It takes talent, hard work, and consistency to become a full-time, freelance illustrator. Yet the artist Sekai of Kangae, above all, just loves what she does. She creates cheerful scenes placed in Japan and bathed in orange, all this to put us in a good mood. We talked about her style, inspirations, and first steps as a graphic designer, so read more below and dive into the world of this French creator.
What does Sekai of Kangae mean?
Sekai means “world” and Kangae “idea.” In Japanese, words can have different meanings depending on the sentence or situation, and it was a way to represent my universe by this name. For me, it’s a way to welcome you into my art world.
How did you become an artist?
I’m still young, I’m 23, and I finished my master’s degree in graphic design last year. I’ve always wanted to freelance, and I worked many years to become one at the end of my studies. I’ve always liked to draw and was hoping to use this capacity a bit later, as I didn’t have much time to sketch. But the covid gave me a lot of time last year, and I took it to draw and practice every day. I improved a lot, and since people started to follow me and enjoy my work, I thought about having a small shop to sell my art. Now it’s been a year since it’s open, and it grows every month. It takes time, but I’m really happy to do what I’ve always wanted to do. I’m a graphic designer too, but I spend much time drawing and working more on my skills to develop this side. I really want to continue improving because I’m still young and learning by myself.
If you could pick one place to spend much of your time creating, what would it be?
My room is my best place to create. It’s the place where I really feel comfy and have my habits. I spend much time as a freelancer there, and it’s really important for me to feel at ease. But even though I need resourcing time to be at my best, when I travel, discover new places, see landscape and mood that help take a deep breath of fresh air and concentrate more and get more ideas.
You are inspired by Japan. Do you have any other inspirations?
Japan inspires me a lot with the landscape and the mood. My inspiration is more into “moods” and feelings, and I like to share illustrations with a special atmosphere. Many people told me that what they like about my work is that you can imagine a story behind it in every illustration. And that’s my goal, to let people have feelings and thought of their own when looking at my illustration. So I guess what inspires me is creating atmosphere. I think Ghibli is really strong in creating special vibes in their movies, and there are a lot of moments every day that create an atmosphere that gives me ideas for later.
What or who influenced your work?
Time and effort had a lot of influence, and it took time to develop my style. But I’m following a lot of amazing illustrators; Paiheme and Niniwanted are two french artists (and I like to support french people), with two different universes, and they do a great and inspiring job. They have a way to create illustrations with a very professional look, and I can’t see any defect in them. I admire that a lot, and I hope to have the same impression watching mine later. There are a lot of others that I follow, but I think these two are my favorite creators.
You create a lot of characters. Who are they?
I don’t really know. At first, I had one character I used in all my watercolors. I painted places that pleased me, so I drew a character that looked like me because it was where I wanted to be. But now, I’m trying to make more different people. I prefer drawing teenagers, students, or young people exploring the world, but they aren’t particular people. I like to create different ones so that people who look at my illustrations can identify with the characters.
How did you come up with your color palette?
Choosing the color is the hardest moment in my process. I duplicate my illustrations so many times and try many color moods until I find the good ones. I think it’s the part which can take me the most time! So when I find it in the first round, I’m thrilled to gain 10 hours of work without testing. Generally, I start with a photo or image with a color palette that suits what I h1kad in mind, take the global harmony, and then modify and add colors. Sometimes I re-use colors in other illustrations, but I still change them a little.
When did you develop your final style?
It’s a very long process to develop our style. As an artist, I think it’s a goal to be “unique,” but it can take a lot of time. Each person is different, so for some, it will take a month, and for others, five years. I guess it’s funny to ask me that because I had to write a thesis to get my master’s degree, it was only a year ago, and my subject was: “how to develop our own style and be unique.” It was a very personal question about one of my biggest struggles: developing my art and letting it show who I am in my style. I started drawing when I was a toddler, tried different techniques, and I quickly enjoyed watercolor. I tried many things, styles, and subjects, but everything changed during the confinement. It was a load of free time for me, and I used it to draw and take time to put the worlds I had in mind onto paper. So I re-started doing watercolors and making my own illustration about my thoughts. I made a lot of illustrations during some months, but I got a lot of comments that compared me to some other artist’s work. Despite it being kind and somewhat flattering because the artists were great, I really wanted to have a style that people will not compare to others’. At the same time, I got my first Ipad Pro, and I started drawing on it. After weeks and months of trying, I finally found the style of inking and coloring that suited me, and now I’m still developing it.
Do you have any other passions?
Yes, I love all manual work and trying new things around that. I really want to make ceramic one day, but it’s really expensive for me now. I enjoy watching ceramic artists making art, and I want to try that one day. I love photography too, and my other passion is cooking. Maybe because I’m French, I’m more into gastronomic cooking, and that’s a link to everything I make, I guess. My favorite part of cooking is when I present the food on the plate and dispose of each element. It’s like making an art piece.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m testing different things. I really want to improve and be able to live well off my job making illustrations. I try new things to enhance it in my shop, and I’m happy with the evolution in one year, so I want to continue in that direction. I’m hoping to get opportunities with brands one day, I still need to improve, but I’d be delighted to make my first collab.