On the Spot: Big Japan

July 21, 2022 by Natalia Durżyńska in Artist Interviews

Big Japan’s art brings the expression ‘food for thought’ to life. Literally. Her Japanese food drawings will not only make your mouth water, but also expand your vocabulary. That’s because she’s on a mission to teach Japanese through art!

How did she come up with this idea? What’s the artistic process behind those yummy-looking sushi, noodles, and shabu-shabu? Here to explain it all is Big Japan herself.

You’re a teacher of Japanese. Why did you decide to become an educator?

I love learning new languages and studying everything about different cultures and their history. At the time I took Japanese, the courses weren’t as accessible as they are today. If you wanted to use online resources, you had to pay a lot of money.

Still, a lot of people wanted to learn this beautiful language. That’s why I decided to create my own set of full-fledged and fun courses, so that everyone could pick up Japanese without having to put all their savings into it.

I also love helping people. When my students tell me I helped them understand the language, I feel really motivated to keep going. It’s the most powerful feeling. 

Japanese ramen ingredients
Japanese fried pork

What’s your career path so far?

Learning languages has been my thing ever since I was a kid. My first language was Spanish – I started speaking it even before French! I also learned English and German later in school.

As a teenager, I fell in love with Japan and its culture: manga, art, illustration, and of course the language. I decided I wanted to study Japanese illustration once I finish high school. But then in my graduation year I felt really burned out. 

The very same year I did an internship in Japan. Being there, I discovered just how happy I feel when I learn and discover new things, help people, and simply use the language.

When I came back to France, I made a decision to focus only on Japanese stuff. I created Big Japan on Instagram and started working on content for Japan lovers in my free time, when I wasn’t working in a clothing store or finishing my studies. Of course, I also worked a lot on my illustration skills in my art courses, but we all know how hard art schools can be, especially Japanese ones.

I had to take some time off, just for myself, in order to finally be able to figure out how I want to use my knowledge and passion and share them with others. 

You’re obviously very passionate about Japan. How does your passion influence your art?

Everything I draw is influenced by my love for Japan, simply because everything I read and watch is, too. But I also love other things! Every time I start something new, or even when I just draw for pleasure, I’m thinking about how my work can help someone else. How can I make someone feel the way I feel when I’m drawing?

What’s the inspiration behind your mouth-watering Japanese food designs?

I think a lot of it comes from my personal life and experiences. See, now I love food but I used to hate it! I had a lot of problems eating when I was a kid. Growing old, I’ve tried to work on them. A lot. And eventually, step by step, I learned how to actually enjoy eating. Now I feel happy every time I get to grab a good and healthy meal without someone forcing me into it.  

The inspiration also comes from my travels, when I try various meals from different regions. Also, Pinterest helps me a lot! Through my art, I want to show that food is something we should really take our time to enjoy. Food is art, right?

Japanese kitsune udon
Japanese fried shrimp

How do you create your artworks? What’s your process?

I start with a rough idea and later look at photos on Pinterest for references and textures. 

If my head is empty, I look for inspiration in my own food pictures or check out Pinterest. 

Then I move on to draw a quick sketch. At this point, I don’t really care about the finish or composition – I just want to narrow down the vision for my ideas. Once that’s done, I clean my canvas and draw again, this time making sure the composition is right and the meal I’m drawing looks delicious. 

Next, I start working on lines. I love this part of drawing, when using just a simple pen I come up with many different outlines and make them thinner or thicker, depending on the food I’m drawing. After that come the shadows and colors, then lights, details, and backgrounds, if needed. Sometimes I create backgrounds earlier, especially for more detailed illustrations. 

The process can sometimes take awhile, especially when I’m working on difficult textures. For example, I usually take more time drawing rice – there’s so much detail! 

In your opinion, how important are social media for creators these days?

I think it’s important, as long as your potential audience is out there. See, a lot of people don’t really like social media and some are even afraid of it. But sometimes, and I’ve seen that for a lot of artists, social media can kick off your career. You just need some courage to show your work and use any criticism you receive to learn and progress.

So overall, I think it is important, but not essential. Numbers are not everything, and it’s good to draw a thick line between social media and our lives. 

What are the biggest challenges for you as an artist and a teacher?

Putting everything together and finding a logical connection between all my projects. There are times when I want to do something new with my art, but then I’m like “No, it’s too big. You’re a teacher, not a full-time illustrator, Aurea!”. So every time I have a new idea, I have to tackle that thought – and sometimes it’s really hard!

Japanese sushi

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not teaching or creating art?

I love playing video games and watching streams on Twitch. I also read a lot, especially business and self-improvement books, Japanese and Spanish novels, as well as horror and paranormal stuff, which I’m a big fan of. 

As a teacher, artist, content creator and entrepreneur, you have many different skills. What’s your advice to people who want to learn something new?

Test, learn, and grow! Search the Internet for free stuff, like guides and tutorials, and try them out, just to have your own experience and learn something new. The magic of our era is that nothing stops you from doing that. You can find almost anything for free, even solutions for time, organization, or motivation progress. Just don’t give up, keep looking, and you’re gonna learn so much!

What are your plans for the future?

Wow, there’s just too many of them! I really want to create a place where people can come to learn Japanese and enjoy my art. I want Big Japan to be a safe, fun, and motivating place for every Japan lover out there – and more!

Of course, I also want to live a calm, easy and peaceful life, and build a strong and tight community. I don’t know if any of my students are gonna read this, but I would also love to launch a YouTube channel with my courses. Plus, I want to put more artworks in my shop, do some interviews, contests, and more!

Instagram: @bigjapan

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