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From the Sketchbook:
Rachel Wada

This CBC series features illustrators sharing their creative process and providing a gossamer of context for their art.

Our artist this week is Rachel Wada and her artwork is defined by heavy texture, bold color and intricate details that capture the nuances of people, places and ideas. Rachel’s identifies: as Japanese-Cantonese, an immigrant and a woman. Here, she discusses her inspiration for the picture book The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden.

The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden is inspired by the true story of the wind phone in Otsuchi, Japan, which was created by artist Itaru Sasaki. He built the phone booth so he could speak to his cousin who had passed, saying, “My thoughts couldn’t be relayed over a regular phone line, I wanted them to be carried on the wind.” The Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011 destroyed the town of Otsuchi, claiming 10 percent of the population. Residents of Otsuchi and pilgrims from other affected communities have been traveling to the wind phone since the tsunami.

“The final illustrations are an assemblage of both hand drawn / painted elements and digitally illustrated elements . . . . To illustrate the wave, I wanted to capture the movement and energy of a tsunami. To achieve this, I utilized heavy ink and brushstrokes to emulate the dynamic nature of the waves.”

“Since this story is based on true events, places, and things, it was crucial to do my due diligence to study such reference photos for accuracy. In the initial research stage, I looked through countless photos of the 2011 Tohoku tsunami and earthquake, [this is] the Wind Phone built by Itaru Sasaki.”

“As The phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden is inspired by true events which occurred in Japan, I wanted the visual style to reflect the story’s cultural roots. Therefore, much of the source material contains vintage Japanese Children’s books, ukiyo-e Japanese woodblock prints and other visual assets specifically from Japan.”

More of Rachel Wada’s artwork can be found in The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden

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