On Being Published and Following Your Passion: Interview with Yumi Sakugawa

Yumi Sakugawa is a writer and illustrator located in Los Angeles, CA. She works with eNotes as our primary illustrator, and has published two books, I Think I’m in Friend-Love With You and Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe. Her work is sincere and ethereal, striking a  balance between poignant and peculiar. We are obviously fans- but we think you’ll enjoy her perspective and her answers from our quick chat with her.

When did you first become interested in drawing and writing comics? Were you a student that doodled in the margins of your notebooks?

I’ve always loved drawing, writing and making up stories ever since I was maybe five or six years old. And yes, much to the constant exasperation of all my teachers, I was a student who doodled way too much in the margins of my notebooks.

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What was it like the first time you were published? How old were you, and what do you remember most about the experience?

My first published book I Think I’m in Friend-Love With You came out in 2014. I was 29-years-old. It had always been a bucket list item of mine to have a published book before turning 30, so seeing my book in bookstores was and is a very gratifying experience.

What comes first when developing your comics, the words, or the illustrations? Do you think there’s a particular reason for this order? Is it contingent upon the project?

It varies project by project. Sometimes the imagery comes first, sometimes the words come first. With every story, it is whatever feels the most intuitive.

It appears that much of your work relies on your own proximate relationship with the universe, how do you interpret your personal spirituality and apply it to your artwork. Are there particular objects or moments that you feel best represent your perspective on spirituality?

I once had this surreal spiritual experience when I was 23-years-old, sitting on the ground outdoors, and looking up at a moon slowly moving across the length of the night sky. Suddenly I had an image of a divine figure pushing the moon with the tip of his or her celestial fingertips and I was so blown away by that concept for a few moments I felt the boundaries between myself and the rest of the universe completely vanish. I always go back to that moment when I think about what spirituality and art mean to me. It is all about interconnectedness and being an ocean as opposed to an island.

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How did you get your start as a writer/artist? Did anyone in particular influence you?

I made a bunch of comics and kept sharing them on the internet or through self-published zines until one day I happened to accidentally create a web comic that went viral which eventually lead to the publication of my first book. Alex and Ann Chiu are an awesome artist couple now based in Portland who first introduced me to zine culture.

We love your books I Think I am in Friend-Love with You and Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe, they seem to be equal parts honest and surreal. What artists have influenced you the most, and how have you been able to define your own style as an artist?

I don’t know if I really have an answer for how to define your own style as an artist. You keep making work that feels the most honest to you, and from there your own unique voice and perspective subconsciously emerge from the act of making work over and over again. Haruki Murakami, Aimee Bender, Ray Bradbury, Miranda July, Adrian Tomine, Jillian Tamaki, Michael DeForge, Moto Hagio, Inka Essenhigh are some of the many artists, cartoonists and writers off the top of my head whom I consider to be an influence.

As the primary illustrator for eNotes, you must have a pretty vast knowledge of the written works we have study guides for, do you have any favorite illustrations of books that you’ve done for the site? If so, what are they, and why do you like them so much?

I really like the image I came up with for Catcher in the Rye. I love stories about adolescent coming-of-age.

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Where do you see yourself in five years? What long-term goals do you have set?

I hope to still be living in Los Angeles, but with a house and a backyard so that I can finally own a dog. That, and still be making comics and art.

The Everyday eNoter’s bookshelf is always full, what’s your current favorite read? Why?

My favorite book I’ve read all year so far is The First Bad Man by Miranda July. It is weird, intensely honest, and mesmerizing from beginning to end. It feels like a punch in the heart.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received from a professor or teacher?

A writing mentor of mine once said, “Just get it done.”

What advice can you give the students that use eNotes about pursuing their dreams?

“Just get it done.” Also, meditate every day for 20 minutes.

Looking back, what advice would you give your freshman self?

I don’t know, with the time travel paradox and all that, I think I’ll just let my freshman self do her own thing. I’m pretty content with how things are in my life right now!

And finally, what’s your go-to music/soundtrack for working/writing?

Indie rock and moody instrumentals from the early 00’s because my music tastes are eternally frozen in my college years.


To learn more about Yumi and her artwork and books, visit her website and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Also, be sure to check out 20 Illustrations of Shakespeare Quotes where we showcase her Shakespeare play scene illustrations.