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Thursday 8 December 2022

Meet The Illustrator: Sarah Matsuda

Sarah Matsuda

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Colourful acrylic and mixed media in a semi-realist style.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
A good light for working at night (I have a Uniqu phone stand with LED lighting), my iPhone for listening to art podcasts, my Macbook Pro for research, a spray bottle filled with water to wet my palette - even though I use acrylic, I can use the paint over days/weeks if I spray it often and cover it after use. That way I have wet paint ready to use in those little fragments of time that exist in motherhood and I don’t have to constantly clean my palette and waste paint.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
I love to mix it up with layers of acrylic paint, Conte pencils, Posca pens and Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencils in 8B (The B stands for black and it’s quite different to other graphite pencils). Sometimes I use pastel too.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Mary Cassatt, Adrienne Stein, Elly Smallwood.

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
Probably the American Renaissance, because I would love to see John Singer Sargent paint. His work seems so effortless, but I have heard he carefully considered each brush stroke before he laid it down.

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
My background is fashion design, specifically couture wedding gowns. I would always draw theatrical sketches for my clients of their gown design before it was made-to-measure. I always adored looking at fashion illustrators' work such as David Downton.
I’m a third generation artist and when I moved to Brisbane from Sydney, I decided to give up fashion design and focus on art. I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity to work with my best friend Cate Storey who was starting a new publishing house called Wet Season Books focusing on books for children about Australia’s ecology.

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often? Talk us through it.
I live in a two bedroom apartment with my husband and daughter. We all sleep in one room (as is the Japanese custom), so the second bedroom is a combined playroom and my workspace. We have a basement that I was planning to use as a studio, but that hasn’t worked out so far as my daughter is with me most hours of the day and it’s not very stimulating for her there.
My workspace consists of a simple Ikea desk. I have worked on quite large pieces there, but it would be awesome to have more space! I also have to constantly pack things away and make sure they are out of reach of curious hands!
I try to keep things a bit minimalistic and not waste, but I think a true artist needs to vary their methods and techniques from time to time! So I do have quite a range of materials from Lami pens, inks, pastels, watercolours!
I also move between spaces occasionally, going to my artist Mother Robyn Bauer’s studio. My Mum helps me look after my daughter so I can get some work done. So it’s essential that I keep my work portable.. I often have to lay artwork that is still wet on thick plywood boards on the seat or floor of the car to transfer between studios. I also carry my big palette with its cover around too and a pencil case of materials.

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
I really enjoy when I have planned out the picture and laid down some basic lines and I’m starting to splash around the paint. Also when I’ve done a few layers and I break out the pens and pencils and add extra brightness and sharpness.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
Don’t worry about trying to find your style. Just draw lots of different subject matters and eventually it will start to emerge. Also try to practice drawing from life, it’s so different to using a photo reference and really helps you loosen up and become a better drafts-person!

Sarah Matsuda is a fine artist and illustrator interested in maternal themes and the human figure. She has illustrated two children’s books: Snuggled Away about Australia’s nocturnal wildlife and The Perfect Hollow about a Greater Glider searching for a home. Sarah is currently working on book three about Australian birds.

For more information, please visit Sarah's website or follow her on instagram.