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yano-keiji.com

Duration: Two years as a freelance illustrator.

Location: Tokyo, Japan.

Education: BFA in sculpture from the Tokyo University of the Arts; MFA in artistic anatomy from the Tokyo University of the Arts, Tokyo, Japan.

Career path: From a young age, I admired my grandfather who was a painter, so I drew many pictures. I studied sculpture at university and art anatomy in graduate school. After graduating, I worked at Nintendo for four years, mainly 3-D modeling for games. However, I decided that I truly wanted to draw pictures, the job I had longed for since I was a child, so I quit my job to become a full-time illustrator in 2017.

Artistic influences: I love classical paintings from art movements in the early 20th century, particularly cubism, especially the work of Picasso, Rousseau and Cézanne. I also love traditional Japanese paintings, like Hokusai’s ukiyo-e and Taikan Yokoyama’s work.

Free expression—unshackled by photorealism—has an impact that’s incredibly effective in the world of advertising and packaging design.”

Favorite project: My poster for First Cabin featuring fisherman on a Hokusai-like wave. It was selected for the D&AD Shortlist and made it to the shortlist for the One Show.

Work environment: Two of my older brothers run an architectural design office in Tokyo, and I work together with them in their office. As for my surroundings, Tokyo is a city with a lot of cultural information, so I find inspiration from museum exhibitions, theater and live performances.

Approach: Influenced by my grandfather, I’ve always been impressed with the splendor I saw in Western art. I made an initial deposit to my creativity with that impression and have been cutting that down little by little in my work.

There are numerous things that I find inspiring about traditional Japanese painting: The versatile gradation that conveys perspective, humidity and the weight of air. The bold and free image composition that is much different from the perspective projection found in Western classical painting. The curvaceousness of the human body and the flowing, organic forms of kimonos. Free expression—unshackled by photorealism—has an impact that’s incredibly effective in the world of art, advertising and packaging design. For example, I can see how Van Gogh clearly imitated the colors of ukiyo-e or how Toulouse-Lautrec used similar compositions in his ads.

Every piece of commissioned work is a new discovery born from the interaction between myself and the client, and good art direction always helps me expand my artistic expression. More than anything, I enjoy how I get to meet people with whom I never would cross paths if not for my illustration career.

Philosophy: It is important to take a close look at your favorite paintings and think about what you like. If you know exactly what you like and why you like it, you can incorporate it into your style. For new illustrators, your personality and style have a lot of potential. If you can find them—even if they are dim—think about how you can use them to contribute to society. I am still looking for mine!

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