[Interview with illustrator Kiyokazu Tsujino] Becoming independent and challenging art as an illustrator

table of contents


Interview with illustrator Kiyokazu Tsujino

Hello everyone. This is GOSUKE, the manager of MONOLiTH, a contemporary art online shopping site.

The partner of this artist interview is Kiyokazu Tsujino.

Mr. Tsujino, who became an independent illustrator after working for a company and expanded his range of activities to include the production of art works, what are your thoughts on creating illustrations and art?

I asked a lot of questions, and I was able to speak frankly.

artist profile

Kiyokazu Tsujino

Profile image of illustrator Kiyokazu Tsujino

An illustrator who mainly draws people with the theme of "simple".

After working as a clothing salesperson for more than 10 years and drawing small pictures, he retired at the end of 2019 and became a freelance illustrator after winning awards at Instagram and the art exhibition Unknown Asia.

Photograph of illustrator Kiyokazu Tsujino's work

Photograph of illustrator Kiyokazu Tsujino's work

Photograph of illustrator Kiyokazu Tsujino's work
Kiyokazu Tsujino's Instagram

A wide range of activities such as apparel collaboration such as New Balance, goods for celebrities, event illustrations for department stores, craft beer, corporate advertisements, and illustrations.

Click here for Instagram

artist interview

Reason why I started making art, not just illustration

ーーPlease tell us about the concept behind the creation of your work.

I myself haven't established my art yet, so to be honest, I don't have a solid concept yet.

However, if I dare to say it, my biggest thought is “I want to create works simply”.

ーーI see. It's true that Mr. Tsujino's work is expressed only with simple lines and colors, but it has a strong Mr. Tsujino-like quality, and I think it's really good.

Photograph of illustrator Kiyokazu Tsujino's work

Photograph of illustrator Kiyokazu Tsujino's work
Kiyokazu Tsujino's Instagram

ーーSo, I would like to ask you why you started not only illustration but also art.

Well, of course I like illustrations, but I think it's a bit difficult in illustration to "draw what I think is really good".

If I can draw with my own sense of values ​​and make a living with it, I think it's the most ideal way of life.

That's why I started making art because I wanted to have the skills to create works of art.

ーーIllustration is mainly client work, so rather than what you want to draw, it's what you want.

Yes, That's right.

ーーI see. When I talked to another illustrator before, he said the same thing, and I really understood the difference between art and illustration.

▼Part of client work

Photograph of illustrator Kiyokazu Tsujino's work
Kiyokazu Tsujino's Instagram

The reason why I started illustration is "Princess Mononoke"

ーーPlease tell us how you started drawing illustrations.

It's a cliché, but I've liked drawing since I was a child. And for me, the one that shocked me the most was "Princess Mononoke".

ーーOh, Princess Mononoke.

I think I was in my 3rd year of summer at that time, and when I went to see it, I was shocked. I wonder what it is, rather than the story being good, I was really impressed by the craftsmanship.
Somehow, my head was filled with Princess Mononoke all the time, and I guess the input was amazing.

At that time, I suddenly thought that I would like to draw it, so I copied it while looking at the advertisement in the magazine. And as I continued to copy, I felt an emotion inside me, and I felt the pleasure of the output, feeling that the picture was good.
So during the summer vacation, I only drew pictures of Princess Mononoke.

This was probably the biggest reason for me to go into painting.

How I arrived at the current simple touch

ーーI see. I think that Mr. Tsujino's current touch is quite far from Princess Mononoke, but I'm curious how he arrived at his current touch.

Well, I don't know, but I have always loved the works of Dick Bruna, the creator of Miffy, and wanted to draw a simple picture like that one day.

But I hated simple pictures because I had a difficult image in myself.

Then, around 2017, when Yu Nagaba's simple illustrations started to become popular, I thought that I also liked Mr. Nagaba's illustrations, so at first I imitated them. It's almost like a copy. It was almost a round rip off (lol)

So, while I was doing it like that, I thought that I would like to pursue my own simplicity, and while trying various things, I arrived at the touch I have now.

In the past, I used to draw backgrounds, and it was a completely different style than now.

ーーI see. Did you also attend an illustration school?

Well, I went to a design school and majored in illustration.

