Trevor Hogg chats with Lynne Yoshii about her love of comics and having to wrestle with a bear...
Artistic family is not how one would describe the Yoshii household. “Not really, but if it is something that runs in the family I might have gotten my artistic ‘talent’ from my maternal grandfather,” states Lynne Yoshii who was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. “Apparently, he was quite the visual/performing artist – drawing, painting, magic tricks and was quite skilled. I’m terrible at magic, though, I did not inherit that particular talent.” The aspiring comic book artist left the island situated in the Pacific Ocean for the East Coast of the Atlantic Ocean. “I graduated from the School of Visual Arts of New York. It did teach me the foundations of drawing and sequential storytelling but I have to admit most of what I learned, I learned after college. Art school was still a rewarding experience though.” An iconic American painter serves as a major inspiration. “Personally, any illustrations that can tell a story in one image are masterful. Norman Rockwell is one of my favourite artists that does this well.” Currently Yoshii is working as graphic artist for a toy company in New York. “The biggest challenge is to convince myself daily not to get discouraged, not to give up on my dreams, or maybe it was that time I dropped my favourite pen and there was a bear in the way. I had to wrestle the bear.”
“I attended my first convention as an artist in 2011,” states Lynne Yoshii. “My first time was at Big Apple Con in New York where my friend [and very talented comic artist] Khary Randolph convinced me to share his table. The feedback was amazing. I was a no-body no-name but passerbys gave me such nice comments and wanted to buy drawings from me. ME? It was inconceivable. It boosted my confidence a great deal and made me realize there was a market for my art. DeviantART has also provided great feedback and exposure to people all over the world.” The illustrations are drawn using digital and traditional tools such as Photoshop with a Cintiq. “Love the Cintiq.” Canson 70lb drawing paper, Pencil, Copic markers [“Love the Copics”], Faber-Castell Pitt pens, Faber-Castell oil base pencils, General’s white charcoal pencil, Pro-White, and Uni-Ball white Signo gel pen. “I’m always looking to try other mediums though.”
When asked what are the key elements in putting together an effective comic book page, Yoshii responds, “An answer to a question like that can fill a whole book! I guess, my own personal goal when I draw a comic page is, clarity. Whether it’s writing dialogue or choosing a composition of a page, I believe it’s the comic artist’s responsibility to guide the reader smoothly and tell the story as clearly as possible. Pretty pictures are nice and all, but wasted if you’re trying to figure out what’s going on in the comic.”
“Just like any comic fan doing fan art I like drawing characters that are interesting and empowering,” remarks Lynne Yoshii. “It’s not necessarily limited to female characters but people do seem to like my drawings of women more than men. I don’t necessarily think female illustrators tend to adopt a more realistic approach. Just looking at DeviantART you can see a wide variety of styles from cartoony to realistic.” As for the approach adopted by her colleagues from the opposite gender, Yoshii believes, “I do notice that there tends to be an ‘exaggeration’ in certain body parts and poses when super heroines are depicted by male artists. “Super hero art, by default, depict highly idealized fantasy characters with perfect bodies. How a female artist and male artist perceive as the perfect female form is quite subjective. It’s easy to see that a triple D breast size might not be considered ideal to a female artist but ideal to some male artists.”
The depiction of female comic book characters is evolving. “It’s getting better, slowly but surely,” notes Lynne Yoshii. “There’s more awareness of the demand for interesting three-dimensional female characters in comics [or any medium] now. I’m optimistic that the quality, quantity and variety of female characters will just increase in the future. I already think it’s loads better since the 80’s when I was a kid.”
“I grew up reading Japanese manga and for the longest time drew mostly in the shōjo comic style,” says Yoshii. “I didn’t even start reading American comics until high school [thank you X-Men: The Animated Series and Batman: The Animated Series]. It’s probably more apt to say that American comics have influenced my style than the reverse.”
The native of Hawaii would jump at the opportunity to illustrate a particular mutant series. “Ooh! X-Men! X-Men!” Lynne Yoshii adds, “There’s just so many comic series I love. Just shooting off the top of my head? In no particular order: Sandman, Ushio and Tora, Dragon Ball, Dragon Quest, Onikirimaru, Tokimeki Tonight, Touch, Full Metal Alchemist, Ranma1/2, Strangers in Paradise and so much more.”
“I think Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man  is my favourite comic movie,” states Yoshii. ” There are other movies that were adapted/produced better, but it was just a really fun movie.” Upon concluding the interview, the illustrator sheepishly confesses, “I lied about the bear.”
Images courtesy of Lynne Yoshii
Many thanks to Lynne Yoshii for taking the time for this interview and make sure to visit her at DeviantART and daportfolio.
Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada.