Date
20 September 2021
Reading Time
8 minute read
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Jentwo’s sunny, characterful illustrations are inspired by Japanese City Pop and the friendly folk of Kamakura

Bangkok-born and raised illustrator Janejira Taechakampu (aka Jentwo) shares the niche pop culture influences that infuse her work with optimism, and her retro-futuristic ode to the magic of travelling.

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Date
20 September 2021
Reading Time
8 minute read

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There aren’t many illustrators who can attribute their aesthetic to one trip to the seaside, but that’s the case for Bangkok-born and raised illustrator Janejira Taechakampu, otherwise known as Jentwo. While her uplifting music tastes in The Beach Boys and Japanese City Pop – a genre she says gives her energy and focus – suggest an already chirpy disposition, these cheerful tunes and the atmospheres they depict also inspired Jentwo, one day, to visit the seaside city of Kamakura. A popular destination just south of Tokyo, the city is chock-a-block with Japanese pop culture, and Jentwo was immediately smitten. Now, you can see references to its retro graphic ephemera peppered throughout Jentwo’s work in her black-outlined forms and sunny, vibrant colour choices; as well as references to Kamakura’s people in Jentwo’s friendly hand-drawn faces.

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Janejira Taechakampu / Jentwo: Since 1986 (Copyright © Janejira Taechakampu, 2021)

Since then, Jentwo has spent her university years refining and evolving her style to become more complex, experimenting with new techniques and media while keeping true to those visual foundations laid in Kamakura. Starting out, her retro style was achieved through pigma pens on paper and processes picked out of a Japanese Retro Scrap Paper Collection book; now she works almost entirely digitally, while leaving room for some analogue methods such as Riso to add tactility.

Jentwo’s work is so charming and commissionable, it’s hard to believe she’s only just graduated. Her final project at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand saw her explore her aforementioned passions for travel, characters and retro stylings all at once, in a book titled Capsule - A Guide to Toyosu Fish Market. Made when the pandemic disallowed travel, Jentwo applied the concepts of retrofuturism to make a guidebook of sorts which would allow readers to experience the excitement of a new place through its content: part novel, part illustration and part actual tourist guide. The result exemplifies Jentwo’s innovation with composition and storytelling.

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Janejira Taechakampu / Jentwo: Happy Field (Copyright © Janejira Taechakampu, 2021)

It’s Nice That: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you found your way to a creative career.

Jentwo: I was born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand. I loved drawing as a kid growing up; pencils, crayons and paper could always be found on my desk. When I was young, I used to create artworks using Microsoft Office programs on my dad’s computer. I created cards and love letters for my mom, dad and friends, and for my birthday party invitations. Because of my love for art and design, I didn’t hesitate to pursue a bachelor’s degree in design. Although I wasn’t sure about what I could do in particular between graphic design and illustration, I did my best and tried to enjoy each and every project at university. In my freshman year, I decided to open an Instagram account to post my drawings and in the same year I was chosen to attend as an artist in Bangkok Art Book Fair 2018. It opened new doors and new opportunities for me. Later on, during my time at university, I got various illustration freelance jobs such as editorial commissions and illustrations for branding and installations.

While I was studying at the university, there was an assignment where the professor asked students to make their life plan for the next five years. At that time, I pictured myself as a graphic designer working in a studio in Bangkok. Thinking of it now makes me laugh because my life right now is quite the opposite of what I had pictured. Now I’m working as an artist and a freelance illustrator. I have come a long way from where I started and I will still continue my way in this creative industry, as illustration has always been a big part of my life and my comfort zone.

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Janejira Taechakampu / Jentwo: Playtime (Copyright © Janejira Taechakampu, 2021)

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Janejira Taechakampu / Jentwo: Toyosu Fish Market Map Poster (Copyright © Janejira Taechakampu, 2021)

“I love to draw characters that give a feeling of friendliness“

Janejira Taechakampu, aka Jentwo

INT: How did you find your medium and style, and who and what influenced you along the way?

JT: I found my style of drawing from what I’m into. Music and traveling influenced me a lot. I like listening to music from the 1970s (The Beach Boys), and 80s, especially Japanese City Pop (Toshiki Kodamatsu, Tatsuro Yamashita, and Casiopea). It always gives me positive energy and creates an atmosphere that keeps me focusing. City Pop music and art also inspires me to travel. Once, I took a trip to Kamakura, Japan, a coastal town full of Japanese popular culture. I found myself completely in love there. Old vinyl records and Continental Airlines posters at the beach market influenced me to start experimenting and drawing in a retro style. Active and energetic people living there influenced me to draw friendly-looking artworks. The sunny days back there also influenced me to use a vivid colour scheme. After that trip, I made a zine to illustrate what I had seen and felt in Kamakura. That’s the story of my first zine sold at Bangkok Art Book Fair in 2018.

Although I was influenced a lot by my love for City Pop, I found that my illustration style gradually changed little by little every year. It feels like watching a coming of age movie. I’ve experimented in various techniques and mediums. This process helps me understand myself better and grow. At first, I studied and adapted techniques from a Japanese Retro Scrap Paper Collection book and created my illustration using pigma pens on paper as I wanted to create an artwork in a retro style. Now, I’ve moved all my processes to be done digitally but because I am ever-charmed by retro styles, sometimes I finish up my works by printing in Risograph.

