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Lisa Kogawa

Lisa Kogawa

Meet illustrator from California, Lisa Kogawa

GirlsclubAsia-Illustrator-Lisa Kogawa_Portrait

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi, my name is Lisa. I was born in Japan, spent a few years there then afterwards grew up in Orange County, California and am currently a freelance illustrator in Los Angeles. I have always been drawing and never thought about doing anything besides art. After I graduated from Orange County High School of the Arts, and then from ArtCenter College of Design with a BFA in Illustration, I became a freelance illustrator who creates illustrations for various media, including newspapers, music videos, concept art and galleries, etc. Sometimes I also work as a translator and interpreter for Japanese and English. During the day I draw for a living, but at night I doodle for my own pleasure. So to be honest, I like to call myself a doodler rather than an illustrator. More like a nerdy doodler. I would never leave the house if I didn’t have to. My 11ft² world contains a sea of comics, waves of anime, fields of books, a cacophony of electric sounds and anything sugary. A lot of people would come up to me to ask for comic and anime recommendations and I’m all here for it.

 

Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

Currently, I live in Pasadena, which is more in the mountains of Los Angeles. It’s a weird city with a mixture of things. It’s old, noisy, loud and sketchy but at the same time a new, quiet, calm, borderline safe city. It has been quiet for a while since the pandemic started, but now after a year I feel that people are coming out more often. Honestly, it’s not my kind of city (I prefer a more safe and boring place) but living here has been pretty convenient since it’s 20 min away from Downtown LA, one hour away from the mountains and ocean and the weather is consistently sunny.

 

What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

Worst: Closest Asian market is 20 min away and the fact that shootings happen here occasionally. Or that there are a lot of car accidents. There was one time a drunk / drugged person crashed into the back of my house at 2 am. Adding to that, next door to me is a bar, a weed shop, a coffin shop, and a church, and across the street is a cemetery, so it’s been an interesting place to live. It’s the perfect all-in-one spot if someone dies from being too drunk or overdosing.

 

Best: There are few of the best sushi places even though it’s not the middle of LA. Personally, I can’t live without Japanese food and luckily there are a couple of authentic restaurants around here, so I’m surviving. Also, many people have dogs. I love to see them walking around.

 

There are few of the best sushi places even though it’s not the middle of LA. Personally, I can’t live without Japanese food and luckily there are a couple of authentic restaurants around here, so I’m surviving. Also, many people have dogs. I love to see them walking around.

 

Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.

1. Sunny

2. Lively

3. Historic

 

How did you start your career in art?

During art college, I already started submitting to galleries and contacting art directors, and interned at a magazine company so I had a head start since I was a student. Later on, a lot of my colleagues became art directors or began working in the art / creative / design field, so I got many jobs from that too. Luckily, since I’ve graduated college haven’t had to reach out to anyone since my friends and colleagues would keep recommending me and sharing clients. At first I was aiming just for editorial work, but because I have several different art styles I’ve gotten to work on a variety of things including editorial (newspapers, magazines, web articles, etc.), fine art (for galleries or personal commissions), and entertainment (background design and painting, concept art, comics, etc.).

It might be a little off topic but during my time in High School, I had one teacher who would always taunt me for drawing humans that looked too “cartoony” and told me it wasn’t real “art” and because of it, I refrained from drawing that for schoolwork. But for my own doodling, I would always just draw as I liked. During college, I was still trying to change my art style because of that teacher, but one professor told me that “You don’t have to stick to one style, just draw as your heart desires and you can have as many as you want.” With those words, I got my confidence back and started to incorporate different drawing styles into my portfolio. A few years passed by and now no one cares if you’re drawing “comic” style. It’s just an approach to art that people recognize. Now, drawing comic style humans is also a part of my income, and I’m glad I never gave up on my own unwavering beliefs. So I just want to say it out loud that having multiple styles is totally fine and can be a part of your career too.

 

During college, I was still trying to change my art style because of that teacher, but one professor told me that “You don’t have to stick to one style, just draw as your heart desires and you can have as many as you want.” With those words, I got my confidence back and started to incorporate different drawing styles into my portfolio. A few years passed by and now no one cares if you’re drawing “comic” style. It’s just an approach to art that people recognize. Now, drawing comic style humans is also a part of my income, and I’m glad I never gave up on my own unwavering beliefs. So I just want to say it out loud that having multiple styles is totally fine and can be a part of your career too.

 

Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

Thankfully, my family tree is pretty artsy so they were always supportive. Or rather they were more like: “the only thing you can do is art, so do your best!”, so there was some pressure.

