Interview with Kaori Kasai

Today I’m thrilled to present Vancouver-based artist, illustrator, author and creator Kaori Kasai.

Please introduce yourself to our readers!

My name is Kaori Kasai. a.k.a. Sleepless Kao. An artist-in-motion, who graduated from Setsu Mode of Tokyo in fashion illustration, traveled to live and work in San Francisco, Hong Kong, and now Vancouver.


Can you tell us a bit about some of the projects you’ve worked on so far? It looks like you’ve done a lot of interesting work, including art installations, animations and picture books.

In regards to shows, I have exhibited at gallery 1 (Japan), Giant Robot, Little Otsu and SOMARTS (San Francisco), Compound Gallery (Portland), Helen Pitt Gallery and Blim (Vancouver). In 2007, I was invited to accompany the screening of my new animated short film “Duet” at San Francisco’s Asian American Film Festival and AAIFF (NY). I have also published 3 children’s books with Simply Read Books of Vancouver.


You’ve published three children’s books (so far) – can you tell us what it was like to write and illustrate books for children?

I wanted to create books for kids that are written from a child’s perspective. Because I feel like I haven’t really grown up. Most of the stories are related to my own childhood memories. Also, I love to draw just like a child. If you give me a pen and paper, I would feel like drawing all the time.


Where do you get the ideas for your illustrations?

Usually, there will be a sudden warm feeling that begins in my body, near my heart. Things will pop up and if I have pens and paper close by I will start to doodle. Often I will see a beautiful pattern and color composition in nature, and that will be the inspiration, or song from my past with a nice association. Of course, memories from my childhood is also where some of my ideas come from.

What techniques do you use to make your illustrations?

For illustrations, pen and paper (I’m old school) then I use my Mac computer. I love Apple. My friends call me “Apple SHINJA” (means believer in Japanese). But I also love the feeling of using brushes to paint big paintings with acrylic paints.


What’s the best part about being an artist? What parts aren’t perhaps quite as nice?

Best part…hmmm…I never thought about it. I believed I can only do what I am doing now since my childhood. I try to be an OL (office lady) in Japan. But I was and still really bad with doing any other work, except for teaching art. If I don’t create things, then I will be person of very low self-esteem. Creating, especially drawing makes me happy. Sometimes I fight with my own thoughts and feelings, especially because I work alone and by myself. Other than that, I love my work!


Can you tell us a bit about your career path so far? Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?

Yes. Here is my essay. When I came to Vancouver in 1994 I wrote this:


I am very happy and grateful of the opportunities I have had so far as an illustrator, writer, and art instructor—yes, I do teach fashion illustration and digital animation classes.

You have lived in different cities in different countries around the world. Have the different places you’ve lived influenced or impacted your work?

Yes. A lot! I always want to settle down in one city, but somehow I get bored easily. Moving and traveling gives me energy and a clear mind. I enjoy learning about different cultures, meeting new people, to getting new ideas and knowledge along the way.

Can you tell us about some of the projects you’re working on now?

Yes, I have a big dream. I want to publish Japanese children’s books. Now I am working on mockup for this. Also, I will be having an exhibition in early 2017 just right before Valentine’s Day at a cute boutique call “Branches and Knots” in Kitsilano. I will show my new prints and paintings with my illustrator friend, Jodi Sam.

What advice would you give to someone who might be interested in pursuing a career in art?

I think it is important to follow your own dreams and passion. It is not easy to be an artist, but as long as you don’t give up, you can make it somehow. So, listen to yourself and passion!

Thank you so very much for sharing your thoughts and ideas with us, Kaori! 

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