Eri Aikawa views her illustrative practice as a safe space “away from the dangers of the world”

Despite this success, she says: “I still view my art as a work in progress. I try to become better every day by constant practice, and I intend to keep on doing that because no one is truly finished with their journey in art. I don’t want to stay idle with what I do, I want to keep evolving until I’m done in this world.”

While still evolving, Eri has unleashed a unique illustrative style that’s both colourful and glossy; it’s one that’s undeniably her own. She draws female characters – just like her mum – and applies the shiniest looking hair we’ve ever seen. Oftentimes these characters will be doing normal activities like painting their nails, smoking and eating food, but what makes them stand out the most is their fashion, makeup and, of course, their sass. Y Eri’s manga and anime influences are clear while looking at her portfolio, not to mention the fact that she grew up in the 90s to mid-2000s surrounded by J-pop, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Disney, Bratz dolls, Barbie, Furbies and Girl-tech gadgets.

When asked to pick out a few of her favourite illustrations, Eri points us first in the direction of 2000s kid. A scene depicting her subject falling asleep at her desk mid-doodle, it’s a familiar setting for all millennials: star-shaped hair clips, homework, a pencil with a bear on the end. “This is basically what my childhood looked like,” she says. “Falling asleep while trying to study for a test which I probably failed. These are the items I used to own; I loved collecting stationery that I never used. I still have them today.”

Next, she refers us to Futago, an illustration crafted for the Power of Numbers 6 show in Gallery Nucleus, Portland. The title translates to “twins” in English and, just like the rest of her work, is also inspired by anime. Featuring a rose-bud border and a shiny chain connecting the two subjects, she adds: “This is one of those cases where I just draw what’s inside my mind without much further thought.” Just Girly Things II, on the other hand, is a pivotal piece for Eri as it was the first time she’d experimented with both digital and analogue techniques. “I used a lightbox to sketch and colour it using procreate. I have a fascination for pinup, Playboy magazine and pulp covers. This is basically my take on stripping off the sexuality and making it look mundane or at least give it a chiller vibe, as opposed to the glamour and sexuality that’s usually portrayed by women.”

Eri views her work as a safe space and a place in which she can express herself freely. Describing herself as “not good with words”, she instead refers to art as her means of communication – using it to spread her messages and in turn, build “a place away from the dangers of the world”. She concludes: “I want art to be cozy, not just for the audience but for the creator as well. I want the process to be as pretty as the outcome.”

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