Each year, NAVS holds our Art for Animals contest that sees artists from around the world sharing their interpretations of visual pieces that inspire compassion. We interviewed our top winners to learn a little bit about their art, their connection to animals, and how they are inspired by compassion.
Honorable Mention winner Yuko Torii for her piece “Secret”
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to create art?
As early as I can remember, I was making stories, drawing pictures to describe my stories and reading them to my ‘friends’ (stuffed animals). I studied Fine Arts in Los Angeles, and now I live in NYC to pursue my career as illustrator-writer for children’s books.
Why animals as a subject? Do you have any experiences with animals that inspire you?
I was an extremely shy little girl, so my first friends I can talk to was animals, cats, to be specific.
Growing up in Japan, cats were everywhere, strays, neighbor’s cats…etc. Culturally and historically, Japanese does have soft spot for cats in our blood!
Now self-proclaimed “Queen of Kittyrature”, my trademark characters are cats. Since I adopted my two kitties, Mitternacht (“Mitter”) and Mondschein (“Mon”); they became my main muses, and my signature characters of my art.
Do you have a process for art creation? Can you describe it?
I draw and post my drawing once a day on my Instagram (@midnight_atelier). Inspiration is everywhere. It can be found in pretty trees on street, interesting people on the subway, etc. Often my kitties, Mitter and Mon depict my husband and I, and I do diary-like drawings of interesting/daily activities. Drawing of a human couple doing laundry is all right…but the drawing of two kitties doing laundry is hilarious! Kitties make everything funnier. Technique-wise, I love traditional pen & ink with watercolor and touch of colored pencils.
Tell us about the piece(s) you submitted to Art for Animals. Is there a backstory you’d like to share about the particular animal or inspiration?
When I adopted my cats, I never knew how much I could talk to them. Animals are far better listeners than any human beings; they won’t judge, they are patient, they don’t mind when you wipe your tears and nose on their backs, and they DO keep secrets 🙂 I do hope all shy children and adults can share their secrets and get connected with their loving companions, just as I did.
How can artists use their medium to inspire compassion for all living beings, in your opinion?
One big advantage of being a visual artist is, our work can be understood and appreciated without languages. Art has the power to evoke emotions and memories and to make ever-lasting impressions and messages, regardless of race, culture, or creed of viewers. Art is a universal language, so is the love between animals.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I feel tremendous honor to be a part of this great organization. I often hesitate to use the word “animals”, as I truly believe they have the same emotional and psychological capacities as human beings. We are all ‘living creatures’, and humans do not have any superiority nor rights to mistreat/abuse other creatures. We should extend the same love and respect to each other, and to fellow creatures around us.