Until I became independent as an illustrator

ーーI heard that you worked at Uniqlo before becoming an illustrator.

that's right. After graduating from vocational school, partly because of the employment ice age, I decided to work part-time while drawing, so I continued painting while working part-time at Uniqlo.

But at the time, even though I said I was motivated, I didn't do much, and I was just getting older (laughs).

After getting married, there was a time when I completely gave up on drawing, but after I got married, I started drawing in my spare time. I was able to do it, and I was able to put myself into painting.

ーーThat's right, it's an unexpected story! The number of followers on Instagram is increasing, isn't it?

Reasons for drawing people as motifs

ーーIs there a reason why people are used as motifs?

Well, I think that's partly due to Mr. Nagaba's influence. Mr. Nagaba also draws people as motifs, and he himself said that he uses the most familiar things as motifs.

I agree, well, I'm human too, and when I think of the most familiar things, I'm still human, and I end up drawing people. Do you like people?

I can't say for sure, but if I had to say it, it would be the closest thing to me, and perhaps when I was copying Princess Mononoke, I would be able to draw people the most. I wonder if it is.

ーーThat's right. What is the reference for the motifs of the works posted on Instagram every day?Do you have a specific model?

This is a model I found on Pinterest.
I can't draw from imagination at all, so I need to make a model...

However, if I stick to it every time, I don't have enough time, so I use Pinterest as a reference.

Anyway, I'm drawing with the thought that I should draw it quickly, post it on Instagram, etc. and get a job (laughs)

--I see, but I think it's amazing that everything is expressed in Tsujino's world.

Before I started working as an illustrator

ーーWhen did you start receiving client work?

About three years ago.

At the time, I was working as an employee at UNIQLO, but when I quit, I got my first job around the same time.

After that, in November 2019, I became independent as a sole proprietor and started working as a freelance illustrator.

ーーWhat kind of companies do you often get jobs from?

It's really disjointed. At first, through a designer friend of mine, I got some work from Hankyu Department Store in Nishinomiya, but after that, through social media, I worked for apparel, alcohol, BtoB companies, and so on.
Really diverse.

ーーMr. Tsujino's illustrations are simple, so they're easy to use in any industry.

▼ We are collaborating with a wide variety of industries such as apparel, craft beer, and IT.

Photograph of illustrator Kiyokazu Tsujino's work

Photograph of illustrator Kiyokazu Tsujino's work
Kiyokazu Tsujino's Instagram

Photograph of illustrator Kiyokazu Tsujino's work

The difference between illustration production and art production

ーーIs there a difference in your awareness when creating illustrations and art?

As I mentioned earlier, illustrations have to be created in line with the client's intentions, making it easy for third parties to accept them.

On the other hand, I think it's okay to be selfish about art, so I want to honestly put out things that I think are really good.

But maybe it's just a habit of being an illustrator, and I feel like I have to create works that look good from an objective point of view, and I'm not sure if I'm being too selfish.
For the time being, I draw while thinking from a third-person perspective.

ーーCreating art is difficult, isn't it? I think there is a "YUM!YUM!YUM! series" that you have drawn as art so far. Please tell us about that.

▼ “YUM!YUM!YUM! Series” now on sale at MONOLiTH

Photograph of illustrator Kiyokazu Tsujino's work

Photograph of illustrator Kiyokazu Tsujino's workPhotograph of illustrator Kiyokazu Tsujino's work

I've only recently started drawing art, so maybe the one I drew last year is the most solid.

Other than that, I did draw a little series of people wearing bananas called the "Banana Series"...

Photograph of illustrator Kiyokazu Tsujino's work

Photograph of illustrator Kiyokazu Tsujino's work

I'm still in the stage of exploring, I haven't established my own style yet. Honestly, right now is the worst.

ーーThat's right... I heard that Takashi Yanase was the inspiration for the "YUM!YUM!YUM! Series".

Well, I drew what I thought when I saw Anpanman.
It's a work that focuses on that kind of thing, like when you're too satisfied, you forget to appreciate it.

ーーSatisfaction, like food loss. So is that the theme of bananas as well?

Bananas are also close, but a little different, I happened to find a banana skin falling.

And I wondered if banana peels were really slippery. I imagined various things (laughs)
I don't often see banana peels on the road, and just thinking about it made me happy.

