The work of ONEQ, a completely self-taught Japanese illustrator, is an example of what effect influences from all places - gathered from growing up in such a pop culture and image laden era - can have on a complex, artistic mind.
Such an idea covers all the artist’s work I post on Supersonic Electronic, but ONEQ’s work is a rather unique example of this “electronic” age (the last twenty years assimilation of pop culture and unlimited aesthetics available from the world wide web) of art in that her work remains strongly Japanese.
Ability to simplify defines understanding a subject completely and (perhaps subconsciously) ONEQ does just that. Her art is a phenomenon of simply beautiful pop born from her obsession with Manga and American illustrators (One American illustrator ONEQ mentions is Simon Bisley, who no doubt influences the erotic nature of her drawings) with themes derived from her life growing up in a coastal Japanese city.
Over the course of a month and with thanks to a very helpful translator, ONEQ and I spoke about her life, these influences and her obsession with driving.
Zach: What are some of your earliest memories?
ONEQ: There was an old woman who lived in my neighborhood who loved art. She was a very polite and loving woman as well. I used to go play at her house and she would always give me candy and other treats. There were many paintings and pictures decorating her house. From the time I was 10 years old until I moved out of that neighborhood we were very close. I believe it was because of her that I became interested in art.
Zach: What was your childhood like growing up in Japan?
ONEQ: From that time on as a child, I loved drawing and coloring. In Japan schoolchildren are given special notebooks in which they are assigned to draw and color different things in their spare time and during school vacations. I loved gathering with friends and drawing in these notebooks. In addition, Japanese children love Manga. My friends and I used to buy as many Manga as we could afford and spend hours on end reading them together. I would also read Manga with my older brother very often. In Japan, there are two types of children’s Manga. One is made specifically for boys and one for girls. Having an older brother gave me the chance to read both types. At this young age, my favorite Manga writer and artist was Rumiko Takahashi. Her Manga was the first I bought around the age of seven. She is a very famous Manga writer and artist in Japan who created wonderful and unique characters for her work. She was what introduced me to the world of Manga. My artwork today is greatly influenced by her. Her designs were simple and interesting, this is the style I use today.
Zach: And where did you grow up in Japan? Where do you live now?
ONEQ: I grew up in Japan’s southeast island of Kyushu in the city of Kumamoto. Kumamoto is about an hour and a half from Nagasaki. It is famous for its natural hot springs. People from Kumamoto are known for their laid back characteristics. Almost any place in Kumamoto is close to the sea. This makes for a perfect match with people from Kumamoto. I have lived there all my life apart from about two years in Tokyo. Most Japanese artists have settled in or are from the Tokyo area for the obvious reason of it being the commercial center of Japan. My passion is taking long drives in the mountainous Kyushu countryside. I have a relaxed attitude as most people from Kumamoto do. These two things made it impossible for me to continue living in the fast paced atmosphere of Tokyo and is why I returned to my home town.
Zach: Along with Rumiko Takahashi, how else has your style evolved? Who are some of the other artists you’re fond of?
ONEQ: Rumiko Takahashi’s influence on my art directly led me to another artist that helped continue to evolve my style: Rockin’ Jelly Bean. He’s a famous Japanese pop artist known simply as an “Illustrator” as he works with mainly single pieces rather than Manga or commercial art. Studying his use of color enabled me to enhance the style of coloring in my art. Another influential to me is Simon Bisley. He is an American comic artist and the way he portrays women in his artwork, with their strength equal to their feminine qualities, was extremely influential on me. After discovering his work, I began portraying the strength of women as well as their beauty in my art.
Zach: Did you go to art school?
ONEQ: I have no formal art school training. I think this has helped me rather than hindered my ability. Having not studied in a formal school-like setting, I don’t focus on art as bound by rules or genre. While I would like to study the history of art and artists at some point , I am satisfied and proud of being where I am today as a self-made artist.
Zach: What parts of Japanese culture do you find the most interesting?
ONEQ: Manga culture is by far the most interesting aspect of Japanese art to me. Kids start reading Manga when they are very young and continue until they are very old. As a whole, up until recently, Manga was always compared to Western style comic books. I think these days the truth is that Manga has become popular enough around the world to dispel the comparison. But some Manga, especially the ones geared towards children, is similar to comic books. Most of the Manga for adults is completely different. Manga is a way for people living in a fast paced society like Japan, to take a step back and enjoy a good book even for a minute or two on a commuter train. The stories in adult themed Manga are interesting and well thought out. The art is unique and different from comic books as well. There are so many types of artwork, even, in Manga! It has always been a passion of mine, to look through and pick out artists or panels to influence my work.
Zach: Are any of your pieces self portraits?
ONEQ: I usually create from images in my head. I don’t have many works of real people in general, much less of myself. I would rather use my imagination to create a piece of art rather than create something that a camera would do more justice capturing.
Zach: Could you describe the process you go through to create a piece of art?
ONEQ: When starting a new piece of work, first, I get a general image in my mind of what I want to create. Then I take to the sketchbook. I draw a picture from the image in my head in pencil. Then I scan this sketchbook image and print it. I then draw on this printed image to progress it further. After scanning the image for a second time, I put the two images side by side and decide on the final touches which I finish in pencil. I scan the piece one last time then use photoshop to add color but photoshop is never used for drawing.
Zach: Where do you see your artwork headed, anything you would like to artistically accomplish?
ONEQ: I haven’t really thought about my artwork in future terms. I only want to show my art to others and get their input and feedback of how they feel viewing it. I have never believed it was possible for me to actually make a living as a full time artist. For that reason, I try not to complicate my art with plans of grandeur. The biggest accomplishment I feel I can achieve is to fulfill my own desire to continue creating art that is meaningful to me.
Zach: What do you do when you’re not drawing?
ONEQ: As I mentioned before, I enjoy taking long drives in the country. These drives give me time to clear my head and think. It really is quite a passion of mine.
Zach: And for the last question, any words of advice or thoughts on life?
ONEQ: Making and having a lot of money is great, I’m sure. But always remember the little things that you can do for free are the things that are most special. This is a great philosophy for an artist. I can pick up a pencil and my sketchbook and spend hours doing something I love without spending any money. I also want to say that I think pictures never need translation. Even if the language is not understood, the picture can exceed time and speech and any one can enjoy it. Such pleasant things cannot be stopped.