Illustration

5 Sumi-e Illustrators and Painters To Follow

Discover the books, artists, and films to add to your reference library for Japanese art

Whether you already have a project in mind or are looking for ideas to inspire your next creation, getting to know and studying the work of other creatives will always help to awaken your imagination.

Illustrators Mika Takahashi and Flor Kaneshiro share a selection of inspirational artists using Indian ink and watercolor to create Japanese-style illustration and sumi-e painting.

Flor Kaneshiro’s Influences

Flor Kaneshiro (@florkaneshiro) is an Argentinian illustrator specializing in traditional Japanese illustration. Her work features chiefly in video and editorial illustration projects.

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Flor Kaneshiro

In her course, Watercolor Illustration with Japanese Influence, she shares some of the artists that she admires and who encourage her to keep learning.

Oga Kazoo

Oga Kazuo is an art director and a background artist for films produced by Studio Ghibli. In the book, Oga Kazuo Animation Studio Ghibli Artworks, you will discover their sketches, backgrounds, and illustration studies.

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Oga Kazuo Animation Studio Ghibli Artworks

Watch this video showing one of the processes and their fluid use of watercolor:

Isao Takahata

Isao Takahata, along with Hayao Miyazaki, is a founder of Studio Ghibli. He worked as a director, producer, and scriptwriter. Flor considers the film, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, which is about a traditional Japanese legend, to be one of Takahata’s most inspiring works. All of the backgrounds were painted in watercolor. In the book, The Art of The Story of the Princess Kaguya, you can learn all about the art direction for this beautiful film.

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The Art of The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Watch the trailer below and a brief video about the creative process behind the film:

Chihiro Iwasaki

Chihiro Iwasaki was an illustrator known for their portraits of children using watercolors. Flor is inspired by the technique she mastered using stains, as well as their use of color and plants. You can discover more of their work in the book Chihiro Iwasaki Art Illustrations Book Autumn and on her website.

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Chihiro Iwasaki Art Illustrations Book Autumn
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Chihiro Iwasaki. Google Arts and Culture

Mika Takahashi’s influences

Mika Takahashi (@takamiks) is a visual artist and illustrator who started their career working at animation production companies as well as creating illustrations for books and magazines.

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Mika Takahashi

In their course, India Ink Illustration with Japanese Influence, they explain that analyzing other artists’ work and how it influences you will help you reach your own creative solutions.

Takehiko Inoue

Takehiko Inoue is a Japanese mangaka (manga artist). Besides having been awarded various illustration prizes, he is the creator of one of the best-selling mangas in history, Slam Dunk, which you can find in many different compilation books.

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Slam Dunk

In this video, although it doesn’t have subtitles, you can appreciate their technique:

Taiyo Matsumoto

Another Japanese manga and comic strip artist, Taiyo Matsumoto, is known for this peculiar surrealist style. Mika is blown away by the versatile nature of Taiyo’s work and the way they control the ink. You can see more examples in books such as Takemitsu Samurai.

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Taiyo Matsumoto

His work Tekkonkinkreet was adapted for the screen. Watch the trailer below:

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