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An Interview with Kie Pinoko


J.R.R. Tolkien once said "It is no bad thing, celebrating a simple life." Forgive me for the cliche of starting with a quote, but it seemed like there was no more apt introduction for Kie Pinoko, who's work indeed celebrates a simple life.


I loved Kie's work from the moment I found her Instagram, but in a different way than I admire other Instagram artists. Her art was deeply comforting to me. Usually I find the landscape of Instagram/social media to be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing, but finding Kie's Instagram was like stumbling upon a quiet park in the middle of a busy city--- a tranquil refuge, an oasis from the deafening, nonstop noise of the Internet. Her art, with its pastel colors and charming subjects brought me back to a simpler time, back when my only concerns were deciding which Nancy Drew book to buy and how to dress up my cat without getting scratched. Her drawings and paintings prove that you don't need a fancy time-lapse video of you painting an ocean landscape in order for your work to affect people emotionally. It's enough to just create work with imagination and love.


In this interview, Kie said that she initially rejected the "kawaii" style being associated with her work because it seemed frivolous, not powerful enough to describe it. But what's more powerful than inspiring empathy and happiness in people?


What made you want to become an illustrator? When I was a kid, I used to draw while watching movies everyday. There is no special reason. I just love drawing. It was inevitable that I would attend art university. Don’t you think It's amazing that you can make anything with only one pencil ?

What's your favorite thing to draw/paint? My favorite thing to draw is an animal, because I had lived with two dogs and a cat and now, I’ve been living with a rabbit! There is no time without animals in my life. I’d like to convey peaceful living with animals through my illustration. What sort of things do you write? I write about the earth and animals. Recently, there has been severe forest fires in Australia. Everyone has to think about that. I’d like to tell people including children about the situation in a creative way that is easy to understand.

How do you hope people feel when they look at your work? The most important thing  is that you feel relieved after looking at my art and story. When I had so much stress, I was saved by art. Thanks to lots of novels, picture books and illustrations [I recovered]. I’d like to give back. And that they think animals are cute as well! Cuteness has power! Cute animals make me feel that they should be protected, right?

Who are your biggest inspirations? I am inspired by myself and the things around me during ordinary days such as the noise of the people working outside, and the sound of animals. A simple day becomes an inspiration to many of my stories. I cherish my own life and myself. Don’t forget! My rabbit named Ban-kun as well!

What work are you most proud of? I'm proud of myself when I get letters from people who read my stories and saw my illustrations. I hope that my art work made such a big impression on them.

What was the first painting you ever did? As far as I remember, my first painting was of Charlie Chaplin. My mother told me to paint and watch his movies everyday. I was crazy about his movies. I respect him to this day.

What was the best moment of your life? My best moment was when one person sent me a letter saying, “I thought about suicide but when I read your poem and illustration, I cried and I thought I  wanted to live!” I can’t forget it. It gave me energy  to keep up my good work. How would you describe your artistic style? Actually, I didn’t like Japanese culture “Kawaii," but I realized I carry on the Kawaii culture. My style is not only kawaii, but it puts light to someone’s heart.

What's the most important lesson you've learned in life? If I feel bad things about another person, that person feels the same way too. So, I try to not have hatred in my heart.

What's your favorite memory? My favorite memory is when my family and my best friend went to a camp together. Unfortunately, the last day had heavy rain but my parents put away the tent and they were wet and soaked with water. My best friend and I stayed at the car to not have a cold. I clearly remember this scene. Parents always keep the safety of their children. I felt their love. How has your work changed over time? I painted just what I wanted to draw in the past, but now I have changed my mind, I [paint] what I want to tell others and what [I want] them to feel. Self-satisfaction means nothing. Even one color and one word have a meaning.