Rumi Hara was born in Kyoto, Japan. She now lives in Brooklyn, New York, and makes illustrations and comics there. Visit her at rumihara.com.
CIC: Thanks for talking with us, Rumi! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?
RH: I was working as a translator in Japan when I decided to come to the US in 2012 to go to an art school. I always loved drawing and was coming up with a lot of stories to illustrate, so one day I decided to learn more about illustration and comics. Now I live and work in Brooklyn, NY, and I’m working on a graphic novel called Nori. Nori is a nickname for Noriko, a little girl who often runs away on her own and finds out interesting things about the people and animals in her town.
CIC: For many, a volcanic eruption would be frightening, but for Yuri, it’s an invigorating and inspiring event. What makes you feel connected to the natural world? Have you ever witnessed a natural event that inspired you?
RH: I mostly grew up in Japan, where there are many earthquakes. The most recent major earthquake that I’ve experienced was the one in 2011. I was living in Tokyo at the time and although it’s pretty far from the Northeastern region where it originated, we still had a lot of aftershocks. One time I was sleeping with my right ear on a pillow and heard a loud rumbling sound that woke me up in the middle of the night. A few seconds later my whole apartment shook, and I realized that what I just heard was the force of an earthquake traveling through the ground.
Although the frequent aftershocks were scary and the news about the tsunami, nuclear disaster, and other damages was truly devastating, I somehow felt invigorated at the same time. Suddenly my neighbors seemed nicer and friendlier. Everyone was willing to do something helpful, and we knew that even just smiling and saying hello would be something significant in difficult times. There was an amazing sense of belonging and community. It really depended on each of us to help and rebuild, and that empowered the ordinary people, I think. That was an important experience for me and also an inspiration for this story with Yuri.
CIC: What kinds of stories are you drawn to? What is appealing about those stories?
RH: I really like reading or hearing stories about a particular place. Any place has its own history, memory, and landscape that is different from anywhere else, and I like learning about those things. I’m especially drawn to stories with some kind of surreal element. Not like a scary ghost, but maybe like a talking dog. Because animals make everything better!
CIC: When you’re in a creative slump, how do you pick yourself back up and find new motivation?
RH: I try to rest a lot. I can’t make anything when I’m physically tired, but I don’t always realize how tired I am. So when I feel frustrated about not being creative enough, I let myself sleep like twelve hours and do nothing during the day. Just eat and sleep and take a bath. After a couple of days like that, I’m usually refreshed and ready to work again.
CIC: If you could meet yourself as a beginning artist, what advice would you offer yourself?
RH: “Try different tools and find what you like!” Because I was using Copic markers and acrylics at the beginning and for some reason thought that they were the only options. Also, “Reach out to people, even just a few people!” Because not reaching out at all doesn’t get me jobs. I still feel like a beginning artist sometimes, so I keep telling my self these things.
CIC: If you could turn into any creature at will, what would you want to be?
RH: A roadrunner. I want to be able to run like the wind and also fly. Just to tease coyotes.