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Interview with Illustrator Chihiro Tani

Updated on November 18, 2015


Children’s book authors are not always the best artists. They need somebody who can turn images into the authors head into images on paper that both attractive and help contribute to the story. Like authors, they develop, struggle with, and succeed in their craft one step at a time. They can be a tremendous asset in helping to draw readers to a story, whether it be just in an eye catching cover design or illustrations throughout the book.

Below I interviewed artist, Chihiro Tani, who creates sophisticated but kid-friendly illustrations for children’s book authors among other things. You can check out her work at her website below.



The Interview

1. Explain your background: schooling, body of work, first job illustrating, etc.

I went to the high school of JOSHIBI University of art and design in which I basically trained in pencil and charcoal drawings, and water colour and oil paintings, and compositions.

I continued to the same university and got a degree in graphic design.

(However, my graduation work was installation/sculpture-based.)

Regarding body of work and first illustration job:

First job: Illustrations for English language class

Work: Book cover illustration, Children's book illustration

2. Who are your influences? Do you ever try to emulate those artists’ work?

I remember when I was young being fascinated by the drawings of animals in my encyclopedia. I used to spend hours copying these pictures, which must have helped my development of capturing form. Later, learning faux finish painting and other decorative painting techniques lead to me trying to emulate these apparent textures in my illustrations.

Sakai Komako's style made me allow myself to portray characters’ shape quite realistically apart from the colouring which I am trying to make look rough and abstract.

3. Why do you illustrate?

As a little child, drawing was simply what I could do and enjoy.

The reason I kept doing it was probably because I am not a good speaker, but still want to express what I feel and see.

It is the fastest way to show someone what I want to show. (Though of course it's a time-consuming process to generate)

Furthermore, I think there is something that words can’t translate from humans senses, like atmosphere or subtle mood.

4. What is the best compliment that you have ever received from your art?

In the two Youtube videos below, you can listen to one of the authors I worked for, called JulieA’s comment .

(I made the transcription but please feel free to edit as you like.)

The only person out of that I saw for Roger, and the Wobbies that could do what I wanted to do but coulddn’t do it was a lady called Chihiro Tani.

She is a Japanese lady, and she just captured what was in my head and put it on paper.

I could put the words down but I got no hope of drawing picture.

And she was able to tap into what I wanted.

And without talking to me, she did it, she is just amazing.

She’s done incredible work.

She was the one of probably have the best indication of what to do.

She was the only one who could actually draw what I could see but I couldn’t put on paper.

She was the one that was able to come up with what I really really wanted.

When we first did the ‘Wobbies’,

This is the colour! This is what I want! This is my Wobbies!

5. Do you save all of your work? How do you store it?

If I can have some hard copies of books and leaflets, I keep them.

Otherwise all my work is kept in my hard drive.

6. How many versions of a drawing do you typically sketch/plot out before developing a specific illustration?

Normally it’s one or two.

7. What is your favorite subject matter?

Nature, Wildlife, Fantasy/Spiritual, and Children

8. Name your favorite book covers.

Wolf Brother

9. If you are also an author, when in the process do you start developing your covers/illustrations? If you are not an author, when do you begin to collaborate with the author?

Maybe at the very early stage of writing the story. (When I made my own story book)

After I completely understood the story and author’s view point, concept and context.

10. What’s next for you?

Another children’s book of my own or collaborating with someone who can write stories.

And I am thinking about producing some memorabilias from the story using my silver product design skill which you can see in the website below.


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