Yoko Furusho is a Japanese illustrator based in New York, and was featured in my first book, Amelia’s Anthology of Illustration. Since then she has worked with a long list of commercial clients, and featured in many exhibitions and books. She loves to draw details, textures and patterns with ink and acrylics. The Scenery of the Other Side was inspired by Japanese ideas of the afterlife, following the recent loss of her grandfather. ‘Souls must cross a huge river, and are first judged by the King of Hell. Cows and horses carry the good souls to heaven and my illustration shows what I think this might look like.’
Your artwork is titled Scenery of the Other Side – what elements does of this world did you decide to feature and why?
I wanted to focus on the after life world which we don’t understand. Since I lost my grandfather last year, I started to think about where we go after our life. I guess I was very lucky that until last year nobody around me has died, so I was very shocked to realize what happens at the funeral ceremony and when the souls go away.
How did you create the artwork and what inspired the colour palette?
I always like using colours but I chose really happy colours to create the after life world, because I want the old souls (including my grandfather) to be happy.
It was inspired by the death of your grandfather, what did you learn about how death is dealt with in Japan, and what most surprised you?
In Japan, funeral ceremonies are very solemn. The funeral is usually on the day after the wake, and the procedure is similar to the wake, where incense is offered while a priest chants a sutra. At the end of the funeral ceremony, the guests and family may place flowers in the casket around the deceased’s head and shoulders before the casket is sealed and carried to the elaborately decorated hearse and transported to the crematorium. Actually I was very surprised about the funeral alter. The ceremonial alter is covered in flowers so that it looks like a palace in a flower field. Then I realized that is where my grandfather would go and live after he died. So I felt very weird. I was so sad that I lost my grandfather, but I thought that if he was going to live in such a place in the after life, then actually that wouldn’t be too bad.
You contributed to my first illustration book several years ago, what has happened in your career since then?
Yes, Amelia’s Magazine was one of my first clients. I remember that I was so excited when I first saw the magazine on the news stand in New York. And I was even more excited when I realized that the magazine is based on open-briefs. In that point in my career it was a great opportunity to show my work to people who are excited about the sort of cute and colourful illustrations that I make. So I really appreciate the chance I was given by the magazine and I wanted to celebrate your 10th birthday with my art.
What has been you favourite commercial brief and why?
So far, I have worked on four childrens’ books in Europe and in Japan. Through working on these books, I have come to realize how much I like books. When I see children happily reading my books this is such a precious moment for me. Now that I am so passionate about books, my long-term goal is to have an exhibition featuring all of the books that I have published.
What else are you working on at present?
Currently, I’m working on my next children’s book, which is going to be published as my second original. At the same time, I liked the theme that I worked on for That Which We Do Not Understand so much that I have started to create a new series called The Scenery of the Other Side, which features the fantasy world of Japanese afterlife. You can see some of the images I have made so far in this blog post: I am going to include the hell side of the after life world as well!
Lastly, was this work in any way cathartic to create? And if so what was the most cathartic part of the creation?
The concept came up easily because I have been interested in the theme since last year. So this imaginary afterlife world was just opened in my mind. I looked for Japanese rituals after the life and drew them straight to the end. I think it has been a good time for me to create my own series and I’m happy that I could end up with this image. Thank you!
Yoko describes her illustration in more detail here. You can pledge for her marvellous artwork, featuring gorgeous gold leaf highlights all over, on my Kickstarter campaign here. Just 5 days left to go to make your pledge!
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