In Nori Okawa’s illustrations, the articulation of characters and movement is pared down to the most minimal use of lines and shapes. Bodies are represented by broad ovals with the hands, feet and heads becoming simple spheres. But with such a condensed selection of shapes to work with, Nori’s illustrations are far from lacking in expression and momentum. Figures dance and fly with elongated arms contorting into impossible poses, the simplicity of the figures contrasted with the vibrant use of colour and textures to animate each scene.
While this visual style gives Nori’s characters a unique and modern feel to them, much of her influences go as far back as the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. “Ukiyo-e was a form of entertainment for the common people during the Edo period,” the artist explains. During this period of rapid economic growth, a flourishing culture of art and entertainment was enjoyed by even the lowest of the social pecking order in Edo (now Tokyo). The word “Ukiyo” (“a floating world”) was used to describe this lifestyle.
While Nori is an avid fan of the Apple Pencil and makes her illustrations on Procreate, Ukiyo-e pieces were traditionally made as woodblock prints or paintings. However, when taking a closer look at her illustrations, you’ll find textures and forms which recall the repeated patterns often found in traditional woodblock prints. Inspired by the hedonistic subject matter and techniques of Ukiyo-e, Nori is fascinated by the genre because it was made for the “common people”. Hoping to take a similar line in her own work, and with a keen awareness of the need for art in the troubling times we live in, Nori aims to make illustrations which allow her viewer to “project themselves” elsewhere.