3rd Anniversary piece for my original character Nara the Witch. For a special “Happy Birthday Nara” event, I asked followers to contribute fan content (fan art, cosplays, mood boards, fashion capsules, etc) - every contributor received a postcard of this piece, written in Nara’s voice. You can see Nara’s story and other characters in the Instagram hashtag #NaratheWitch
5x7 watercolor, color pencil, and ink on cold press paper.
8x8 watercolor, color pencil, acrylic on birch wood panel.
“How to keep a fire sprite”. Because fire sprites require air, you cannot seal the container with a cork or stopper. To prevent your fire sprite from escaping, use a Shoboshi charm. Shoboshi (消防士) in Japanese means ‘firefighter’, the image on the charm is a vintage/traditional Japanese firefighter’s hapi coat.
Aki’s Apothecary is a bit of a mystery; it never seems to be where it was before, no one can remember directions to it, and you won’t find it via Google Maps. But if you’re in need of healing, just whisper what ails you 3 times in the morning while drinking a cup of tea, and by sundown you will inexplicably find yourself drawn down a curious alleyway (strange, this path wasn’t always here, was it?) and into a shop flooded with light and the scent of lavender.
8”x10” watercolor and color pencils on watercolor art board.
5”x7” watercolor, color pencil, and gel pen.
When the sun begins to set and the light catches their face just so - in that brief moment your heart thumps and love blooms.
Once upon a time, there was a girl who found a tiger caught in a trap in the forest. She set the tiger free, and the tiger began to visit her in her dreams. She and the tiger would hunt and play, and when she fell asleep against his fur, she would wake back into her normal world. This happened every night, and soon she began to lose touch with which world was real life and which one was the dream.
8”x10”. Watercolor, color pencil, washi tape, varnish on wood panel.
Yuuta is the most seasoned barista at the cafe. While he may come off as a bit serious and aloof, he’s extremely observant and will often perform small acts of kindness to those who need a little boost, such as a perfectly paired pastry (on the house!) with your espresso if it seems like you’ve had a rough day.
Watercolor, color pencil. 2018.
What if our favorite Amazon warrior fought during feudal-era Japan?
Watercolor, color pencil. 2018.
「物の哀れ」”Mono no aware”
“Mono no aware” is best translated as a wistful empathy towards things and their passing, a gentle sensitivity or sadness to the transitory nature of life. It also expresses a heightened joy and appreciation for life and beauty, as it is so fleeting.
Although I wasn’t really aiming for a certain kind of flower, they sort of vaguely came out like cherry blossoms, which are a very popular symbol for Mono no Aware. The iridescent gold can be bluish gray or bright and shining depending on how the light catches it - an unintentional but somehow fitting effect.
Watercolor, ink, acrylic on wood panel. 2018.
Tuberose: Simply put, a flower of sensuality and ritual, of desire and of offering.
This was my first time using a wood panel! It was a really fun learning experience for me and I'm very happy with the effect!
Watercolor, acrylic, and color pencil on wood panel. 2018.
White snakes are considered messengers of good luck in Japan and are associated with many deities in Japanese culture. They're also believed to attract wealth, so some people carry a small scrap of snake skin in their wallet (humanely collected I hope!). There is even an entire museum dedicated to the white snake in Iwakuni, where albino rat snakes are in abundance due to efforts to protect this luck-bringer ✨🐍✨
Sakurako works in the same cafe as Maru, and she enjoys chatting with guests at the counter while making pour-overs. Customers will tell you that Sakurako makes coffee like she's performing a beautiful ritual, every action done with intention, yet she moves with ease, always the slightest smile on her face.
Watercolor, color pencil, gel pen on artboard. 2017.
Pink hibiscus symbolize friendship and love of any kind (not just romantic), while yellow are for luck, happiness, and sunshine. You can have both with the Mahogany Star Hibiscus!
Watercolor, color pencil, gel pen. 2017.
Fireworks and cool ocean waters, bursts of gold and sun kissed skin.
