We’re delighted to bring you this interview with Junko Mizuno, a comics creator and illustrator who has created the terrific promotional poster for this year’s upcoming Lakes International Comic Art Festival, and is one of many international guests who will be the weekend-long event in October.
Having grown up in Tokyo, Junko is a self-taught artist, recognised for her unique visual iconography of powerful and often sexy women.
Although her art refuses to be categorised, much of it is based on Japanese pop culture from the 1970s and ’80s, with the sources of her inspiration stemming from fetish art, folk art, religious art, psychedelic art, pin-up art, advertising art, vintage toys, fashion, comic, food, nature, movies, TV shows, video games… almost everything that surrounds her.
Currently residing in San Francisco, she is constantly working on new comics, paintings, illustrations, and product designs ranging from toy figures to t-shirts. Her work has been featured in stores, museums, and fine art galleries around the world.
Motivated by the pure pleasure of creating art, she celebrates the power of women and creates a universe of them, full of energy, both positive and negative.
downthetubes: What are you working on, art and comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?
Junko Mizuno: I just finished the pieces for my next art show, which is on now at the Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles. I also have one more show in May, where I’m going to show the original drawings used in my latest colouring book and a lot of new toys and merchandise projects, and more.
Both my first graphic novel from 1998 and my first art book from 2001 are going to be republished this year, which is really exciting!
I’ve been meaning to do a new comic, but I haven’t had the time to really start working on it… I always wish I had five more bodies!
downthetubes: Which artwork or comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?
Junko: I always love challenging and trying new things so each project is very different.
Of course, I’m proud of almost all the things I’ve created but I would say my recent biggest challenge was my first pop up art book, Triad. I made it with a pop-up designer/publisher, Poposition Press, who are based in Colorado.
Even though we used five of my existing artworks, it took us almost a year to make them into pop-up pages. Working on it seemed almost endless, exchanging images and mock-ups, filling in the missing parts over and over again – but I’m really proud of the result. You can see the details about the book on my website.
downthetubes: How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
Junko: I make a list of the things I need to do and there are of course deadlines for each project but I like to be flexible in the time frame.
I have a rhythm of working for about an hour or two and do something else for about an hour but other than that, I don’t plan much. The time I eat and sleep is different every day.
Changes and freedom keep me motivated and I don’t like planning too much, which is why I chose to be a freelance artist.
downthetubes: What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?
Junko: Being able to make a living by doing my most favourite thing is the best, of course. I have the job that I dreamed of as a kid and I never take it for granted.
Also, I was always stressed out doing the same thing at the same time with other people when I was in school so I really appreciate the freedom I have as a freelancer.
It’s great I can enjoy empty malls or museums when everyone is working.
downthetubes: And the worst?
Junko: Deadlines, unstable income and fatigue!
Being able to make art without worrying about deadlines and money is one of my dreams but I may be too old and tired when I can finally do it. (Laughs)
downthetubes: What most distracts you from getting your work done?
Junko: I think many artists will agree with me, social networking gets seriously distracting – especially when I don’t feel like working.
Anxiety is also bad. When I work in my room by myself for too long, my brain starts asking me things like:
“Will anyone buy your stuff?”
“Maybe no one cares about your work?”
That’s when it’s time to go out for a walk or just go to bed and sleep, when these anxieties start to distract me.
downthetubes: Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
Junko: I think it’s easier for everyone to expose their art to the public now
because of the internet, but it may be harder to get published by big publishers…?
But it’s probably easier for artists to publish and sell books by themselves than it used to be before internet so… I don’t know. Sometimes I feel things are not that different than the old days…
downthetubes: Have you ever been to the Lake District, and if so what did you think of it? If you haven’t, and the Festival in October is your first visit, what are you expecting?
Junko: I was invited to the Lakes Festival in 2014 and I loved the Lake District! The Festival was still new and I didn’t have enough time to do a research about the place before I got there and was pleasantly surprised.
I didn’t really expect a Comic Festival happening in such a beautiful place and felt like I was in a dream or something.
The hospitality at the Festival was amazing and I loved talking with other artists and the people who were attending. I’m really excited to come back and I’m planning to have more time to look around this time.
downthetubes: How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?
Junko: They help creators in many ways. You can update yourself, get refreshed and have new ideas by meeting and talking with the fans and other artists, you can promote your work and get more people interested, etc, etc.
I work at home, talking to no-one and it makes me feel strange sometimes. It’s important for me to go out and meet people who actually enjoy my work at events and festivals, so I can finally feel I exist in the world!
downthetubes: What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
Junko: Hmm… that’s very difficult as I do different things and don’t really feel like I belong to one industry… Everyone is different so probably the most important thing is to know what you really want and figure out what’s right for you.
downthetubes: What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?
Junko: I’ve had Donya Todd’s Death & The Girls on my bedside table for a while. It reminds me of the joy to freely create a fantasy world with characters and stories. I actually got it at LICAF in 2014 but it looks like it’s out of print…
Junko, thank you very much for your time and we look forward to seeing you in October in Kendal!
Junko is online at www.mizuno-junko.com
• Junko’s solo exhibition at the at the Corey Helford Gallery, 571 S. Anderson Street, Los Angeles, CA 90033
continues until 30th March 2019 | Web: www.coreyhelfordgallery.com
• The Lakes International Comic Art Festival returns to Kendal at various venues across the town 11th – 13th October 2019 – Early Bird Passes are on Sale Now until 31st March 2019 at www.comicartfestival.com/buy-tickets