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Portfolio: Yuta Onoda
Inspired by the comics and ukiyo-e prints of his native Japan, the Toronto artist Onoda mixes sweetness and dark.

In the midst of some recent online meandering, I came across the startling work of Japanese illustrator Yuta Onoda. His style is layered in technique and meaning, never short of humour – and simply just beautiful. I was surprised to learn that he lives and works in Toronto, so I instantly emailed him to set up a brief interview. How did you end up in Toronto? I’m originally from Tokyo, but I spent a year in Vancouver studying English. Then I heard about Sheridan College in Toronto and decided to take its illustration program. I graduated in 2009 and have been working as a freelance illustrator/painter since. How would you describe your work? I really love to come up with images that have narrative elements in them. An image that tells you a story. Tell me about your process? I do a lot of research when I start working on a project. I always try to get familiar with the topic/theme first so that I am able to come up with variety of ideas. I begin working on sketches before moving on to the finals. Images are mainly created with a mix of traditional and digital processes. Linear work is mainly done with pen and pencil. I play with creating some texture with acrylic paint before scanning and colouring digitally. I love traditional art, so I always try to keep some traditional elements in my work so that they do not look too digital. What are your inspirations? My inspirations usually come from anything that makes me stop to look, feel or listen. I read many comics when I was a kid and I believe it’s one of the main reasons why I incorporate a lot of outlines in my work. Decorative elements come from the influence of art nouveau and ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock prints of Edo era). One of the reasons why I love ukiyo-e is its use of a limited palette, which I always try to emulate. It’s very simple, but it helped me learn how to use colours effectively. I also like its linear stylization. There are a lot of different variations of linear work, and I find that it works very nicely with limited colours. There are so many artists I admire, but one of my favourites is Utagawa Kuniyoshi. I first came across his work when I was in the first year of my illustration program, and have been loving it since. Has living in Toronto affected your work? Living in two different cultures has definitely opened my eyes and I don’t think I would’ve been able to start my career as an illustrator/painter if I didn’t move to Canada. Having connections with people from different cultures really have changed my thinking process – it has definitely helped me have a wider perspective and to look at things differently.  

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