Watercolor, color pencil, gold ink, washi tape. 2017.
Cactus flowers in 花言葉 (hanakotoba) symbolize lust and desire - I took a little bit of artistic liberty and chose Night Blooming Cereus. These gorgeous moon-white flowers only bloom at nighttime.
Watercolor, color pencil, gel pen on paper. 2017.
Dreaming of a healed, loving world...
Proceeds from this piece were donated to a fundraiser for AIDS/LifeCycle 2017. You can learn about ALC and the ride to end AIDS at http://www.aidslifecycle.org/.
Gardenias in 花言葉 (hanakotoba - flower language) mean "secret love" or a crush. It's rather fitting that gardenia in Japanese is pronounced kuchinashi, which also sounds like "without mouth" or unable to speak.
Magpies are messengers and symbols of communication. They remind us to speak what's in our hearts, to not let the moments pass us by when we want to say something.
These two pieces were part of the HELLA KITTY show in San Jose Japantown. I took inspiration from the street wear sold in the boutique where the art show was displayed.
From the show's description: "Hello Kitty is more than just an icon. She's a movement, a global ambassador, a cultural powerhouse, a cobranding phenomenon. Created without a mouth, this blank canvas of expression makes her the perfect muse, allowing people to project their own thoughts and feelings onto the character. Her image has continuously been reinterpreted by artists to explore a wide range of subject matter including gender roles, feminism, political dissent, pop-culture, self-exploration, etc.
In honor of Women’s History Month in March, Cukui and ThatGirl present HELLA KITTY - Remixed and Reimagined. An all female art show featuring a collection of work where artists are given the freedom to reinvent the icon."
Proceeds from artwork sales will be donated to the ACLU
Watercolor, color pencil, and ink on paper. 2017.
Takeshi is the youngest in a long line of Japanese whiskey brewers. When his older brother refused to run Whiskers, the whiskey bar attached to the brewery, Takeshi offered to take it over for their aging father. His father, not wanting the family business to die, reluctantly accepted, though he found Takeshi's tattoos and laid-back attitude unsavory.
But something amazing happened once Takeshi took over; lines began forming nightly at Whiskers, buzz about this bar that played Ghibli Jazz covers began to spread across social media, with plenty of chatter about its handsome new bartender who sported sleeves of ink.
Watercolor, ink, color pencil. 2016.
My most popular piece, and the beginning of animal portraits.
Maru has great instinct for coffee, but still struggles to make latte art. He practices every day to get better.
Watercolor, ink. 2016.
Daisuke is a field mouse who likes to explore his world. Though the forest is generally safe, he has to carry a pin with him in case he runs into snakes. Right now, he's collecting fresh dew so he can make rain drop cakes at home! He couldn't resist snipping a few lavender sprigs from the farmer's garden along the way...he knows he shouldn't steal, but Daisuke told himself that he'll share the raindrop cake with the farmer as payment for the plant.
Watercolor, ink, color pencil. 2017.
Kasumi was in her workshop one afternoon, working on her great-great-grandfather's watch (the darn thing hasn't worked in decades). Suddenly, the gears began to turn, she noticed something very odd...Little did she know, the watch actually held a hidden message, one that would send her on an aquatic adventure full of riddles, danger, and secret treasure!
Watercolor, color pencil, ink. 2016.
I painted this in response to the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida in June 2016, during Pride Week. I was heartbroken for my friends in the LGBTQ community.
In Japanese art, specifically ceramics, there is a technique called Kintsugi where broken objects are repaired with gold and lacquer. Not only does this highlight the cracks as a reminder that it was once broken, it also makes the object all the more beautiful.
May all our broken hearts be pieced together again with gold and love and light. May we shine all the brighter because of it.
Watercolor, ink, acrylic. 2016.
Nara the Witch is an original character. I frequently draw her on her adventures, along with her familiar Russell the crow - check out #narathewitch on Instagram to see more!
Watercolor, ink. 2015.