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Janejira Taechakampu / Jentwo: Time Loop (Copyright © Janejira Taechakampu, 2021)

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Janejira Taechakampu / Jentwo: Citypop Compilation (Copyright © Janejira Taechakampu, 2021)

INT: What subjects are you most fascinated with? Where do you look for ideas and inspiration?

JT: I am fascinated with people’s lives, something which stems from my interest in history and culture. I usually draw character-based illustrations to tell stories about people. Currently, I’m into the 70s which includes vibrant colours and groovy inventions that allow people to travel beyond reality. I always spend time in bookstores and libraries as it inspires me more than surfing on the internet. Apart from books, I am inspired by traveling. When I travel, I can experience different cultures, see how people design their lives, and have random conversations with new people. These things spark joy and bring me inspiration and ideas.

INT: Can you tell us in a bit more detail how you create characters, what inspires them, and your use of colour?

JT: My characters are originally inspired from lively and energetic people I met at Kamakura, as I mentioned. I love to draw characters that give a feeling of friendliness. However, sometimes I also draw mundane faces to tell sarcastic jokes. I like to use bright colour palettes because it represents lightheartedness and optimism. As for the techniques, I often use Risograph printing to play a role in my works because I fell in love with its charm.

“Everyone has their own beautifully different identity which is waiting to be expressed.”

Janejira Taechakampu, aka Jentwo

INT: Can you tell us in a bit more detail how you create characters, what inspires them, and your use of colour?

JT: My characters are originally inspired from lively and energetic people I met at Kamakura, as I mentioned. I love to draw characters that give a feeling of friendliness. However, sometimes I also draw mundane faces to tell sarcastic jokes. I like to use bright colour palettes because it represents lightheartedness and optimism. As for the techniques, I often use Risograph printing to play a role in my works because I fell in love with its charm.

INT: If you had to pick a favourite project, which one are you most proud of and why?

JT: Retro Futurism Guidebook; it was my senior project in university. Retro-futurism is a movement in creative arts, defined as the past vision of the future. It depicts a civilised city, having flying cars or smart robots. Those technologies that carry people away from the harsh reality to the brighter future. At the time I was starting this project, we were encountering the Covid-19 pandemic. Day-to-day life had been changed and almost all transportation had to be suspended. Living in quarantine undoubtedly makes people feel desperate and crave for the days they could travel the world. Therefore, I applied Retrofuturist ideas in order to create a guidebook that would lead the readers into the exciting feeling of travel again. In the guidebook, one spread is divided into three parts: novel, illustration, and information.

The concept of the guidebook is “self-hyperspace,” hyperspace being a term in science fiction used to describe the action of warping into alternate dimensions. The self-hyperspace guidebook, therefore, brings out the readers’ imagination and takes them out on exciting adventures while not being able to go anywhere. The resulting book is titled Capsule - A Guide to Toyosu Fish Market, and tells the story of a traveler from Mars that has a mission in Toyosu Fish Market. Besides the guidebook, I designed other artworks such as postage sets and maps for home decoration.

For me, this project is an experimental project. I had to manage illustrations with graphics and tried drawing in an unfamiliar style. In the process of experimenting, I also realised how much passion I had for retro things.

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Janejira Taechakampu / Jentwo: Retrofuturism Guidebook cover (Copyright © Janejira Taechakampu, 2021)

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Janejira Taechakampu / Jentwo: Windows Shopping (Copyright © Janejira Taechakampu, 2021)

INT: What have you learned so far starting out in the creative industry, and how would you like to adapt your work going forward?

JT: Over the past three years I’ve grown up a lot. Not only from studying; I also got to learn from working in the creative industry outside the classroom. There are days that I was so confident in myself and days that I was burned out. I've been through those days and I want to remind myself in the future in case I experience it again to not let your critical mind dictate your creative mind. Everyone has their own beautifully different identity which is waiting to be expressed. In the process of working, you have to trust yourself and try to draw out what's in your head. That’s already half of the success. After that, don't forget to love what you do and be proud to show your work, there must be a group of people who’ll definitely like your work.

As I mentioned about the coming of age, I think that my illustration will grow up with me too. I’ll keep developing my style in various ways by trying new techniques and mediums. I'm ready to explore new possibilities and expand the area of my illustration into new topics and mediums like animation. Moreover, I want to create more zines and travel abroad to join other art book fairs.

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Janejira Taechakampu / Jentwo: I Want to Meet You in Person (Copyright © Janejira Taechakampu, 2021)

The Next Generation 2021 continued!

Meet 19 more creatives you should keep an eye on this year!

Check them out!

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Janejira Taechakampu / Jentwo: I Want to Meet You in Person (Copyright © Janejira Taechakampu, 2021)

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

After five years as It’s Nice That’s news editor, Jenny became online editor in June 2021, now overseeing the website’s daily editorial output. Contact her with stories, pitches and tips relating to the creative industries on jb@itsnicethat.com.

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