Jason Atomic on the left and Junko Mizuno on the right.
Junko blends sweet and cuteness with the grotesque and creepy to create dark re-tellings of fairy tales, her style is called Gothic Kawaii (kawaii means cute in Japan). Mizuno produces comics, paintings, prints, posters and toys, so creatively busy!
Junko spoke about how she has always loved drawing food and girls, both are re-occurring images in her work. Junko was born in Japan and influenced by 1970s Japanese cute culture, she told us that when she was very little she wanted to be a comics artist and loved Hello Kitty and Sanrio characters. Junko believed that she could stop attending school if she became a professional comics artist and sent her first comics to a publisher when she was just 10.
Junko believed she wasn't talented at comics so became an illustrator. She explored artists like Beardsley and made images not stories. From these images she then made comics again and said that at some point the character begins to take on it's own personality. Mizuno states that her art is not creepy and it is not dark its just imagery that comes out of her mind. She said that we all have skulls, they are natural and beautiful.
Junko began to explain her tecnique, "I start with daydreaming or I drink a little. I like walking around, it makes my brain work well, then I sketch and doodle. When I get an image I write the text that is just for me. Then I can storyboard. Sometimes I will ink my drawing and sometimes I will colour digitally."
Junko was more successful in the west and decided to move to San Francisco where she currently resides. She creates a lot of screen prints for band posters in her psychedelic style. Junko said that she is lucky that all the bands that want to work with her are really great bands.
Junko spoke about how she is not religious but does like religious art, particularly Buddhism and Indian Gods, she visited Italian churches to see the over decorated alters.
Junko drawing live on stage.
Junko was asked why her male characters are drawn so small. She replied that she likes drawing the women the most, little girls will usually draw girls and Junko said she hasn't changed out of this habit. Mizuno went on to say that "... in Japan, girls are supposed to be demure and cute" she was feisty and frustrated. "Women are big and strong [in my comics] and the men are always small, this is my personal dreamworld."
I got to meet Junko afterward the talk!
A few days later I went to the exhibition that is on in Atomica Gallery in Covent Garden, I even took along Francesca Cassavetti for a fun day out!