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Get to know - Lena Yokoyama

Why illustration?

Because you can pretty much do anything as an illustrator. It’s a very wide reaching discipline with very little constraints. How have your life experiences influenced your aesthetic style?

It’s hard for me to define what my ‘style’ is. What I make must be a mixture of so many influences, I feel like this journey would be impossible to recreate. I’d say the origin of my inspiration are the Japanese kids cartoons I watched on TV and the illustrated children’s books I read (more like was read to) when growing up in Tokyo. These have a very particular aesthetic, sort of wonky, kind of bad drawings at times but very charming. I love the playful feeling these portray and I’m aiming to communicate a similar feeling in my own work. Later, living in London and going through 4 years of Camberwell Illustration I’ve had a lot of influence from a very international and experimental surrounding. I worked a lot in print and ceramics and there’s something about form, imperfection and texture that stuck with me from these processes. Finally my dissertation, which I wrote on Visual Translation, was the igniting point to make me realise what I want to say through my work. Currently, I’d say I get most of my inspiration from my studio mates and my fellow Camberwell graduates who produce amazing work everyday. We bounce ideas off each other constantly, which produces an endless stream of creativity.

How would you describe your work in one sentence?

Quirky characters in wavering worlds and Riso printing. Having just graduated from Camberwell College of Arts, with First-Class Honours in Illustration in 2020, what are your future goals?

I’ve recently set up a studio in South London with two other artists and we’re in the process of setting up a collective. I would like to be able to do freelance illustration as my main job one day, where I get to work with incredible people on exciting projects everyday. I’d like to travel the world once I’m more establish and take the work with me where ever I go. You have previously worked with reputable organisations such as Red Bull, The Guardian, Tate Gallery and more. What has been your greatest achievement?

Not sure if I could pick rank any of my projects like this, I think for me a great achievement is when both me and the client have a great time collaborating on the project and the outcome is liked by both sides. This magical collab situation usually happens with smaller sized clients in fact. Recently I’ve worked with a classical flute player on creating an illustration for her masterclass, and we just clicked, every decision made sense and she understood my process of thinking as well as I understood hers. I also love love my ongoing work with Community Bridges where I’m the in-house illustrator. It’s a South London based charity that focusses on community and well-being through their online platform. With this, I feel like I’m actually making a difference in people’s lives. I can make the platform more approachable and bring their important messages closer to readers through visual communication and illustration. What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?

The fact that I can colour the world around me and make it a funner and happier place. By having a split practice of personal work and commissioned work, I feel very free to take my work into any direction, themes and styles I want and at the same time make it part of something. I love as an illustrator my journey is ongoing, there’s always more to learn, more to try out and people to talk to. I’ll never get bored with this job, especially because I can take it anywhere with me even to another country or when going home to Austria. Also work hours are flexible. Like sometimes I won’t find inspiration until late afternoon but then work late into the night. Or not work on a Wednesday but instead work the weekend. It’s fluid like this and I love it. I really feel like there’s purpose in my work, especially when I can tackle themes like mental health, community, cultural identity, language barriers, translation. I feel like I have a voice, a visual one, and I can utilise it to bring good change to the world :-)

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