That's why, at that time, I think I was drawing with the feeling that ``people can have so much fun with just a banana peel,'' and throwing a banana peel at the characters in the picture.

--I see, you're from Kansai, so you're laughing!

Well, it's solid (laughs)

ーーCreating art is really difficult, isn't it? Illustrations are a set performance to some extent, but art is an expression of what is overflowing from within you.

Hmmm, surprisingly, I don't know how I feel.

ーーIs there anything in this work that you personally like?

Actually, I don't really like my paintings, and generally don't like them.

I don't have many favorites, but there is only one art group in Osaka called Dig me out.

So, I was able to enter at this age, and the job I received was to draw the cover of a free paper for a famous Osaka radio program called FM802, and that alone has always been my favorite. Around 2020.

Photograph of illustrator Kiyokazu Tsujino's work
Kiyokazu Tsujino's Instagram

I have a fondness for it, so I personally like it.

ーーWhat is your motivation for creating your works?

After all, I want to make good things.

I feel like it's a hassle, but when I'm doing it, I feel like I don't like it, and I want to make it better, so I think it's going to be a series of repetitions, and next time I'll try more. I want to do better.

ーーHow long does it take to draw one?

It depends on the item, but it usually takes less than an hour or two for something I post on Instagram.

Even if you stick to it, it's digital, so I think you can draw it in a day.

What we want to challenge from now on

ーーPlease tell us what you want to challenge in the future.

One is that I want to increase my work as an illustrator.

Apart from that, I would like to be able to produce some results as an art. I hope to produce solid results this year and connect them to next year.

ーーYou want to establish your own art theme.

What does art mean to Kiyokazu Tsujino?

ーーWhat does art mean to you, Mr. Tsujino?

Hmm, it's difficult (laughs)

But honestly, I think it's a hobby. It may sound strange.

For example, people who are addicted to fishing can enjoy just fishing, but they are more and more particular about it. I wondered how I could catch more fish.

I think it's close to that kind of feeling.

As he draws, he says, "If I do this, I can make a more interesting picture."

Including that meaning, it may be a strange way of saying it, but I think of it as a hobby.

ーーI see, illustration is work, and art is a hobby, isn't it?

Well, to be honest, illustration is also a hobby.
In that sense, my hobby is my job, and I think I'm doing my ideal job.

To make a living as an illustrator

ーーI think there are many people who aspire to live as an illustrator, but what about working as an illustrator?

I don't know, but if you're aiming to be an illustrator, I think you should definitely do it.

It's definitely fun, and you can do everything at your own pace, so if you're someone who's compatible with that sort of thing, it's definitely suitable for you.

ーーAre there many painful times?

I wonder if there is... But somehow my mind has changed, and I feel like I've become a person who doesn't feel uneasy. I used to feel that way.
Strangely, I don't have any anxiety, I feel like I'm going to die (laughs)
I'm having fun.

That's why art is more difficult than illustration. Because you can't find the answer in art.

ーーNowadays, there are quite a few people who draw pictures digitally, so what are your strengths compared to other illustrators?

It's not a touch part of the picture, but there is a place where I draw quickly.
Therefore, there is basically no need to worry about the delivery date.

Other than that, it's a matter of course, but I also make detailed contact and act to win trust in areas other than paintings.

Also, it may be good that the data is delivered in a data format that is easy for the client to use.

It's not a touch part of the picture so much, but I think that's what it is. Everything is completed with one iPad.

ーーI see. Being an illustrator means you can work anywhere, so you can spend more time with your family.

I'm always with you It's rarer when we're not together.

ーーThank you very much for your time today! It was a very valuable time to learn various things about Mr. Tsujino. I think there was a lot to learn for those who aspire to be illustrators.

At the end

This concludes our interview with Mr. Kiyokazu Tsujino, who has become an independent illustrator and is also challenging himself as an artist.

I learned a lot about how I started illustration, how to live as an illustrator, and the difference between illustration and art.

Tsujino's works are also available on the online shopping site MONOLiTH!
Please check it out.

Click here for Kiyokazu Tsujino's work

Also, if you are wondering what is the correct way to buy art, this article is for you.
The basic knowledge of art purchase is summarized.

Thank you for reading this far.
See you soon!

MONOLiTH Operation Manager
Gosuke Onoda