Kyoko Nakamura’s illustrations combine traditional aspects of Japanese art and contemporary digital illustration. Recurring symbols run through her body of work. White rabbits, Kanji sign-lettering, traditional Japanese architecture and dress all appear throughout Kyoko’s neon-coloured illustrations. She draws highly detailed digital illustrations, paying particular attention to perspective and composition and pairs them with bold blocks of dense colour.
“I’ve liked to draw since I was a child,” Kyoko tells It’s Nice That. She remembers being absorbed into a world of painting, uniting her imagination with her surroundings to create her unique style that still feels original today. The illustrator lives in an area called Fushimi in the Japanese city of Kyoto. “I often visit Fushimi Inari-taisha,” she says; that highly recognisable shrine of orange pillars running for 233 metres at the foot of Inari mountain. Greatly influenced by this holy shrine, as well as a number of other historical shrines around the city, Kyoko draws from her surrounding landscape “where the new town coexists alongside the shrines and temples”.
“Recently, I like to draw interiors of rooms and shops,” says the illustrator. “On one hand, the rooms are full of decorative antiques and traditional Japanese crafts. But on the other, the rooms also incorporate contemporary elements such as neon billboards and smartphones.” With a hint to manga, Kyoko’s style illustrates her personal views towards her native city that embodies both traditional Japanese values and religion with increasing modernity.
Though her work recognisably points to important cultural moments, her use of vivid neon pinks, yellows and blues transports the work to a psychedelic realm. She utilises this style in a recent commission for a Kyoto-based sweet shop. “While incorporating Japanese-style motifs from Kyoto, I still wanted the packaging to be fun and lively,” she comments. Unsurprisingly, the sweet shop packaging was very popular with foreign tourists. As for the future, Kyoko hopes to make a living as a full-time illustrator. “I want to work within illustration for prints, book covers and posters,” bringing her fun-filled work to commercial organisations.
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