PK 146: How to Become an Illustrator. Interview with Artist and Manga for Dummies Creator, Kensuke Okabayashi.

You have to do the legwork. I strongly believe you have to go to the conventions and physically meet people.

~ Kensuke Okabayashi

Want to know how to become an illustrator?

This week, we speak to award-winning professional artist, Kensuke Okabayashi, creator of the bestselling book, Manga for Dummies, and an illustrator who has worked on all kinds of projects, including Magic The Gathering .

So how did he get started in the industry and get his first big break?

In this in-depth interview, you’ll get a fascinating insight into what it’s really like to work as an illustrator and commercial artist in the fast-paced world of game studios and advertising agencies.

You’ll hear why traditional skills such as drawing and oil painting still form the foundations of a successful career as an artist, and why actually getting out there and meeting people is just as important as keeping your social media channels updated.

How to Become an Illustrator – Kensuke’s Story

Interview Chapters:

00:00-02:07

Introduction and Overview

Your host, Mitch Bowler, introduces today’s guest, Kensuke Okabayashi. In this chapter, you’ll hear about his work on Magic The Gathering, creating the Amazon bestseller, Manga for Dummies, and his current career as a storyboard artist in the fast-paced world of New York’s many design agencies.

02:19-03:14

Kensuke on his Latest Graphic Novel Project, The Foreigner

When he’s not busy working on storyboards or book illustrations, Kensuke has found time to work on his graphic novel project, The Foreigner.

After successfully funding this title on Kickstarter last summer, he’s now adding the finishing touches with a view to publishing it in the next few weeks. And you can find out all about it in this chapter.

03:46-05:14

How did Kensuke get Started in his Career as an Artist?

Incredibly, Kensuke didn’t actually go to art school at first. Although he always loved Manga comics as a kid, he couldn’t find enough support in his native Japan to further his career as an artist.

So, after an initial attempt to join the studio team behind Star Blazers as an apprentice fell through, he decided to ‘play it safe’ and opt for a career in childcare. However, it wasn’t too long before he felt burned out and expressed his real dream of going to art school and becoming an artist to his parents…

So, if you’ve been wondering how to become an illustrator or if a creative career is even right for you, check out this revealing chapter of today’s interview.

05:27-07:23

What was art School Like for Kensuke?

Soon after deciding to pursue a career in art, Kensuke enrolled at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York. What was his time there like and which fundamental skills did he learn?

In this chapter, you’ll hear how his enduring passion for oil painting started, and why he came to the conclusion that focusing solely on Manga and comic books wasn’t necessarily going to be the best career option for the future.

08:31-10:10

Why is it so Important to be Adaptable as an Artist and Develop Your Own Style?

Although many people dream of becoming a rockstar comic book artist, the reality of working in this industry is often quite different.

In this chapter, you’ll hear why Kensuke believes it’s so important to be open to lots of different career routes as an artist, and why developing your own signature style is a great way to stand out from the crowd. So, if you want to know how to become an illustrator, this is one chapter you defintely won’t want to miss!

10:38-11:36

How is the Manga Industry in Japan Different to the Comic Book Industry in America?

While the American comic book industry is dominated by huge studios such as Marvel and DC, the Manga scene in Japan offers a wide range of scope for artists. In fact, you can buy a Manga comic on just about any topic you can imagine!

In this chapter, Kensuke shares his insights into the Manga industry, and explains why he feels it offers much more potential for creative growth than the more rigid framework of the big American companies.

11:43-12:37

What did Kensuke do After Art School?

After leaving art school, Kensuke was fortunate enough to land a book illustration gig via one of his tutors. From there, he made sure he went to as many comic cons as possible, which is where he met the art director behind Magic The Gathering.

After this, he continued to reach out and make contacts, which is how he got a foot in the door of New York’s bustling advertisement and entertainment agencies and continued to grow his career…

13:35-15:30

How did Kensuke get Noticed at San Diego Comic Con?

Although Kensuke’s art career sounds incredibly easy and straightforward so far, he naturally had to prove himself to art directors and other clients first.

In this chapter, he reveals how he first landed the gig working on Magic The Gathering, and why it’s often a great idea to step out of your comfort zone and put everything you have into something you might not have tried before.

16:40-21:44

How did Kensuke get his Graphic Novel Project Finished?

Creating a graphic novel is a huge undertaking. Not only do you have to have a great story to begin with, you’ve also got lots of other things to consider, such as editing, typography, coloring, illustration and much, much more. So how did Kensuke even begin to put his project together?

In this chapter, you’ll learn a lot about the importance of teamwork and reaching out to fellow artists. You’ll discover why it’s ok to admit you’re not the greatest at absolutely everything. And, you’ll also hear why keeping in touch with your old buddies from art school can pay dividends when you start working on a big project.

22:34-25:14

How do you Promote a Graphic Novel?

The business and promotion side to an art project is equally as important as the creative side. But how do you even go about promoting your art to others?

In this chapter, Kensuke shares his experiences of putting together a graphic novel, and reveals why overcoming social awkwardness or shyness is one of the key ways to help get your creative project out there.

25:52-33:35

What’s it Like to Work in the Advertising and Entertainment Industries?

These days, Kensuke often works in the relentlessly fast-paced world of New York’s many advertising agencies. Although it can often be a high-pressure environment, Kensuke has picked up many tips along the way to help him rise above the stress and get his work done. And, in this insightful chapter, he shares many of them with you.

33:49-41:53

What’s Next for Kensuke?

Kensuke has packed so much into his creative career already, but what’s next on the horizon?

In this chapter, you’ll hear what really inspires him, and why he feels there’s still so much he wants to explore as an artist.

You’ll also hear why Kensuke believes social media is so important for artists, but that it’s only truly effective if you combine this marketing strategy with going out and meeting people face-to-face.

42:11-44:00

Conclusion and Where to see Kensuke’s Work Online

Mitch wraps up today’s interview, and Kensuke tells you about all the places you can see his work online. So, whether you’re a fan of Manga or just want to learn more about how to become an illustrator, this final chapter should give you everything you’re looking for.


We hope this week’s interview with Kensuke Okabayashi gives you lots of insights into how to become an illustrator and get your work out there.

Perhaps you’ve got some great tips or experiences of your own you’d like to share?

Tell us about them in the comments section below – we’d love to hear from you!

People on this Episode:

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Thanks for listening to our show! We’ll be back next Wednesday morning 8AM EST.

Cheers,

Mitch

PS, there is also Pencil Kings content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and PinterestSchool of Visual Arts (SVA)

2 Responses to “PK 146: How to Become an Illustrator. Interview with Artist and Manga for Dummies Creator, Kensuke Okabayashi.”

  1. Nicholas Ifill

    This was very helpful information… I am currently working on a graphic novel myself. Engaging with people in the real world helps a lot just like keep your social media up to date. Definitely need to visit Japan in the future…love Hayao Miyozaki

    Reply
    • mm

      Chris Davies

      Hi Nicholas and thanks so much for your feedback – I’m really glad you enjoyed this podcast and I hope our artist interviews continue to inspire you 🙂 I’d love to hear more about your graphic novel, so please tell me more… Like you, I’d love to visit Japan in future – first stop, Studio Ghibli!

      Reply

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