I met Andrea Innocent when we were both working in Japan. We were introduced through mutual friends, and have kept up a correspondence during the years after we both left Nippon, our love of illustration always inspiring interesting thoughts. I first saw her gorgeous illustrations when we both exhibited at the Tokyo Design Festa. Her unique style makes her artwork easily recognisable, Andrea describes herself as a nipponphile currently living in Melbourne, Australia. Let’s see what she has been up to lately.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m an artist/freelance illustrator living in Melbourne, Australia. I like to tell stories, with
words and pictures.
What did you have for breakfast?
Apple, can’t start the day without one! Green tea and then sometimes polenta porridge with yoghurt and honey.
Where in the world are you right at this minute?
At the moment I’m working from home, which for now is Melbourne, Australia. It’s 12 degrees and windy outside. Brrrr!
Apart from illustrating, what do you do?
I also teach illustration as well as do regular workshops and talks. I recently interviewed Shaun Tan and Neil Gaiman for the Melbourne Writers Festival, an amazing experience. I am also currently working on lots of new personal work as I haven’t exhibited for over a year and am desperate to get some ideas out on paper that have been floating in my head for some time. I love that I get to draw for a living and feel very privileged that I can.
What first made you want to become an artist and how did you get started in art and illustration, any early memories of making art?
Lot’s of early memories of making art. Both my parents are very creative, my father would often take me on trips out to the bush as he was into landscape painting. My mother also has an amazing sense of colour and design and I remember spending days ‘crafting’ with her. Both my parents are extremely supportive of what I do and have kept many of my ‘early works’. Mostly sketches of animals and creatures I had imagined, there were also some long ‘friezes’ on computer paper of the imaginary worlds I would live in in the future.
Please describe your creative process.
Drawing and writing. Lots of note taking, thumb nailing images and collating images and reference. I usually start with a series of preliminary sketches, making many of these. Words are of equal importance to pictures. When creating works for myself the process is a little more free than when working with an art director, however there is not huge differences in the process. I love researching, this is actually an area where I find I can procrastinate, with my exhibition on Japanese ghost stories I found it very hard to stop reading and start drawing!
Where do you do your work? Can you send a picture of your workspace and describe it.
I was working in a studio in Melbourne Central, however we had to move out recently so I am now back at home in my studio there. I have one room for analoque creations and another, cuboard-sized one, for computer work. I am a little fastidious about keeping my numerous sketch books and stationary and other objects at the ready and either live in chaos, when creating work, or in a state of librarian style organisation when not.
Do you work from life, from photographs or from imagination?
A combination of all three really…. the concepts are purely imaginative but depending on the content I will often need to source objects as examples. Often when I’m working on storyboards you will see me making faces and movements in reflective surfaces and then quickly drawing them. If I can’t find a reflective surface I will humiliate someone else by making them ‘strike a pose’ under my direction.
What influences you? Do you have a favourite place or person you visit, which jump starts your creativity?
There are a few fellow illustrator/friends of mine that inspire ideas just by having a coffee with them. That said I am also a person who has always known how to make there own fun and can easily be inspired by just sitting in the world and watching it go by. I also have two nieces that are a never ending source of fun and invention they teach me to never stop imagining, it’s just you and your head sometimes so you might as well make it a fun head to live in ;-)
What technique/s do you use?
I am currently going back to basics and using pencils, paint, paper for new works. My limited edition prints are created with paper and pencil to begin with then scanned in and rebuilt in Adobe Illustrator. I often use found objects and scanned textures in my work and love to experiment with colour combinations and patterns. I also have started experimenting with 3D works/collage and print using a Gocco machine.
Your past work has been very Japan oriented, what first sparked your obsession with all things Kawaii, Kowaii, and Kanji?
I grew up in a part of Melbourne that had a high population of Asian immigrants, many of my friends were from China, Vietnam and Indonesia. One of my best friends was from Hong Kong and she had the most amazing collection of anime, manga and toys I had ever seen. She introduced me to my favourite character ever…. Arare Chan from Dr. Slump! My decision to live in Japan was more about wanting to live in a country very unlike my own. I had never left Australia until the day I went to live in Chiba, Japan…. I was away for three years. It was an amazing experience for me both creatively and personally.
You mentioned in your blog that your art is taking a new direction, can you give us some clues?
My work and current style was very much influenced by an Asian aesthetic, in particular Japan. Since returning from living in Japan in late 2006 I have slowly added more and more Australian content to my pieces. I am also more involved in collage and painting than previously. Things seem to be getting bigger, larger one off images and more three dimensional… recently I created a dress from plastic bags in response to an exhibition about North Korea.
You have taken part in sketch crawls, given talks on radio and at design conferences, how has this physical involvement in the illustration and design community enriched you, what has been the response?
This is the part of my career I am most surprised by, I was initially a very shy and introverted type growing up, once I found my voice… through illustration…. it seemed I wanted to shout it from the highest mountain;-) I love sharing my experience and knowledge with others and am of the opinion that we should all band together, pool our resources so to speak, as freelancers. I am always happy to answer questions, especially from aspiring illustrators/artists and I am a committee member of Illustrators Australia.
Would you recommend having an agent?
Yes, absolutely. Finding the right one though is difficult, I was lucky enough to be invited to The Jacky Winter Group as it was just beginning here in Melbourne. Now they have more than 40 artists on their books and have just moved to bigger offices right near one of my favourite Japanese cafes in Melbourne.
How do you promote your work?
This has changed a little over the years, in the beginning I was a very keen blogger as well as frequenting several sites such as illustrationmundo.com and
Drawn.ca. Recently I have targeted my marketing more directly to particular companies I wanted to work for using mail outs and promos. I still blog and update where I can but I am trying to head away from just talking about things I do, I want to make my blog more useful, anyone can talk about themselves now… it’s all over the internet on places like facebook. Maybe I should interview people ;-)….
What would you tell young illustrators trying to break into the business?
I am a sessional teacher of a Bachelor of Illustration here in Melbourne so I am constantly giving emerging illustrators advice. I tell them to be aware that
illustration, as with art and design, is currently in a state of flux due to the introduction of new technologies, the internet and various other reasons. Of course things are are always changing, however the speed at which things change, in terms of positions in the industry, is much faster than in previous
decades. You really need to be flexible across different media but retain distinctive style so that you are not lost amongst what seems to be an ever increasing number of people wanting to become illustrators.
Who are some of your favourite illustrators or creative people and why?
Nagi Noda, a Japanese designer, who unfortunately passed away a couple of years ago. Mel Stringer, a wonderful young artist living in Australia.
Yoshitomo Nara, his work inspired me greatly when I was just beginning. When I was younger I was very inspired by the Pre-Raphaelites and I think this is what inspires my love for narrative art and story telling through pictures today.
Name your top five books/ movies
Books : Alice in Wonderland, The Lover, The Country Bunny…..
Movies : The Neverending Story, How to Train your Dragon, The Goonies, The Labrinyth…..
In ten years, where would you like to be?
Living in a treehouse in the country, watching the view of the hills and the trees from my studio as I draw.
Andrea currently has work on show in LA at gallery nucleus, and you can contact her via her agent at the Jacky Winter Group. Thank you so much Miss Innocent.