Ochiai Shohei draws nostalgic objects that everyone will recognise

When picking his objects, the Japan-based illustrator will be drawn towards something he finds attractive or admires – like a food he used to eat or a game he used to play.

27 October 2021

Look through Ochiai Shohei’s portfolio and it won’t take you long to find something you recognise: a Big Mac, Fillet O’Fish and Sony Playstation are just a handful of examples. But even if you think you know what you’re looking at, these things, that we’ve all come to know and love, are elevated as they are sprinkled with humour and wonkiness. It’s like a flashback to the tech, food and icons of the 90s and early 2000s, only everything’s been revamped in pencil line drawing and constructed to appear just a little bit off.

Shohei’s background is (perhaps surprisingly) in comedy. “I have wanted to be a comedian since I was a child,” he tells It’s Nice That. “But I also longed to go to art college.” As a result, Shohei studied in the product design department at Tama Art University, expanding his knowledge and skillset in the world of art and design. Upon graduating, though, he decided to return to his comedic interests and started appearing in comedy shows. “However, since I had extreme stage fright, I gave up the comedian career and started working seriously on painting, which I had been drawing since I was a student.”

Arriving back at his long and enduring passion for the arts, Shohei commenced work on his portfolio and started to build a portfolio of equally comedic illustrations. It’s a medium that he often reverts to while finding a sense of calm, which became especially useful while studying at university – “sometimes I draw to calm myself down, so I started drawing constantly from that time,” he says. Oftentimes, you’ll find Shohei enjoying himself at a local shrine, watching a football match or snowboarding. He was also involved in a punk band back in the day during his studies, which certainly had an influence on his creative expression and passion for making art. “I am attracted to illustration because it allows me to express myself more directly than other media,” he adds.


Copyright © Ochiai Shohei, 2021

When it comes to choosing the objects to draw, Shohei tends to fall for anything that he finds attractive. “It is often something that I feel nostalgic for, familiar (something I used to eat a lot) or something I admire,” he adds. So really, the objects he picks to draw can actually reveal quite a lot about himself; from the games he used to play to the cereal or sauce he used to munch on. They’re perceived on a global scale, too, as he often will draw objects and stuffs from across the world. And, what’s most interesting, is that these specific objects give a certain level or personality and intimacy to the work that might not have been so obvious within the first instance. “Maybe it’s because I like pop icons so much that people all over the world can recognise them,” he continues. “There are countless motifs of things I want to draw.”

Shohei’s illustrative style is distinctive, defined by his lack of patience. Of course, he respects the typical formula of perspective, lines and text, but sometimes, he gets “very impatient” when it comes to illustrating these types of compositions. However, this isn’t a negative. Rather, it gives his work a unique edge and makes him stand out from the crowd – not to mention the fact that it makes his objects slightly skewed from their literal, real-life depiction. DeLorean is a recent example and one of his favourite works, which is inspired by the Back to the Future series – which he’s a big fan of. “I’ve been wanted to draw it for a long time, and when I saw it on Japanese TV last year, I thought it was a good time to draw it,” he explains. What he likes most about this piece is the futuristic details, and how it “runs on plutonium” – “it’s a car I long to drive someday.”

Another image titled Shinkansen Asahi references his grandfather, who was an employee at the Japanese National Railways. He would lay tracks all across Japan, “so I’ve had a special attachment to trains since I was little,” he explains. “I especially like the old trains because they have a cute form and a distinctive front part.” These interests are transferred into a series of railway-themed poster-like works. Here, a train is featured head-on and continues to wrap around the page, shrinking and shrinking towards the tail. In other work, Yu-GI-Oh cards and Pokemon cards pay tribute to the famous games that his generation is familiar with. “I chose to draw particularly strong dragon cards,” he adds. “They were the strongest cards at the time, and I think everyone longed for them. I drew them as if they were strong enough to live up to that.”

Shohei’s work has the power to stir memory for all of his viewers, no matter where they might be situated in the world. And what’s even better is that there usually is a personal story behind each and every one of them – so collectively, they serve as memorabilia for everyone.

GalleryCopyright © Ochiai Shohei, 2021

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Copyright © Ochiai Shohei, 2021

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she was interim online editor in 2022/2023 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima. 

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