Asahi Nagata

Asahi’s creative nature and strong interest in traditional printmaking techniques like risograph or screenprinting have made her a favourite artist by many, including us! Her work may seem a little bit of everything, but the one thing that became her signature is the beautiful blend of authentic retro, print-like texture, and bold vintage-style colour palette.

Hello Asahi. Could you tell us about your background and how you got into drawing? Is it something you have always been wanting to do?

Hi, my name is Asahi (AH-sah-hee, means ‘sunrise’ in Japanese) and I am a freelance illustrator based in Minneapolis Minnesota. I was born in Sapporo, Japan in 1992. Being fascinated by traditional printmaking such as risograph, screen printing, linocut, my work may seem a little bit of everything but all in digital form. I focus on displaying authentic retro effect, print-like texture and bold vintage style colour palette in my work. My brand name ILLO IRRO is a blend of words in which iro-iro means “variety” in Japanese, and illo is a short term for “illustration” in English. When I am not at work I am usually hanging out with my almost two-year-old daughter Ichiko at the park. The oldest picture of myself drawing is when I was 1 year old, and since then drawing has been my number one hobby.

How would you describe your illustrations in three simple words?


Can you tell us more about your style of illustration and the process? How do you find your own voice as an artist?

Being inspired by 50s and 60s children’s books and commercial prints, I love using vintage bold colour palettes. Also being massively fascinated by traditional printmaking methods such as screen printing, risograph, and block printing, I often use colour overlaying techniques and offset effects to display the authentic retro print-like effect in my illustration. I learned how to mimic this retro print texture myself while I worked at a design firm here in Minneapolis as an illustrator and did vintage prints restoration works for 5 years. In my illustration, I usually limit colours to around 3 in each work because in traditional printing methods numbers of colours were usually limited to about that many. I enjoy challenging myself to think creatively about how I can depict an object using only a few colours, and this challenge has been giving me my own space to express my own creativity within every commission and has been making every commission exciting to work on. 


Inspiration-necessary or merely a myth?

Inspiration-necessary! I go through vintage children’s books, antique stores, and googling old funny things and they all motivate me to draw.
What do you do when your creative process isn’t working?

I take a break completely. Walk to the park, watch tv, read comics etc. I always wished I could work non stop, but then I admitted that I am not a computer so that’s impossible. Or I doodle with pens on paper instead of with my computer, like how I used to draw when I was a child – every time I do this I remember how much I like drawing, it motivates me again!

I understand you were born in Sapporo and moved to the United States (Minneapolis Minnesota), how were the experiences? Which has the biggest impact on you?
Lucky Sapporo is a place with cold winters. So I was used to the freezing weather in Minnesota. When I first moved here I moved to a town called Marshall Minnesota and it was very rural. There were not many places to go, and with the long winters of staying home, I worked on my illustration a lot during college. 
What projects are you working on lately? Which was the most challenging? And the most rewarding?
I have been working on making cards in Riso print. This has been what I have been wanting to do for so long and it’s been an exciting personal project! 
Is it important, as an artist, to reserve some time to draw for themselves?
For sure! Almost all of my favourite work of my own are ones I did for myself during my free time. 
Does being an artist give you a different perspective on motherhood?
I am always thinking about my baby and there is very little free space I used to have in my brain to think of art. It is very tricky sometimes to maintain being an artist and a mom. My daughter is almost 2 years old and now she enjoys looking at pictures I draw and tells me what that is.
I bring as many art activities as possible into our lives, so I can enjoy being an artist and a mom at the same time! 
What’s the one thing you want to accomplish this year?
I started as a freelancer this year. I worked on many commissions and I feel very accomplished as a businesswoman. Now it’s time to work on my shop! I have been wanting to work on my Etsy shop ILLO IRRO, design more printed items and restock the store. I have so many ideas for cards and posters, I just need to find time to work on them. 

Shop #AnaTomyxAsahiNagata

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