Brad Howe is Kansai Time Out's official designer at the moment, and It was through a bit of luck that I bumped into him at the monthly KTO party, which he normally doesn't attend. It wasn't that long before we both had permission from our wives to meet up one night and get drunk.
I claim responsibility for making Brad hoarse. I took him to Torikizuku • 鳥貴族 which was especially loud even for a Friday night; forcing us to yell at each other. We moved on, but only to a smoky smoky izakaya, and then finally to a nice beer bar on the other side of Hankyu in Umeda.
Brad comes from Sydney in Australia, and has his qualifications from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, otherwise know as RMIT. I know that it's the best university in Australia for Graphic/Illustration Design. Illustration is quite obviously his strength. Brad draws with a very high level of realism; a very good sense of proportions, which bring life to his characters, and an attention to detail in things like shadows which really gives depth to the work. Adding just a hint of wonky perspective and some nice colour choices, Brad's stuff has a very original flavor (see on his website, here).
Most people, like I myself did, will probably find it interesting that his Illustrations contain quite a bit of very... un-japanese stuff for a person living in Amagasaki, Kobe. Brad is well aware that it's seen as strange though. "I actually get a large part of my freelance work from the states. Most people are interested in working with me because I live in Japan." Brad was actually invited to participate in an exhibition up in Tokyo. "Yeah, they were pretty disappointed when I rocked up. Apparently from all the African American characters in my Illustrations they thought I would be... African American."
I asked Brad how he is going finding work here. "There's not a lot for me here, actually. When I first came to Japan I contacted a lot of design companies, met some really interesting people and saw some great places, but it never lead to what I was hoping for." One interesting phenomena that Brad mentioned was about the emails he was sending out in Kansai to other design firms. At first he really tried hard to send emails in Japanese, and found that he wasn't getting good results. On a friend's advice to 'stop trying to be Japanese', he tried sending mails again in English and found that this time he was getting much better results.
Turns out it wasn't until he turned his focus outwards and overseas that he started to get networking jobs. For a while he was surviving on freelance design alone, doing work for the famous magazine, Wax Poetics which lead on to more work from various small record labels.
Since having a kid, Brad has had to find himself a more stable income, and teaches part time while designing for Kansai Time Out. This year he's looking to get back into pushing for some freelance work, and wants to see if he can make himself a bit of a name again.
A pleasure to have a beer with Brad, and the first entry for Hyogo in Kansai. I have to get over there more!