was! Casually mentioned on an obscure blog which I was cursorily browsing: Mercer Mayer’s Professor Wormbog in Search for the Zipperump-a-zoo. My quest for this book had mimicked the
explorer professor’s hunt for the elusive monster, filling both his life, and mine, with happiness and purpose.
Quick illustrations inspired by an idea generation exercise assigned to Japanese and American students by Niigata College of Art and Design graphic design professor Mr Koizumi.
Every winter, I have the pleasure of teaching a course named Introduction to Illustration during RISD’s Wintersession—a condensed academic term in January and February—with an exciting mix of Freshman, non-Illustration majors and graduate students. While this course is predominantly conceptual, I occasionally assign technical exercises to be executed in class, among which an experiment with the inspiring painter/illustrator James Gurney’s gamut masking technique. I find that applying this method is highly effective for students to develop a sensitivity to color’s relative nature and to address the difficulty of simultaneously working with tone, chroma, temperature and intensity. I thought that I would share some nice results by this year’s students, who have the freedom to select a favorite image of their choice to reproduce in a new color scheme.
A color gamut mastercopy of a J. C. Leyendecker painting, by Freshman Kiana Shakeraneh.
Freshman Cindy Shin’s color study of an illustration by the talented Kali Ciesemier.
To learn more about this technique, do visit James Gurney’s wonderful blog.
I had the honour of contributing to a special edition of Casemate, a French magazine covering bandes dessinées (comics). This edition is a “spécial Charlie”, under the patronage of the Angoulême International Comics Festival, in tribute to the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting and surrounding attacks in Paris.
277 comic books artists submitted illustrations, a selection of which were printed in the 32 page edition available in Angoulême.
Cover illustrations by Asaf Hanuka and Didier Tarquin. Copyright reserved to Casemate BD and respective artists.
Interior page. Copyright reserved to Casemate BD and respective artists.
In recent years, I have publically expressed my skepticism toward the trend for artists to frantically react to current events and flood the Internet with images. At worse, I am concerned that visual artists race to claim and trademark the “official image” of a tragedy (e.g. the disaster in the Tōhoku region of Japan). For this reason, I did not rush to post a “reaction” on the day of the Charlie Hebdo shooting. However, the heart of this matter is iconoclasm, self-censorship and the protection of freedom of speech in France, specifically as applied within my trade. I believe that this is a noble, crucial and vital cause. I would like to thank Casemate for its endeavor and to pay my respects to the victims of these recent events in my hometown of Paris.
I am now a writer for the seminal, Japan-based magazine SHIFT, which has been covering creative culture since 1997. As an early reader of SHIFT—when I was beginning my professional career and perusing pioneering design portals online—it is an emotional privilege to now contribute to its publication.
My first article is an interview of Charles Tsunashima, founder of genereight. I have known Charles since childhood, at which time he was the only bonafide designer that I knew and hence, by default, the best. I have since attended a design college, worked for 14 years in the field and he remains the best I know.
Above photograph and design © copyright Charles Tsunashima/genereight Inc. All Rights Reserved.
I had the great pleasure of joining fellow illustrators for the wonderful New Stories for Newtown event in Newtown, Connecticut, to spend the day with the town’s children and create portraits of their stuffed animals. Many thanks to all of the parents and childrens for their enthusiasm and patience, and to the event organizers for their hospitality and help.
Drawing Natalie the seal, with her owner. PS: Apologies for writing the animal’s name with an “h” on the drawing, misguided by the name’s French spelling!
My model “Patterns” and I.
Kelly, “Moochipoo” and a young client.
The students joined in as well. Below, beautiful drawings of “Swoops” by Taylor (right) and “Trooper” (left), by her owner.
RISD students and I were honoured to greet Mark Siegel, pioneering editor of First Second Books and acclaimed author/illustrator of graphic novels and picture books (Sailor Twain, Boogie Knights, Sea Dogs, To Dance…). Mark held a workshop offering invaluable tools and insight to students for their creative life and presented a lecture at the RISD Museum’s Michael P. Metcalf Auditorium.
Mark, directing a workshop to the students of Paul Karasik’s CoMix class.
Poster for the lecture, adapted from the beautiful original cover of Sailor Twain designed by Colleen AF Venable.
Today, the students of my Introduction to Illustration class and I had the special pleasure of welcoming the prolific and masterly illustrator Katherine Streeter. Katherine is traveling from New York to instruct a course about Collaged Images, in an adjoining classroom, and kindly took the time to drop by for a chat and presentation of her inspiring work. What luck to have such a talented neighbor this winter!