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Available Products by Ryo Takagi:

Greeting Cards
Boxed Card Sets
Postcards
2012 Calendar
Framed Prints
Mini Cards
Magnets

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Ryo's Artistic Development – Discovering Kirie

Ryo began working with Kirie while in university, and the style, which gives a lot of depth to each of his images, spilled over into every aspect of his illustrating career. As a burgeoning young artist he drew inspiration from many sources including Higashi-Kunpei, a poet and creator of children's books as well as the most famous Kirie artist in Japan.

Ryo's Characters

An alien who often ends up in peculiar situations is one of Ryo's characters.

The first Kirie Ryo made was the Kiji, or white pheasant. Although the Kiji was the mascot of his university, the school had never had a character based on it. Thus, when Ryo was asked to illustrate the front page of the school newspaper, his artistic aspirations were once again nudged awake and he remembers wanting to "make something remarkable." In addition to the pheasant he created for this purpose, his characters range from famous samurai and historical figures like Benkei, a samurai who is said to have died standing up, to an array of animals to a blobby monster called Sunaban, the guardian of children's playgrounds.

Ryo Takagi, Illustrator from Tokyo

Ryo-san hard at work with his artisan knife.

One of the works from his 2005 calendar.

Ryo and Tomoko selling Kirie at an art fair.

Ryo takes a lot of inspiration straight from nature.

We ran across Ryo Takagi's work in a huge stationery store in the fashionable Ginza district of Tokyo. Among all of the greeting cards and postcards spread across the walls, Ryo's beautiful animal images stood out to us because of their strong link to Japanese culture – not only did they look like traditional ukiyoe (or wood-block prints), but they also appeared influenced by Japanese manga (comic books) and anime (animated movies). Later we found that the original artwork depicted in the postcard designs are not woodblock prints but "Kirie," handmade paper cuttings (silhouettes) that Ryo creates with amazing precision using an art knife that is similar to an exacto knife.

To create his art, Ryo first starts with an image or an emotion from his own experiences that he wants to transfer to paper. From this somewhat abstract beginning, he coaxes out a whole scene filled with staggering detail and vibrant animation using pen and paper. Once the final picture is complete, he needs only a few days to cut the outlines of the design out of black paper, producing the final Kirie work.

Born in 1971 in the countryside of Shikoku, the smallest of the four main islands that make up Japan, Ryo's interest in art started from an early age, leading him to join his high school art club and consider attending an art university. As with many artists, though, Ryo was more inclined to follow his own quirky vision than copy the works of others. This led to a rather cinematic conflict with his high school art teacher whose recommendation he would have needed, effectively ending his ideas of attending an art school.

Ryo instead went to a liberal arts university outside of Tokyo, majored in Japanese culture, and became active in the student government and the Organic Club, a group of students who grew vegetables on school property, made meals with the bounty, and then ate them together. It was in this club that he first met his wife Tomoko, now a high school English teacher and an important collaborator in Ryo's artwork. In addition to helping him think of ideas for characters and stories for his books, Tomoko is the one who replied to our initial e-mail in gorgeous English and who we communicate with regularly regarding Ryo's work.

After graduating from university, Ryo worked a series of jobs including clean-up crew at a temple, but decided that he was better suited to being a full time artist than just someone holding a job he didn't like. In addition to his original hand cut pieces of art, he uses a variety of platforms to convey his works, from t-shirts to comic books to cards and calendars.