We had the good fortune of connecting with Yusuke Watanabe and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Yusuke, what do you attribute your success to?
Being healthy, cherishing the time I spend with my family and friends, and keep making my artworks are my successes. I want to keep drawing comics, making picture books, and making animations. I want to make them individually, and I also want to collaborate as a team. It would be great to have an exhibition as well. So many things that I want to do! If you do not draw what you want to when you want, you will miss the chance to know your destination. Therefore, it is also my success and happiness to make what I want to make at the moment I want to make it. But thinking about people interacting with the arts is getting more important for me. I am illustrating this picture book ‘A Fish Called Andromeda’ written by Cynthia C. Huijgens now. It will be published by Idle Time Press in early 2022. This is my main project right now and interacting with readers through this picture book is the next goal for me.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Art had not been present in my life. International business law was my first major at university in Japan. After that, I worked for Japanese mobile phone carrier and ultimately found that I wasn’t happy working in this environment. Life is too long to do what you don’t want to do, but too short to do what you like to do! I started to re-examine what I wanted out of life. I listened to the voice in my mind and understood that I wanted to draw and create stories that inspire people. So, I quit my job and became an artist. Until then, I didn’t have any art background. I taught myself to drawing.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Disneyland, Universal Studio, and Sixflags would be the top three. Well, to be honest, I’m not familiar with around LA. I have spent most of my time at the campus for artmaking since I came to the USA. I don’t have any recommendations but go for a walk and find a good cozy urban cafe would be interesting.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I still remember what I got from my teachers at the mid-term review at Calarts. I guess that was a few weeks after portfolio day of that year which I got this feedback from the recruiter, “Your art is standing alone and it’s too much for the films.” I shared this with my teachers and they told me “Actually, that is a good thing, Yusuke! Make the picture books!”, and that changed my life! I love making animation films but making picture books has also been my important project since then. I made a demo and joined SCBWI winter conference 2021 with it, and I got a callback from a small publisher a few months ago!! That’s how I met with Cynthia. I am deeply grateful to the teachers who pushed me to make a picture book. I would also like to thank the publisher/writer Cynthia for giving me the opportunity to become a picture book illustrator.
The picture book’s illustration work is unique. It’s a lot of fun, but also a lonely journey. The support of my family and friends is enormous for me to walk through it. Nothing can be done without their support. It will be published early next year, so please stay tuned! It might be a long journey but I’m so excited!