After working as a signboard maker, Ms. Mizutama started her career as a creator of eraser stamps in 2005. Now, she holds eraser stamp classes all over Japan, collaborates with manufacturers, writes many books and has a considerable fanbase on her blog and social networks. She loves Copic Ciao and uses them in her illustrations because of the marker's good coloring and the even application.
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Why did you start using Copic markers?
I started using Copic because a fellow eraser stamp friend recommended them to me. I held a Copic on my hand for the first time ten years ago, when your company participated at a 'Stamp Carnival' event. After a staff member suggested to start with light colors since you can layer them, I bought my first five Copic Ciao markers. When trying them at home, I was amazed by the rendering. I felt I was drawing better than usual and got hooked on them.
I love stationery and I used many different kinds of pens before. However, I never used felt-tip pens to apply colors evenly; I was stunned at how well the colors came out and how evenly they bled when I used the Copic brush. That's when I started to enjoy drawing and started to make illustrations.
So, you didn't draw as a hobby before?
I was working as an eraser stamp maker. I didn't draw with the intent of creating an illustration - I was making stamp blueprints. I still remember that it was fun to color my works after coming across Copic markers!
After some time, I started to color with Copic markers, and an editor I worked with before offered me to publish an illustration guidebook. That was the start of my illustrator career.
We are delighted to hear that Copic kicked off your illustrator career! Speaking of Copic illustrations, you have been posting the "#MizutamaDrawingCoasters" hashtag for a long time on Instagram.
Coaster cards are round, cute, just the right size, and easy to use for me; the Copic ink doesn't bleed through the coaster thick paper. I bought 100 sheets and it became a habit for me to use them every day.
At first, I made one drawing per day. Then, I made one drawing every three days or once a week when I felt like drawing. Ten years have passed and I still continue to draw.
Being able to draw constantly for such a long period is a feat few can accomplish. Do you ever get lost on what to draw?
The motifs of my drawings are similar, so I make changes to the color palette and the character placement while experimenting with new things. Lately, I have been using colored pencils on Copic and looking for new art media combinations.
We heard about your activities as an eraser stamp artist and illustrator. Still, we would also love to hear about your experience when you were a signboard maker! How did you come to that job?
Before working as a signboard maker, I worked for a company that had nothing to do with the creative sector. One day, I remembered a signboard shop on my way to school in my hometown. I thought it would be nice to make something like that, so I started working there. I applied cutting sheets, paint and did some design work as well. That's when I learned by myself how to use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. I worked there for about six years, although I had to change workplaces along the way because I had to move.
So, your experience at a signboard shop became a turning point of your creative career. How do you differentiate between digital and analog media during the creative process?
Lately, I have been making most of my illustrations using digital media. However, I sketch by hand, as a warm-up exercise for the fingers, before using my pen tablet.
I enjoy drawing coasters as a hobby, and I feel that drawing them gives me ideas. When I'm uncertain what to draw for a job, I look back at the coasters I've made before and think, "Oh, I've drawn this kind of thing before" and find new inspiration for the current job.
Digital media is handy, and it expands your range of expression. I'm glad that you've been using Copic for a long time, even though the creative environment has changed.
I love the feeling of the Copic ink soaking into the paper. Rather than just brushing the color, I enjoy that feeling of the ink soaking through. It's intriguing to see how the ink bleeds. I even flip the paper to check how the ink soaked on the back. (laughs)
I usually apply solid colors, but recently I've been using a gradation technique based on "fairy tale coloring." I love that the colors don't dampen out even when merged.
Do you ever get any questions about Copic from your fans?
Many people can't decide which color to buy because there are lots of Copic shades. I often get asked about the colors I'm using now.
A few years ago, when I was shopping at TOOLS, there was a mother who was having a hard time choosing Copic shades as a gift for her child. She asked me for advice, and we chose the colors together (laughs). She was surprised about the refillable ink and the bleedthrough.
Listening to your story, I was astonished that you like so many things and by your extraordinary amount of passion for what you love. I could feel the effort you put in every day to make what you love into a career.
I think it's important to be able to say what you like.
I've published some books as a stationery enthusiast before. However, I don't have technical knowledge about it.
I don't accept collaboration requests unless it's a product I use or love. When creating something, I want to have a clear understanding of the project, from planning to completion. I do all the communication myself.
I'm happy to participate in the creation process, rather than just providing the illustration data and having the finished product. It's a challenge, but I'm not going to compromise on that since it's what I love to do.