Yuko Okabe

Nov 04


Tell me more about yourself?
Professionally, I’m a practising Illustrator, recently graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design. I’m currently pursuing a picture book project and am working on the side at a start-up game company which spun out of the Boston Children’s Hospital.

More personally, I’m 5’, Japanese-American, allergic to strawberries, apples, and pollen. I dislike saying the word “woman” because it feels weird. I enjoy running, cooking, and casually collecting postcards. My Pottermore house is Gryffindor and my Patronus is a shark (I got a swan the second time, but I prefer the shark 😊 ).

What inspired the hiragana themed project currently running through your Instagram?
For those who don’t know, hiragana is the name of the Japanese syllabic alphabet, consisting of 46 basic characters. This past August, I visited family over in Japan so I had some desire to pursue something related to the language. I had already been playing a lot with abstract shapes and smudges and how to make people out of them; I also had a bit of inspiration from looking at Mitsuo Aida’s poems and scripts.

You tend to draw large groups of figures, why is that?
I like any chance to draw faces and badly anatomically correct figures for sure. By default, I’m guilty of amassing these characters in a bunch or throughout an environment so if it fits into the concept. It’s funny because I’m super anxious about large groups of people in real life so I wonder if this is a backwards coping mechanism.

Are you inspired by certain situations, landmarks, movements that have happened? 
While in a Tokyo museum this past summer, I discovered my fascination with ancient wine vessels from the Zhou dynasty. They came in various shapes and forms which I found delightful. Additionally, I always target the Oceanic/African/South American sections of museums like in The Met and Boston’s MFA since I’m a fan of the way the artisans characterise their masks, figures, and paintings. I’ve also become a fan of public art after taking an elective course. I met and spoke with Dred Scott and Paul Ramirez Jonas whose works I adore for their boldness and charm respectively.

Please tell me a little about your job role at the start-up company which helps children learn coping skills?
I currently work as a contract designer at a start-up called Mighteor by Neuromotion-Labs which spun out of the Boston Children’s Hospital’s Psychiatry Department. I initially began working with them a year ago as part of a RISD fellowship called the Maharam STEM to STEAM program which sponsors students who propose internships in fields where art and design aren’t typically found. At the time, I wanted to propose how Mighteor could involve more of a narrative arc in their game platform to enhance child motivations so I interviewed patients and professionals over at the Boston Children’s Hospital to design assets for Mighteor’s beta-testing. Since then, my roles have varied as a designer: I’ve delivered web designs, marketing materials, presentation materials, game assets, and will soon help conduct further child research and potentially interviews.

Where do you hope to see yourself and your artwork in 5 years time? Do you have any big goals and how do you plan to get there?
I hope to be a better cook and feel more connected to my family. In terms of artwork, I hope that I can continue pursuing personal projects in addition to working with a creative company. I had a passing thought this past week about creating an art blog with a friend so that may be a fun project!  I’m interested in interdisciplinary collaborations and community outreach so it would be exciting to meet more people who would invest in these types of endeavours. I’ve been reaching out to various people locally and through the magical inter-webs and would love to get to meet more types of creatives.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Mm listening to old Disney Channel music. And following hedgehog users on Instagram. 😊

What has been the most interesting discovery since graduation?
I’ve been pleased with the amount of freedom I feel. I think by the end, the structure and class-based day-to-day began to bog down on me as well as other factors that one can’t avoid in a college setting. I have more time to myself now which has helped my emotional health and helped me create more work that I like.

I’ve also been surprised by how nice/natural it is to interact with more non-artists. I think RISD made a bubble where I only interacted with people who talked about their work.  Though interesting, I feared it would make me socially inept to anyone outside of the school. Thankfully, I can still function as a human outside of the art realm, haha.

The red pill or the blue pill?
Is there a purple pill option? Go to Wonderland but still have the comfort of my bed.


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