In talk with cult Tokyo kawaii illustrator Yuko Higuchi
Yuko Higuchi is a celebrated Tokyo artist and illustrator with a cult following. She is the voice behind the dark kawaii trend, sketching whimsical illustrations of anthropomorphised characters that fuse cute picture-book style illustrations with dark, surreal elements. In Higuchi’s imaginative universe, cats resemble ogres and foxes become astronauts. Her unique style has gained her commissions with brands such as Uniqlo, Ladurée, and Shiseido.
Recently Higuchi created the beautifully-illustrated ‘Magical Colouring Museum’ picture book, and ‘Cats and Other Creatures’, which features 24 of her work including two exclusive illustrations. Both books are published by Laurence King. We caught up with the artist to see what inspires her wonderfully magical and at times dark world.
Your characters are at once cute and dark. What inspires you?
I can’t pinpoint what would be considered cute and what would be dark in my artwork. But, I can tell you that I draw what I love (creatures, etc.) spontaneously.
What attracts you to kawaii?
I am not conscious of creating things that are kawaii. I think that the more intentionally you seek out kawaii, the more intentional your artwork becomes. And in the end, it will just look deliberate or calculated. I don’t have a high opinion on these kinds of kawaii.
Do you base your characters on reality?
Not all of them. I usually just draw as ideas pop into my head, much like how children scribble. Some of my drawings are imaginary characters, and in some cases, I base those characters on reality. But, I also add a touch of my imagination to them when I draw.
And the surreal storylines, are these based on real or imaginary events?
I draw from things that pop up in my head. Sometimes an actual event can ignite my storyline, but often my imagination takes over and the story develops as I draw.
What medium do you work in?
I use pens, pencils, hemp paper, and watercolours.
Your books can be appreciated by both children and adults. Who do you have in mind when creating?
When I create a book, I don’t have any target age range. Although, honestly, I feel that more adults like my books than children.
Images Yuko Higuchi © Laurence King.
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