Seeing the smooth transition of Dekune’s large expressive painted gallery works to the powerful images in her picture books made me realise how different the culture and education behind Japanese picture books is from, say the UK or USA. This is work by someone who’s as much an “artist” as they are an “illustrator”, in fact there’s little division between the two. I remember when I was at college in the UK my tutor Tony Ross (himself a well known children’s illustrator) confidently asserted – “illustrators often make great artists, but fine artists rarely make good illustrators”. True perhaps in the 1970’s in the West, but not so in Japan, where the two genres are closely interwoven.
It also has a lot to do with individual character. I remember one of my tutors at college telling me I was a “born illustrator”, by that he meant that my talent was 100% straight down the line graphic art. I always wondered whether that implied I’d never be a “real” artist because fundamentally I’m a graphic hack.
In SCBWI I’ve been trying to persuade more of the Japanese illustrator members to display their work on our website. It’s a free bonus service we offer to members of SCBWI in Japan, but very few Japanese picture book artists have taken up the offer. Why could this be? I’m beginning to wonder whether it’s the “Artist” factor at work again. Some of these illustrators, though they’ve released many books, do not own a scanner, do not know what a 72dpi jpeg is, and do not have their own portfolio website, things that are generally regarded as essential for any commercial illustrator nowadays.
Therefore it’s each to his own, if I’m truely condemned as a graphic hack then so be it. I just have to make sure I’m the best bloody graphic hack around.