Exhibitionists·IN PROCESS

Watching Mia Ohki draw swirling dots and lines is the breath of fresh air you need right now

Ohki gave us an inside look at how she creates her thoughtful drawings through three time-lapse videos.

Ohki gave us an inside look at how she creates her thoughtful drawings through three time-lapse videos

"Ancestors in the Water" by Mia Ohki. Drawing with black pen.

The simple black and white artwork of Calgary-based artist Mia Ohki is like a breath of fresh air. It'll draw you into a world where less is more, composition is key and mindful symbolism abounds. Her swirling dots and lines that make up women wrapped in shawls of landscapes and animals fading into the sunset might leave you feeling empowered, or even meditative. For our "In Process" series that looks at artists at work, Ohki gave us an inside look at her how she creates her thoughtful drawings through three time-lapse videos.

"My favorite part of the artistic process is the finished product. I enjoy when completed work starts to accumulate because it gives you a sense of accomplishment." - Mia Ohki 0:50

But before we watch her at work, we asked her a few questions to learn more about her process:

Inspiration

Why do you paint or draw the things that you do?

I find repetitive line work very calming, so patterns are always incorporated somehow. I also enjoy drawing authentic portrayals of feminine figures. Due to my Japanese-Métis-Ukranian-Canadian background, they are consistently ethnically ambiguous out of a desire to contribute more diversity to current art and culture.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I take my inspiration from what I see around me and the pursuit of self-discovery. I research quite a bit during the creation of my illustrations, whether about certain time periods, language or cultural symbolism. This way I can incorporate true facts about my heritage and have an aspect of exploration and learning embedded in each piece.

Which other artists inspire you?

Currently, I'm inspired the most by James Jean (@jamesjeanart on Instagram). Other artists that I've been influenced by lately are Julie Benbassat (@tea_for_jbass), Richard Ahnert (@richardahnert), Robin F. Williams (@robinfrancescawilliams) and Pascal Blanche (@pascalblanche).

"I have experimented with full scenes, but I normally have simple line work floating on the page, and it generally carries a deeper symbolism." - Mia Ohki 1:04

Environment

Where is your favourite place to work?

At my home! I don't mind working at coffee shops or the library, but I get distracted by what's going on around me too easily to focus completely on work in those places. I occasionally work outside — however, art weather season is a little short in Alberta.

Do you listen to music when you draw?

I often listen to rain sounds when I'm drawing because I find it makes creating more of a meditative experience, but I also like listening to long, emotional songs — usually something in the realm of Adele or the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack.

Tools

What is your go-to type of pen to use?

My go-to pens are called the "Color Master Milli" and I found them during a recent trip to Japan with my grandparents. I use sizes between 005 and 03. I also use a bold Faber-Castell for colouring in darker areas.

"I find repetitive line work very calming, so patterns are always incorporated somehow. I also enjoy drawing authentic portrayals of feminine figures. Due to my Japanese-Metis-Ukranian-Canadian background, they are consistently ethnically ambiguous out of a desire to contribute more diversity to current art and culture." - Mia Ohki 0:54

Method

How long does it take you to complete an illustration, on average?

It usually takes around 1-3 hours depending on the complexity. Ideas that I've been thinking about for a while come together quickly, but the line work for mountains or hair takes a little longer due to their repetitive patterns.

Do you have some tricks for creating clean strokes?

Whenever trying to achieve clean strokes, I "pull" the pen along the line rather than "push" it on its path. I also concentrate on my breathing if it's an especially delicate drawing and only pull the pen during exhales.

The finished work

What do you hope people take away from your work?

I hope people take away deeper understanding of a different perspective — whether that be a more feminine or cultural perspective, or even a deeper understanding of themselves by identifying with an illustration.

What keeps you going as an artist?

Pride in what I create and the connections I make with other people who see themselves in or resonate with my art.

Check out Mia Ohki's final drawings below:

"Bison Sunset" by Mia Ohki. Drawing with black pen.
"Mother Bear" by Mia Ohki. Drawing with black pen.
"Ancestors in the Water" by Mia Ohki. Drawing with black pen.

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