Sunday, January 17, 2010

Japanese Illustration Magazines

A Happy New Year to all!  Today I've decided to write about some Japanese illustration magazines that I've become quite fond of over the last couple of years.  There are 3 that I look at on a fairly regular basis, courtesy of Kinokuniya Books in LA.

The first is MOE Magazine, pictured above, a monthly magazine devoted entirely to children's picture books.  Wish we had something like that here!  The above issue is from a year ago, January 2009, and features the art of Yuka Shimada, known for her picture book series about Bam and Kero.  Each issue typically features an illustrator or two and has lots of gorgeous pictures of their work.  They also introduce recent picture books from around the globe, which is something that I think a lot of American illustrators are less exposed to.  I see lots of titles that I have never seen in any book stores here.  Very eye opening.  They also introduce children's book shops from around the world -- so many cozy, fun looking places that I would love to visit! 

The second magazine is called Illustration, and is a bi-monthly magazine.  This issue is from May of 2009 and features Komako Sakai, best known here as the author/illustrator of the picture book The Snow Day.  The magazine focuses on all styles and genres of illustration, and will occasionally feature a non-Japanese artist as well.  Each issue will have sections on current exhibitions in Japan, practical business practices/advice, and will highlight an artist's work process. 

The last magazine is called Illust Note (an abbreviation of Illustration Note -- the Japanese are fond of shortening words!).  Illust Note is a monthly magazine, the above is the June 2008 issue.  Of the the three magazines, this one focuses the most on the craft of illustration.  Each issue features at least 3-4 illustrators talking about their craft and detailed how-to photos and captions of them working on a piece from start to finish.  Covers all genres of illustration, from traditional watercolorists to digital artists.  This magazine probably requires the least knowledge of the Japanese language, as it has so many pictures!

It is true that there are art magazines that cover similar territory here, but not too many that focus exclusively on illustration.  What really sets these magazines apart from their American counterparts are the sheer number of images featured, and the quality of the printing and paper.  It really is great eye candy.  There are always great photos of the artists' work spaces, which is something I really enjoy looking at -- where people create.  Some of these artists work in incredibly small spaces, others have spacious studios that I can only dream about.

So where can these be found?  If you live on the West Coast or New York, your best bets are a Japanese bookstore like Kinokuniya books.  Otherwise, they are available on Amazon Japan's website, both new and older issues as well.