Yuko Jones possesses that rare ability to convey a sense of simplicity while creating art that is by no means simple. The cultural elements, the subdued colors, and the lines of her work bring me into each story.
OCB: Young Adult author, Jacqueline Woodson says that writers tend to focus on the time in their lives they’re still working through. Is there an element of truth to Woodson’s claim as it relates to Visual Artists (or to your work)? If so, how?
Yuko Jones: I’m not sure if there’s anything in particular that affects my creativity that way. But I do remember, as a child, I would spend hours poring over picture books. For me, it was the illustrations rich in texture and detail that expanded the stories as well as my imagination. I think about that a lot when I’m working on my illustrations.
OCB: What are you painting or creating art for (as in, what is the deep-down driving force behind your choice to paint/illustrate in the first place)? What is it about the act of drawing or painting or illustrating that speaks to you or resonates with you most?
Yuko: I draw and paint because I want to see if I can turn my creative vision into reality. It always starts with an idea and I just follow my curiosity from there. Most of the time, though, my artwork doesn’t turn out exactly the way I envisioned, but that’s probably why we artists hustle everyday to improve our craft. I think my driving force is to fill the gap between what I envision and what I can actually create.
OCB: What technique/medium did you use to create “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter” and/or “Dream Catcher?”
Yuko: For “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter,” I did a combination of pen drawing and watercolor, which is a traditional approach to illustration. But I took an extra step to prepare the paper before I started the drawing process: I stained the paper with coffee to give it a slightly brown, vintage feel I was going after.
For “Dream Catcher,” I started with watercolor, and then added some shading using color pencils to create depth. I completed the piece with a touch of soft pastel and acrylics to add some bright colors and texture.
OCB: Since you illustrate books for young readers, did you have a favorite illustration or illustrator when you were young (or now)? If so, why?
Yuko: I was always drawn to illustrations that are rich in texture and detail. I remember I was particularly drawn to black and white illustrations done in ink as a child. Now as an adult, I admire Lisbeth Zwerger’s and Rebecca Dautremer’s work. Their illustrations are classic and beautiful, but also offer a sense of modern whimsy that I like.