Landscapes. Often associated with more traditional times, from the days when oil painting ruled, it’s not often we come across truly original and contemporary styles of the genre of painting. What sets artist Makoto Funatsu apart, however, is her sensitive use of tranquil colours, combined with bold shading that often masks off a section of her illustrative paintings in cool hues.
The Tokyo-based illustrator originally studied oil painting before working as a freelance illustrator for over ten years. During her studies, while many of her fine art contemporaries followed the mainstream path of installation art, which was all the rage at the time in Japan, Makoto was consistently drawn to painting landscapes and still life portraits. Over time, her beautiful paintings were noticed by publishers who began commissioning the illustrator to bring her moody sense of realism to dust jackets and book covers.
With book cover design, Makoto’s wonderfully scenic illustrations absorb the viewer in a sense of scenic calm. For the illustrator, venturing into book cover design was “dream work” and marked a significant milestone in Makoto’s career as an illustrator. Currently hoping to broaden her clientele overseas, Makoto’s work is unique in the sense that it is multi-functional. On one hand, the picturesque paintings work within a fine art context; suitably befitting the space of a white-walled gallery, just as much as the covers of digitally printed books.
“Although I draw landscapes and people familiar to me”, Makoto tells It’s Nice That, “I pay attention to the feeling of the place so the audience feels universality. I hope their emotions will be moved and feel familiarity, peace, nostalgia, sorrow and joy.” Using acrylic paint, the illustrator refers to photographs that she’s taken to depict a scene. She uses Photoshop to create variations of a composition, and once it feels close to completion, Makoto moves onto canvas and recreates the scene through layers of carefully applied paint.
“I make palettes of acrylic paint that can be adjusted for light and saturation in plastic containers”, she explains. Using this system, Makoto has developed her own distinctive system of painting which results, evidently, in a particular focus on subtle shades of colour that enhances the sense of perspective. She adds, “though my works use traditional painting techniques and compositions, I purposely draw each part very flatly. This is because I treat every part of the canvas as an equal colour surface.” Makoto’s flattened landscapes not only evoke a strong and transportive mood, but they are also undeniably easy on the eye. And finally, when asked about her future objectives, Makoto inspires: “My work has brought me to a wonderful place beyond my imagination and I hope to continue to do so from now on.”
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.