Bon Kyupi on why she draws all genders with beards

The Tokyo-based illustrator explains the childhood experiences and movie culture behind her unique and hilarious personal style.

27 July 2022

“I am often asked what influences me, but I really don't know why,” Bon Kyupi tells It’s Nice That. But when peering at an illustration like Chinese Cold-style Noodles in which a portly figure wearing a wig and ball gown made entirely of noodles rests daintily upon a flying saucer, it's impossible not to wonder where she gets her ideas from. Thinking hard about the question, Bon reveals that most of her influences boil down to a dual interest in American movies and Japanese food. “Under the influence of my older brother and father, I have been watching foreign movies such as The Mummy, Indiana Jones, and Spy Kids since I was a child,” she explains. Indeed, the cinematic influences in Bon’s work can be clearly traced through her use of film poster formats and Hollywood-style sets for backgrounds, but the way she depicts characters is completely her own. They are usually androgynous, always bizarre and often masquerading as something they are not – e.g. a bowl of noodles.

Speaking more about these characters, Bon tells us she likes to draw all genders “with shin hair and beards”. She describes this love of body hair as originating from her time spent at an all-girls high school. “All my friends around me affirmed the importance of being free and not worrying about how I looked,” she explains. “Of course, they didn't care about my shin hair or moustache, so I was very impressed by that, and I guess that’s how I naturally ended up with the style I have now.” Looking back even further, Bon explains that while she was in elementary school, she was in the habit of drawing pictures of her uncle wearing her school uniform, “on a daily basis”. With a laugh, Bon explains that these early experiences are probably the reason behind her love of depicting androgynous figures in unexpected costumes.


Bon Kyupi: Cherry-blossom viewing (Copyright ©️ BoN, 2022)

When Bon eventually left highschool, she did not immediately begin pursuing a creative career and instead did a BA in science before graduating in 2020. With no professional training in illustration, Bon has taught herself her own process for which she needs nothing but her sketchbook and her iPhone. After drawing a preliminary sketch, she takes a photo of the drawing with her iPhone. Then she uses the ibispaintX app to read the photo and traces over it with a finger to digitise it. The final step is to fill in the colours on the app, and the illustration is finished. Simple yet effective, this straightforward method gives Bon’s illustrations a sense of freedom and immediacy, as if the ideas have fallen directly from her mind onto the page.

After finishing university and making the decision to leave science for a career in illustration, she received a flurry of commissions, mostly creating menus, logos and labels for pubs and bars. Since Bon is a food-lover, these commissions suited her well. So well, in fact, that she soon began thinking of ways she could use her creative skills to help out the local bar and pub community. “I love to drink and often go to izakaya (Japanese-style pubs),” she explains. “But in the midst of the Corona recession, I wanted to do something to help the people who work in izakaya, so I recently started a project to accept illustration requests for free.”

She is now currently working in a bar, whilst simultaneously producing visuals for their drinks menu and labels. Meanwhile, Bon’s oeuvre of food and film illustrations grows ever more bizarre, imaginative and delightful, led by her sole ambition of producing work that will “make people giggle”.


Bon Kyupi: Neapolitan (Copyright ©️ BoN, 2022)


Bon Kyupi: Heat vs prevention (Copyright ©️ BoN, 2022)


Bon Kyupi: Jaws (Copyright ©️ BoN, 2022)


Bon Kyupi: Matching (Copyright ©️ BoN, 2022)


Bon Kyupi: I love butter (Copyright ©️ BoN, 2022)


Bon Kyupi: Tohmei (Copyright ©️ BoN, 2022)


Bon Kyupi: Shaolin Soccer (Copyright ©️ BoN, 2022)


Bon Kyupi: Kiki’s delivery service (Copyright ©️ BoN, 2022)

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Bon Kyupi: Chinese Cold-style Noodles (Copyright ©️ BoN, 2022)

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About the Author

Elfie Thomas

Elfie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in November 2021 after finishing an art history degree at Sussex University. She is particularly interested in creative projects which shed light on histories that have been traditionally overlooked or misrepresented.

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