 

What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

There are so many! There aren’t any specific job goals I want to do, but there are many things I want to be able to draw. My motivation is only one thing – I just want to draw. I don’t care what. I just want to draw a line. So first, I want to be able to draw anything without reference, things such as muscles, people in high angles, cars, animals and buildings in perspective. I’m still working on that process. Also because illustration is heading towards the motion-based era, I want to learn After Effects and Blender or any other 3D / motion software so I can bring my work to the next level.

 

There are so many! There aren’t any specific job goals I want to do, but there are many things I want to be able to draw. My motivation is only one thing – I just want to draw. I don’t care what. I just want to draw a line.

 

If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

That’s a hard question but if I had to choose, it would be Tatsuro Kiuchi, Katsuya Terada, or Keith Haring. I really love Tatsuro Kiuchi’s composition choices and textured color palette so I would love to see his skills combined with my line work. As for Katsuya Terada, I worship his doodle-looking – but yet so good – pen work and his live drawing ability so it would be a dream collaboration to do live drawing together. Then for Keith Haring, I grew up with his works around me (he’s my father’s favorite) so I’ve always wanted to see his bold graphic elements mixing with my detailed complicated work.

 

What are the biggest challenges you face in working as a creative?

Luckily I don’t have any major ones since creating is what I do naturally, but it’s more like I have many small challenges everyday. For example, when I have to draw objects such as a car or rocket, where I have to draw everything very precisely and proportionally right. It makes me want to crash my computer because I just want to draw freely. Or times like when there are too many things I want to draw and I just can’t choose! I keep making lists of things to draw but never finish them because they just keep getting longer. I do have art blocks every once in a while but I’ve never had a serious one. Those times are when I just need to physically rest. Now that I know that resting is part of this job, I try to make time for myself away from drawing (but usually I go back in a few hours).

 

They are all mentally and physically strong, intelligent, individualistic and really weird. I love it.

 

How would you describe the women around you?

They are all mentally and physically strong, intelligent, individualistic and really weird. I love it.

 

Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?

Yes. Hiromu Arakawa, who is the author of a world-famous comic called “Fullmetal Alchemist”. At the time, there weren’t many well-known female comic artist who drew hardcore action comics with deep, developed stories, and with muscles in them. Everyone thought she was male for a long time ( Hiromu is a gender neutral name in Japan). Later I found out she was raised as a farmer kid and that’s how she learned the importance of life and death, as well as the necessity of physical strength. That’s why the comic is full of the reality of death and human nature. On top of that, she was pregnant and raising a child while drawing the comic, which is insane. She and her characters were a major influence on me, teaching me that women, and not just men, can be badass and strong.

 

Just be who you are and have a lot of knowledge! Knowledge will never betray you but only makes you stronger.

 

Do you have any advice for other women who are aspiring to work in your field?

As far as I know (as I’ve never had a personal problem with gender issues so far), there is not much difference between females and males in the illustration field. I feel that people are respected and valued by their art, not their gender. Just be who you are and have a lot of knowledge! Knowledge will never betray you but only makes you stronger.

 


What type of music do you like to listen to?

Jrock, Vocaloid, Anime songs and sometimes popular Jpop, 2000s emo pop rock

 

What’s your favorite local food spot?

Hard one! But if it’s around LA, I would say Yui Sushi and Izakaya Tonchinkan in Sierra Madre, Tokyo Fried Chicken in Monterey Park, Jin Tea shop in Pasadena and Marugame Udon, Izakaya Gazen and Kinjiro in Little Tokyo.

 

Felicia Chen asks: If you could choose a different career path, what would it be?

Since I was little I was interested in farmer life and agriculture, so I would’ve done that if I wasn’t so scared of bugs.

 

Junissa Bianda asks: What do you do when you are stuck?

I just take a break. Resting is also part of the job.

I have a couple of personal motivational anime (Mob Psycho100, Run with Wind, Haikyyu!, Denno Coil, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken, Angel Beats! etc.) and manga (Blank Canvas by Akiko Higashimura, Hataraki man by Moyoco Anno, Oyasumi Punpun by Inio Asano, etc.) so I’ll go back and rewatch/reread those.

Or sometimes I’ll redraw my old work and see how I’ve improved, it’s interesting to see the difference.

 

What question would you like us to ask the next artist?

Top motivational 10 movies or books, comic or anime of their choices.

 

 

Photos courtesy of Lisa Kogawa

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