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Okubo Tsugumi

Illustrator. Born in 1990. Graduated from Nihon University College of Art, Department of Fine Arts
Twitter: @croissant_buil
Instagram: @marble_no_ofuro

Today, we got the chance to interview Okubo Tsugumi, the hands behind the new Copic Ink image illustration. She told us about her workflow and how she reached her distinctive style.

First of all, thank you so much for the beautiful illustration. You are working as an illustrator since you graduated from university; When did you start drawing? When did you decide to become one?
Looking at photos that my parents took, I’ve always loved to draw. I thought illustration was one of the careers I could choose since my elementary years. I decided to become an illustrator in my 4th year in university.

When did you start to use Copic markers? Can you tell us about your experience with Copic until now and what made you decide to use it? Did you use it exclusively, or have you tried other brands along the way?
I borrowed a Copic marker from a friend when I was in middle school. That sparked my interest in Copic. I got the Copic Ciao A, B, C, D sets for Christmas and birthday presents then I collected the remaining colors in 2 years. Back then, I used Copic markers for coloring manga illustrations. My major was oil painting in my high school and university years, so I got away from Copic.
I started using Copic again after I graduated from university. I thought that using the style that I learned during my school years was not a good fit for work. I found my old Copic markers when looking for something to use for my drawings. When I tried to use them, the ink came out perfectly, so now I buy new colors to add when I need them.

I felt your love for drawing as you were always scribbling during our meeting the other day. Is there ever a time that you cannot draw as planned or cannot draw at all?
I feel that way most of the time. I want to continue working as an illustrator for a long time, so I try not to focus too much on coming out from a slump. I’m not in a slump if I don’t feel like it (laughs). If I cannot draw, I use my time to enjoy other things besides illustration to change my mood.

An illustration based on a photo the staff took during the meeting.

How many colors do you use in one illustration? What are your favorite Copic colors?
I have never counted the amount of Copic markers that I used in a drawing, so I cannot give a precise number. I use around 30 colors for an illustration. I use B00 and B12 a lot. It would be a huge problem for me if they run out of stock! I'd love to have hundreds of those colors (laugh). I always used B29 in my early days.

What other art supplies do you use besides Copic? You said your major was in oil painting. How do you differentiate the use of oil painting and Copic?
I also use colored pencils and watercolors but mainly use Copic markers lately. There are differences in layering the colors and the waiting time. For coloring, I use oil and Copic markers in the same way.

Your style is about making the illustration after putting the colors on paper. What was the reason that made your style the way it is now?
After graduating, I worried without any end about my style. One day, an illustration I made in my fourth year in college about a distant island colored with Copic markers came to my mind. When I showed it to my friend, it told me that the drawing was great and that I should organize an exhibition with this style. While drawing island illustrations every day, I could draw mountainous landscapes and streets before I knew it. The process was so pleasant, I made it into my style.

A snippet of the fateful distant island.

At first, I used Copic markers for the background, after drawing the characters with pencils. However, when I showed my drawings to another illustrator, I was advised to use Copic markers only for my artworks. So from that point and on, I draw both the landscape and the characters with Copic markers. When I started using Copic markers again, I used them as my primary medium and not as a tool to use on line art. That is why I can create this style because I use every shade as an art medium.

Besides landscapes, you seem to draw buildings and flowers often. Why do you choose these motifs?
I like to express where the lighting falls in the drawing dramatically, so I tend to choose the same themes. I like bushes and leaves and the way plants are expressed differently when you change the point of view.

You look so good at controlling ink bleeding. Do you have any tips about it?
I am not sure if I am good at controlling ink bleeding or not. I will leave the ink imperfections and bleedings because they are some of the best parts of ink artwork.

Can you tell us about the paper and Copic combination you are using?
I like paper that absorb ink slowly because I want to blend different inks.

Did you ever use the inks directly on your artwork? In the video-making process, what did you think about Copic Ink?
It was my first time using Copic Ink as I use Copic markers only. It was hard to control the ink in the way I wanted, but it was interesting. I might be able to find a new way of expression if I continue to use Copic Ink.

Thank you so much for your time today.

Check out the beautiful color mixing and blending of Miss Okubo in her illustration video.

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