Welcome to Week 4 of the Tokyo Heist Art Gallery! 

Violet Rossi, the young sleuth in Tokyo Heist, is a manga fan and an aspiring artist who secretly works on a graphic novel called The Adventures of Kimono Girl.

In the spirit of Violet, for the past three Tuesdays I’ve been featuring illustrations by artists to watch out for. These professional artists have donated their time and talent to illustrate a scene, character, or image from the novel, and to answer questions about their creative careers. I hope you’ll check out their websites and see more of their exciting work. The past three giveaways are over, but if you missed any of the art and interviews, you can always go back to the past Tuesday posts and get acquainted with Ming Doyle, Rich Lee, and Niki Smith.

I want to thank everyone who’s stopped by to enter a contest or just to check out the art and the artists! I love reading the comments people have left, and the different responses people have to the art. And a huge thank you to the artists. It’s been so much fun to see their interpretations of the book and to learn about their creative processes and influences. I’m not a visual artist — I draw passable stick figures — but artists really inspire me, and it’s been a blast curating this virtual gallery all month!

And so. This week is the final exhibit in this virtual gallery; the novel hits shelves this Thursday! (By the way, be sure to check out the exclusive premiere of the Tokyo Heist book trailer at YA Books Central! Screen time starts Tuesday June 12, 12:00 noon EST)

Today, I’m welcoming Realm Lovejoy to the gallery. She’s a triple-threat: an author, an illustrator, and a video game artist. The daughter of a Japanese ex-monk and an English teacher from Rhode Island, she was born in the mountains of Nagano, Japan, and later moved to Washington state. Her work combines Eastern and Western influences. I’ve been stalking her art online for two years now, so I’m thrilled she’s come by today.

Realm has brought along her illustration of Kimono Girl the heroine in Violet’s graphic novel. Here it is!

Illustration by Realm Lovejoy

I love the energy of this drawing! It wakes me up every time I look at it. I like how she’s wielding a paintbrush like a sword, and her determined expression. The idea of fabric spilling from the paintbrush is really fun too. And the off-the-shoulder outfit makes me think of Grecian statues, of the muses . . . though my sense is this muse is one who inspires by doing. Overall this picture makes me think about the combination of joy and persistence that’s involved in making art, whatever one’s medium might be.

And now, here’s my interview with Realm!

Q: Tell us about your illustration. Why did you choose to draw this image? Can you describe your process for us?
A: I thought the idea of “Kimono Girl” was super cute and immediately imagined a picture of Kimono Girl spilling kimono prints from a paintbrush with really bright colors, much like the colors on the cover of Tokyo Heist. Once I got the idea, I started sketching until the drawing became solid.

Q: What kind of work do you do as a professional artist? What does a typical week look like for you?
A: I work full-time at Valve as a concept artist and a 3D artist for video games. A game I particularly worked on a lot was Portal and Portal 2. I work Monday through Friday, eight hours a day. In my free time, I work on illustrations for my novels (which I write) and I have one graphic novel project going on as well.

Q: What are you working on right now?
A: I’ve got a YA sci-fi on submission, a YA four-book urban fantasy series near submission, and a graphic novel in the works.

Q: When did you know you wanted to become an artist?
A: Ever since I was a child, I was drawing and writing. I knew before I graduated high school that I wanted to go to college for art and get a job in the field.

Q: How did you go about pursuing art as a career? What kind of education did you have to become an artist?
A: I went to DigiPen Institute of Technology, interned at Nintendo, and then went to Valve, where I still am today.

Q: What artists have influenced you?
A: Tezuka Osamu! He has inspired me ever since I was a child with his graphic novels.

Q: What inspires you?
A: “What if?” questions seem to be the seed of all my ideas.

Q: What is the most challenging part of working as an artist? And the most rewarding part?
A: I think the most challenging part is that it takes a lot of time and practice to be good at art. You have to seek the right teachers and get criticism to help move your skills forward. The most rewarding part is getting to see your vision materialize and to be able to show others the world you’ve been imagining.

Q: Do you have any advice for young people who are considering a creative career?
A: Practice lots and seek criticism and apply it. Also [for visual artists], do study fundamental art such  as life drawing, anatomy, and lighting. Having the basics down is what’s going to set you apart from the others. I see a lot of young artists make the mistake of focusing too much on technology and software. That’s important too, but never forget the backbone of art that’s been around since the ancient days.

Thanks so much for dropping by, Realm! Good luck with your many projects in the works!

Here’s where to find Realm online and to view more of her work, including sneak peeks of her graphic novel CLAN:
Realm’s website
Realm’s blog
Twitter: @realmlovejoy

Oh, but wait . . . remember that final Gallery Giveaway I mentioned? Here it is!

This week, to celebrate the launch of the book, I’m offering two prize packs:

PRIZE PACK #1: A tote bag with Realm’s Kimono Girl illustration on one side and the cover of Tokyo Heist on the other. It contains a blank sketch journal, with Realm’s Kimono Girl picture on the cover. AND Tokyo Heist swag — crime scene tape, bookmarks, a paper fan. AND a signed copy of Tokyo Heist!

PRIZE PACK #2: A print of Realm’s Kimono Girl print, signed by Realm. AND Tokyo Heist swag (crime scene tape, signed bookmark, paper fan).

Click on the Rafflecopter thingie below for instructions on how to enter:
a Rafflecopter giveaway