With an ever-growing fanbase, the popularity of manga and anime is greater than ever and they continue to reach wider audiences. This is no more apparent anywhere in the world than Japan, arguably the country at the center of this vibrant and often somewhat outlandish subculture. Japan has a rich history of printmaking, illustration schools, and a culture that respects attention to detail arguably more than any other on earth. It is also a country that embraces a love for fantastical storytelling. These are perhaps some of the elements which have helped Japan nurture a number of the world’s notable artists. Japan is home to scores of established and young ambitious illustrators who cover a range of conceptual and technical territories who are helping shape the landscape of modern illustration today.
Japan has earned a reputation for being a country that pushes boundaries within the field of animation and illustration. Particularly, the films of Studio Ghibli have helped shine an international light on the extent of Japan’s creative talent. Notably, Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away won an Oscar in 2001 for Best Animated Feature, the first time a non-English language medium film had taken the award, helping to further popularize the genre among more mainstream Western audiences. Japan continues to develop and nurture incredible artistic talent, particularly in the world of digital illustration. Here are few notable artists making waves in the industry.
ONEQ is a digital illustrator based in Okinawa. Her works are a reinterpretation of the vintage pin-up girls in Western culture—curvy and seductive women are present in most of her work but blended stylistically with the delicate-featured, perfect skin that you see quite typically in Japanese manga, merging Eastern and Western aesthetics. Having spent her childhood on the very secluded island of Kyushu, she now immerses herself in nightlife and is inspired by the unique and strong women she meets in her life. These women are reflected in her work and turn the hyper-sexualized pin-up girl into a powerful and bold character. Her practice incorporates analog and digital techniques—she begins by making a sketch, developing it more in pencil, and subsequently scans and colors it in Photoshop. Illustration is a staple of her practice, but she also paints murals (as seen above) portraying similar subject matter.
ONEQ 是来自冲绳的数码插画师。她的作品重新诠释了西方文化中的复古女郎们——她的大部分作品中都会出现曲线优美、诱人的女性，但在风格上又与日本漫画中常见的精致干净相融合，同时展现了东方和西方美学。ONEQ在非常僻静的九州岛上度过了她的童年，也许因此她更倾向于在夜深人静的时候进行自己的创作，她的大多数作品都受到她生活里遇到的独特而坚强的女性的启发。 这些女性的独特性反映在她的作品中，将性感女郎变成了一个强大的角色。她的创作过程结合了现代化数字技术——首先绘制草图，然后用铅笔进行显影，然后用 Photoshop 对其进行扫描和着色。 插画是她创作的主要内容，但她也绘制描绘类似主题的壁画（如上所示）。
Takeshi Miyasaka creates snapshots of everyday life in urban Japan through his illustrations, always with a certain moodiness created by his use of low-key colors and dramatic perspective. He emphasizes how passers-by interact and exist within the architecture of the city, most often depicting a lone person in his compositions, usually, who are unaware that they are being observed. His work has been published in advertising and various other mediums, he was also awarded the Tokyo Illustrators Society award.
Takeshi Miyasaka 通过他的插画作品展示了日本的城市日常生活的快照，他喜欢通过使用低调的色彩和戏剧性的视角创造出喜怒哀乐。 他的作品中着重强调路人如何在城市建筑中互动和存在，在他的作品中最常描绘一个孤独的人，但通常他们不知道自己正在被观察。他的作品已在广告和其他各种媒体上发表，他还获得了东京插画家协会奖。
Hiroyuki Izutsu is an established illustrator based out of Tokyo, where he began his career in advertising. His illustrations, which have a painterly air to them, also have qualities of subtlety and quietness to them and are created by merging hand-drawn and digital techniques. He starts with thickly applied opaque watercolor before moving on the screen, resulting in beautiful, organic, and brightly colored shapes. He is a member of the Tokyo Illustrators Society as well as a lecturer at Aoyama-Juku, an illustrator college in Tokyo.
Hiroyuki Izutsu 出生于1955年，是一位来自东京的知名插画家，他在东京长大，职业生涯也开始于东京。他的作品主题是“人”、“风景”和“花”，参与绘制了许多广告和出版插画。2001 年获“科丹沙出版文化”奖。东京插画家协会会员。现在 AOYAMA – JUKU 当讲师。他的插画作品既有生活的气息，也能让人从中汲取到微妙的安静的力量。他的作品融合了手绘和数字技术创作而成。 他从厚厚的水彩画开始，然后再通过数字技术进行创作，从而画出美丽、鲜活和色彩鲜艳的作品。
Mai Yoneyama was born in Nagano prefecture, Japan, and is currently living in Tokyo, she also lived in Taiwan for some time as a child having been born of a Taiwanese mother and Japanese father. As an illustrator and animator, she often confronts adversity in her work which is full of heavily expressive characters and bold emotion. Her work exudes confidence in her decisions and asserts her female identity in what has frequently been a male-dominated industry in the past. Just recently in April of 2021, her second solo exhibition entitled “EGO” opened showing some of her recent work. The emotion purveyed in her pieces along with her attention to detail, use of light and extremely competent technical skillset make her one of the most intriguing artists to come out of Japan in recent times.
