A Conversation with.. Momoko Abe

The Conversations Series create a positive image for young girls to refer to by having conversations with different business owners, entrepreneurs and creators. Here,  Momoko Abe (last name pronounced as “Ah-beh”), an award winning London-based author-illustrator from Japan. Momoko absolutely enjoys children books, her first illustrated book was Avocado Asks which won Spark Kingston & Richmond Children’s Book Awards in 2021. 

Our featured artist for Issue 7 The Art Edition is Hélène Baum-Owoyele. You can read all about her creative journey. Buy our latest issue here 

 

© Momoko Abe 
© Momoko Abe 

 

What techniques and resources did you use to illustrate the Little People, BIG People Yoko Ono story?

I usually use Photoshop to create my artwork. Before using Photoshop, I sketch with pencils and scan the sketches which are then imported into Photoshop. Where I’ll add colours and textures. I use a traditional matte medium for textures also with brushes, inks, chalks, or crayons. Painting rollers are fun to use and create different textures. 

 

Little People, Big Dreams: Yoko Ono by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (Frances Lincoln)

 

Little People, Big Dreams: Yoko Ono by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (Frances Lincoln)

 

Little People, Big Dreams: Yoko Ono by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (Frances Lincoln)

 Momoko Abe - Illustrations for Little People, Big dreams Yoko Ono 

 

When did you discover your love for children's illustrations?

I became an illustrator in 2018. I really enjoy drawing, it makes me happy. I completed a course at Central St Martins, which was an introductory course into illustration. While I was taking the course, I didn’t really know what type of Illustrator I wanted to be. One day I was wandering around the bookshop, and came across the children's section. During my visit, I found a book called I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen. I was just shocked by the quality and the maturity of illustration of the book. Normally children's books are really bold and bright colours, and very cute looking. When I was growing up in Japan, there were beautiful children’s books, however most of them were commercial. I saw the book I Want My Hat Back as a proper art form, and that’s when I fell in love with children's illustrations.  

 

When I was growing up in Japan, there were beautiful children’s books, however most of them were commercial. I saw the book I Want My Hat Back as a proper art form, and that’s when I fell in love with children's illustrations.    

 

What was your journey like on becoming an illustrator?

It’s been a journey. When I was a child, I wanted to be many things. I wanted to be a barker, florist, librarian and the list goes on. During my teenage ages I wanted to be a professional ballet dancer, but unfortunately, I wasn't good enough to become a professional dancer. I came to the UK to study filmmaking, as I love films. I realised that drawing makes me happy. From there, I started my illustration journey. I took part in workshops, read lots of books on how to create picture books. I did some networking to meet other artists and writers. I created dummy books and presented these to a few agents. Finally, I got my first book deal and illustrated the book Avocado Asks.   

 

Little People, Big Dreams: Yoko Ono by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (Frances Lincoln)

 Momoko's earliest sketches  

 

Describe your signature art style in 3 words.

Colourful, whimsical and nostalgic.

 

Little People, Big Dreams: Yoko Ono by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (Frances Lincoln)

Momoko Abe - Illustrations for Little People, Big dreams Yoko Ono 



How do you find inspiration for the work?

I collect loads and loads of picture books. So my bookshelves are mostly picture books, rather than books for adults. I also get inspiration from newspapers, science magazines or films. Theatre productions like musicals and plays are ‌inspiration too. I enjoy looking at store window displays and local graffiti street art.

If I am working on a specific project, I will do loads of research. For example, I needed to learn more about Yoko Ono's life before starting the project. I watched interviews, clips and documentaries about Yoko Ono. Google searched to find out a bit more. I find research helps because you never know what new information you can stumble on. 

 

Does your experience in the film industry have some creative effect on your illustrators? 

Definitely yes!  Film making and picture books have a lot in common. While working in the film industry, I was teaching myself to illustrate. Film is all about telling a story visually. There are different visual aspects within the film. From the colours, costumes, composition and props tell a story. Within picture books, you are limited to 32 pages to tell a story with words, so you need to make a good use of visual elements to tell the story like in films.



Quick Fire Round

Movies or books?

I would say books. Books ignite your imaginations more than films.

Favourite season?

Autumn. I love the warm colours, nature and the soft daylight during autumn.. 

What would be your dream project?

It would be a book for children about cats and baking or cats and ballet. Those are my favourite things. If I could combine those things, that would be my dream project.

 

 

Little People, Big Dreams: Yoko Ono by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (Frances Lincoln)


 

Little People, BIG Dreams : Yoko Ono | Frances Lincoln
Available from bookshop.org

 

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