EK Interview: Yuta Onoda

Yuta Onoda is an illustrator and painter based out of Toronto, Canada, but originally hailing from Japan.  He has had a number of different clients over the past years, and has showed at several galleries in that time as well.  He frequently incorporates humans and animals into his work, emphasizing both our connection and departure from the natural world.  Check out his interview:

What part of Japan are you from?  What was the street you grew up on like?

I was born and raised in a suburb of Tokyo. My house is about 45 minutes away from Tokyo by train. The best thing about home is that it’s a very quiet/comfortable place to live. I’m not really accustomed to a big/busy place and I find that this suited my life style the most. Also, anything you would need can be found there, so you would never have difficulty living in this area.

art blog - Yuta Onoda - Empty Kingdom

How do you like Canada compared to Japan?  How have the different locations influenced your work?

I think I like Canada and Japan equally. 🙂 But living in two different cultures has definitely opened my eyes. I don’t think I would have been able to start my career as an illustrator / painter if I didn’t move to Canada. Having connections with people from different cultures really has changed my thinking process – It has definitely helped me have more perspectives.

art blog - Yuta Onoda - Empty Kingdom

Where do you find inspiration?

Anything that makes me stop, look, feel and listen to it again.


What do you think is the advantage of using Ink and graphite over mixed media and vice versa?  Do you prefer paper or wood?  What aspects do you like about each of the separate template?  Tell us about Libido.

My work is mainly a mix of linear, detail, and decorative elements. So, the advantage of using Ink and graphite over mixed media for me is that they fit with my illustration/painting approach. I like both aspects of paper and wood because they are different mediums and give different moods to a finished look.

“Libido” is one of the earliest pieces I worked on when I was taking an illustration program. I was into Ukiyo-e and Art Nouveau at the time and I wanted to work on an experimental piece to see how it would look like if I combine both styles of art.

art blog - Yuta Onoda - Empty Kingdom

How did you get a job with Popular Mechanics?  What was Exploring the Void about?

I think the AD contacted me and few weeks later I sent out my postcard promo to him. “Exploring the Void” was about the Extreme Environments Lab at the University of Minnesota. The lab studies the minds and bodies of extreme explorers, whether to the North Pole or outer space, and identifies how they differ from the rest of us. The knowledge may be used to select a perfect, psychologically sound crew for a mission to Mars.

art blog - Yuta Onoda - Empty Kingdom

What kind of creative control were you given?

He gave me a total freedom for this assignment. He only asked me to alter few parts when I submitted some sketches to him. I have had a few opportunities to illustrate for Popular Mechanics and it’s always been a pleasure working with him.


A lot of the work you’ve done has been for magazines and publications, who was the best client to work for?  How do you approach this kind of work differently than a personal piece?

Fortunately, every project I have worked on so far was really fun and challenging. It’s always exciting to receive a story/article and come up with images. Illustration is a communication art, so when I work for clients, it is very important that my work communicates with the audience.

When working on a personal piece, I think that the communication aspect becomes less prioritized. I get to work on whatever I like!

art blog - Yuta Onoda - Empty Kingdom

Which has been the most challenging client that you’ve worked for?

Every project has been challenging for me. I get very nervous every time I receive an assignment from clients. But it’s such a very rewarding feeling when I send a final to clients and they are happy with it!


Of all your work, which is your favorite piece?  What do you like about it?  How did you know when you were finished?

It’s hard to tell which one is my favorite piece, but “To Lost Friends and Fallen Comrades” for Modern Dog Magazine is one of the most memorable pieces for me. I had a dog in Japan and it is truly sad that dogs have so short span of life. The main idea I had for the assignment was more like my message to my dog. My dog lived for 16 years and he passed away couple days before I received this assignment… It was a painful process but I wished that he would make a lot of friends / live happily in his next journey. I feel very fortunate that I had the opportunity to work on this assignment, and came up with an image that is partially dedicated to my dog.

art blog - Yuta Onoda - Empty Kingdom


What’s a good piece criticism or advice that you’ve been told?

Always criticize your work, always work hard, never stop leaning and enjoy what you do.


What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on some illustrations for magazines and book covers. These books will be available in store around this summer, so please keep an eye on my website/blog for more updates!

art blog - Yuta Onoda - Empty Kingdom


By the end of 2012 what do you hope to have achieved?

I feel very unfortunate that I haven’t been able to participate in many gallery shows these days… I think my focus went towards illustration last year, but it doesn’t mean I will stop painting. I have been learning a lot of new things through illustration, and I hope that I would be able to apply these to a painting and take it to a next level. It’s definitely hard to focus on two things at the same time, but I really do hope that I will be capable of working on both of them this year.

art blog - Yuta Onoda - Empty Kingdom