Mai Yoneyama 出生于日本长野县，现居东京，她小时候也曾在台湾生活过一段时间，母亲是台湾人，父亲是日本人。 作为一名插画家和动画师，Mai Yoneyama 的插画构图和光影，包括人物动态都非常出色，能让人感受到其中的细腻， 并且能够从她的作品中感受到她一种“突破”的力量。在她的作品中 Mai Yoneyama 希望能够通过妆容、肤色和服饰的差异来体现出来。凭借扎实的绘画技术与卓越的品位，她在由男性主导的插画行业中为自己博得了一席之地。就在最近的 2021 年 4 月，她的第二个名为“EGO”的个展开幕，展示了她近期的一些作品。 她作品中所表达的情感，以及她对细节的关注、对光线的运用结合极其优秀的绘画技能，使她成为近来日本最有趣的艺术家之一。
Avogado6 creates illustrations that are deeply symbolic, dark, and widely open to interpretation—simple titles accompany flatly colored, often sci-fi feeling compositions. It’s left up to the viewer to decipher these conceptually layered, at times quite funny, and yet always melancholy illustrations. Often approaching mental health, past trauma, societal problems, and fears with dark satire, they’ve often posted their work online on a daily basis with little elaboration as to description. Additionally, Avogado6 has two collection books of work available on his website.
Natsumi Chikayasu is a young Japanese digital illustrator. Born and raised in Japan, she is a 2019 graduate of Falmouth University in the UK and is now based in Tokyo. Her focus is on editorial illustration with her digitally painted works. She states on her website that “she is inspired by arts, feminism, sciences, places and their intersections” and heavily employs symbolism to explore these areas. Her work has been included in several publications since graduating just two years ago. Hair Donation, pictured below, is one particularly touching work that was inspired by her personal experience of cutting her hair for donation.
Natsumi Chikayasu 是一位年轻的日本数字插画家。 她在日本出生和长大，2019 年毕业于英国法尔茅斯大学，现居东京。 她的作品特点是用她的数字绘画作品进行编辑插图。 她在她的网站上表示，“她的灵感来自艺术、女权主义、科学、建筑等”，并大量采用象征主义来探索表现这些领域的特点。 自两年前毕业以来，她的作品已被收录在几本出版物中。“Hair Donation”（如下图所示）是一件特别感人的作品，其灵感来自于她为捐赠而剪头发的个人经历。
TAO creates cheerful and mellow illustrations depicting kawaii-influenced people. Her affinity for cats humorously and lovably shines through her work. In the illustration below, one of the advertisements translates as “New: Tasty cat canned food which you can eat together with cats!” Her work feels nostalgic, bringing together far-ranging motifs and symbols such as cat cafes, the dreaminess associated with the Showa Era in Japan, and streetcars in a manga style.
TAO 开创了日本“梦幻风”的插画风格，作品多以清新明亮为主，画面饱满，描绘了受到卡哇伊文化影响的人，人物的设计有一种自由洒脱的感觉，充满了日常趣味。 她对猫的喜爱以幽默而可爱的方式在她的作品中熠熠生辉。 在下图中，其中一则广告翻译为“新品：可与猫一起吃的美味猫罐头！” 她的作品给人一种怀旧的感觉，将猫咖啡馆、与日本昭和时代相关的梦幻以及漫画风格的有轨电车等的图案和符号结合在一起。
Kazuhisa Uragami has had several solo exhibitions for his work in southwest Japan. Currently based in Tokyo, Uragami’s compositions reflect both an urban and rural influence—some works show a lone figure walking in the city with a guitar case, whereas in others, multiple people swim in a sea made utopian and surreal with bright, unrealistic color. He is a graduate of well-known illustration college Aoyama-Juku and has worked across publishing and advertising industries.
Kazuhisa Uragami 毕业于著名插画学院青山宿，曾在出版和广告行业工作过，现工作生活在东京，曾在日本西南部举办过几次个展。他的作品反映了城市和乡村的影响——有些作品展示了一个红发男孩带着吉他盒游走在空荡的城市里，而在其他作品中，多人在大海中游泳，用明亮的、不切实际的色彩构成乌托邦和超现实主义。
There you go—eight Japanese illustrators, both emerging and more established, to add to your art database. From manga aesthetics to quiet scenes and references to Western pop culture, this is just a small yet diverse sample of a much bigger art community in Japan.