Japan Day 2012 Art Contest Submission

© 2012, Original Art by Ardith Ibañez Nishii

Decided to interrupt my job search with an art contest submission for Japan Day 2012.

When I decided to create a piece commemorating the 100th anniversary of Japan’s gift of cherry trees to the US, I knew that I wanted to use a graphic style inspired by travel posters of the early 1900’s.  The first cherry trees were planted along the Potomac River in 1912 during the era of ocean liners and passenger railways.  I love the simplicity and elegance of the illustrated vintage posters of that time.  I thought this would be the perfect way to unify the four themes of “Cherry Blossom(s)”, “New York”, ”Japan”, and “Central Park”.

I first created a skyline of famous architectural landmarks from both Tokyo and NYC, including a silhouette of buildings overlooking Central Park — an oasis of trees and ponds.  In contrast to the heavy two-dimensional style of the city scene, I wanted the blossoms to have a light, translucent feel to capture the magical look of a cherry tree in full bloom.  Of the 12 varieties planted in 1912, I specifically used the Fugenzo blossom for its pale pink color and the fact that the original gift of 2,000 trees in 1910 were Fugenzo trees.  (Let’s ignore the fact that those trees had to be burned due to a massive bug infestation.)  The red sun shining on the cityscape represents Japan.  I added the brush stroke to create an organic, Zen-like feel while the overall craft paper texture also aims to add warmth and a tactile quality.  I knew from the get-go that I wanted my piece to be on craft paper to enable the whitest white to pop.  Hence, “JAPAN DAY 2012” is the only 100% white element on the page for better visibility.  To add playfulness and whimsy, the location and date of the event are written on banners derived from antique posters.

If I had given myself more than a day to do this, I would have tried to do an actual gouache painting on paper rather than use Illustrator and Photoshop.