Creator Interview: Yoshimi OHTANI [2/2]

Creator Interview: Yoshimi OHTANI [2/2]

Yoshimi OHTANI, while looking for a job compatible with child raising, has started walking the road of an illustrator thanks to an unexpected chance. In our interview this time, we will be moving to the subject of the “Sakura Exhibition,” at which she takes part quite energetically.

TOM: Please tell us how you became involved with the “Sakura Exhibition.”
OHTANI: In the winter of 2008, TOM Special Creator Hideyuki Mori gathered many creators and held an end of the year party in a gallery in Ginza. There were maybe about a hundred people there. As we talked more, we decided that “next time, we should go for cherry blossom viewing in the spring.”

However, there were more than 50 participants, and we ended up in a situation that there was nowhere big enough where we could do cherry blossom viewing with so many people. Then, somebody proposed an idea: “We are all illustrators, we can draw pictures. Let’s rent a gallery, draw pictures with sakura, and have a flower viewing like that.” That is the beginning of the “Sakura Exhibition.”

TOM: So, the “Sakura Exhibition” is a project that was born as the extension of a leisure activity?
OHTANI: Leisure activity...more like a party (laughs). A party for illustrators.

When we were about to start, the talk went into the direction of making it an exhibition with some promotion, and we regularized it as a project. I provided a work that would be easy to display both on paper medium and on the web as the main visual of the project.

Actually, when we started promoting the exhibition, supporting organizations and companies appeared, and it became larger in scale. It was first held in 2009. After that, through the help of acquaintances, we also did an exhibition tour in Brooklyn, New York.

Continuing to hold the event is connected to the stimulation of the industry and a sense of purpose to improve the position of creators. This is a genuine project that includes overseas in its outlook, and it is expanding in scale.

TOM: When your works were suddenly displayed overseas, were you confused?
OHTANI: Not at all, because I thought from the start that if we get over the differences in native language, anywhere in the world is fine.

Maybe it’s related to the fact that I majored in web design, but I’m the type who tries many approaches to find the desired outcome, that is, “if you don’t go the desired location you can’t do what you want.” I think in order to be a successful illustrator, it is important to build up a career and widen your popularity. Especially for me, since I’m not the type who can draw anything, I need to think about how am I going to show my work to the world or what kind of work I accept. I am searching for a good place to land that’s most efficient and within my skills.

But even saying that, compared to the scale of the event, the illustrations I draw are not competent enough. The fear, that my life as an artist might end because of this project, followed me for the first two years.

TOM: After the Tohoku earthquake in March 2011, the “Sakura Exhibition” organized a donation activity. Did it have any influence on the event or yourself?
OHTANI: In the year of the earthquake, we started a project. We made a mini poster with my main visual and work from the winner of the previous year’s Sakura Award (※1), Soyoko Shikama, and donated all the proceeds to the Tohoku region.

I myself created a work to which I set “water” and “life” as its background subject. The next year, I also made a visual with the image of “being reborn with new power”. Because it is originating from Japan again this year, I’m more or less aware of this.

TOM: Please tell us about your future goals.
OHTANI: I’d like to get involved with a larger scale job, like bus wrapping or making an illustration that covers the whole wall of a building. Through media mix jobs, I want to evoke a déjà vu in people, and make them think, “I often see her designs around.” Individuality is a lovely thing, but if you don’t have characteristics that pierce through, you might reach your limits. While my works have an individual design, if they don’t go above a certain line, I’m afraid they might get consumed or that people will lose interest in them. That’s why, if a chance comes, I don’t want to let it slip.

TOM: Louis Vuitton, for example, is one the brands with universal power. With its piercing individuality, it is a timeless brand, isn’t it.
OHTANI: If you are asking, “Can you be an illustrator artist your whole life if you don’t reach such a high level?” I can’t answer with a simple “yes.”

It is true that there are people who have produced works in various styles and have been active artists for a long time. However, I am unable of such skillful things. In the future, I want to participate in a project where I can enhance my individuality to make my presence stronger. I would also like to make my work with “entertainment” that make all the viewers happy, and make them with the recipients in mind. I want to become an artist with stronger individuality in my work, so that people will wonder, “Who drew that picture?”

TOM: And lastly, a comment, please.
OHTANI: My pace of presenting new works is slow, but if my works are displayed in your country or merchandise with my illustrations is on sale, please take a look at them. I would be extremely happy if looking at my works made you happy.

“Sakura Exhibition” Official Site:
http://2013.sakura-ex.info/ (Japanese)

Yoshimi OHTANI's MyPage:
http://otakumode.com/funarium

Notes:
※1: The Sakura Award is the grand prize of the “Sakura Exhibition.”

This is a Tokyo Otaku Mode original article.

Creator Interview: Yoshimi OHTANI [2/2] 1
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