Emi Ueoka, Illustrator

Emi Ueoka is an illustrator originally from Japan and currently based in Melbourne. You might have seen her gorgeous illustrations in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Museum of Modern Art Tokyo and Vogue Japan. We love the serenity that her work creates, as if each peaceful line is a moment of calm surrounding our busy lives. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Emi. 

Hi Emi, what do you do?

I'm an illustrator. Most of my commercial work is for magazines, apparel, music... 

I also draw for personal projects, mostly publications and exhibitions. I like drawing things that inspire me from my surroundings and daily life. 

Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?

Be honest and true to myself.

What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?

1). To have met my husband Chris. He encouraged me to draw and to pursue my career as an illustrator. When we lived in Tokyo, we always spent our time at our favourite old tea salons and coffee shops, eating cakes and drawing. I never thought that would one day lead to a career.

2). To have created zines with publisher Nieves Books. When I was a university student, one of my favourite illustrators (Lizzie Finn) published a zine with Nieves and I thought it was so cool. I never dreamed that one day I'd be creating my own publications with Nieves.

3). To be represented by Big Active, a similar experience to Nieves. I'd looked up to the agency since I was an art student and I never even dared to dream about being a part of them. They are extremely  understanding and supportive of my work, like my family and friends.

What is your dream project?

I have too many to note!

What projects do you have in the pipeline?

A few music and book related things... (I shouldn't say too much but it's exciting!).

Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?

Yes, I think everyone is supportive of one another and I've always felt lucky in that way.


If you could choose to hear any female contemporary present at Make Nice, who would it be and why?

Judith Touitou of A.P.C., Sofia Prantera of Aries and another one of my favourite illustrators, Iris du Mouy. I'm a long time admirer of their creations but I don't think much about their personal side has been talked about. I'd love to know how they came about, what their everyday life is like, if they have a favourite cake shop to go to... Things like that.  

What is the best advice you’ve been given, or wish you had been told sooner?

Just do it. (Nike?!). I sometimes get overwhelmed and caught up by the process of planning or organising exhibitions and personal projects. 


What are you listening to, reading, watching of late, that is inspiring or entertaining you?

My best entertainment has been watching my 10 month-old son grow. Apart from that, I've been listening to The Avalanches, just finished reading Patience by Daniel Clowes and yesterday enjoyed a documentary called Stanley Kubrick's Boxes which was recommended by a friend.

What is one facet of your field that you want to see change?

Illustration is often seen as a hobby, not a career, which can make things hard. I feel like the hours spent and practice needed is undervalued.

How can we find out more about your work?

Folio – emiueoka.com
Agency – bigactive
Instagram – @emi_ueoka
Tumblr – emiueoka.tumblr.com