#IllustrationInsider The Story Behind the Piece

Updated: Aug 23

I don't mind telling you that I am obsessed with Studio Ghibli (for those who don't know, Studio Ghibli is a Japanese anime studio that has a cult following outside of Japan and is explosively popular within it). I own every film, I play them when I'm working, I stayed up until two in the morning six months before going to Japan to book tickets to the Ghibli museum (which sell out super fast), just . . . there's a lot of love there. Imagine my delight then, when I learned that one of my good friends also loves the franchise - which gave me an excuse to create this piece as a thank you, for all her help in the run up to my wedding.

Out of all the things I love about Studio Ghibli: the weird and wonderful imagination behind it, the inspiring heroines, the colours, the perfect music that fits with every scene, the stories, the messages behind it . . . one of the things I love the most are the strange creatures that populate almost every film, mixed with the creatures of our world (correct me if I'm wrong, but I think almost every Ghibli film has some sort of cat in it).

Therefore, it was a no brainer when I decided to leave out most of the main characters and just draw the creatures that appear within the films. This also afforded an opportunity to use lots of bright colour, as the colours themselves are used in the films.

I confess though, this piece did not take me as long as most of the others have done. Because the creatures are already rendered in 2D, it's a lot easier (I think) to interpret them for a drawing such as this, as you don't have to 'translate' a 3D shape to 2D when drawing.

I started with a pencil outline of some of the creatures, then I got impatient and just started inking them in with my dip pen (I am absolutely no good at the planning stage). Also, I think, it helps to start putting the colours in, so that it's easier to balance them out.

I wanted to make sure I had a creature from as many films as possible, so that they were all represented. In order to do so, I wrote a long, long list, mainly from memory, but when I came to create the piece, I found they didn't fill the page - I had to dig pretty deep into the web to learn the names of some more creatures I could include. I also ended up leaving out Grave of the Fireflies, The Wind Rises, The Tale of Princess Kaguya and My Neighbours the Yamadas, because I couldn't find a creature to include from those films, but also because Grave of the Fireflies is supposedly The Saddest Thing Ever (I have not had the courage to watch it yet). Although the Children's book Waiting for Wolf comes pretty darn close to that title too...

It took me a little longer than a week of solid work, and some serious decision making about how realistic I wanted it to be (Did I want Totoro to be furry? Was dotwork going to feature?) to finish off the piece. I scanned it in and edited it to create the print I sell now, but the original is framed and with my friend, hung in pride of place in her downstairs loo.

Thanks for reading,


For a recommendation of which Ghibli films to try first, here is a list of my favourites:

1. Howl's Moving Castle (based on the hilarious book by Diana Wynne Jones, it loses some of the humour and plot, but is still beautiful for all that)

2. My Neighbour Totoro (a gentle, wonderful film especially good for kids)

3. The Cat Returns (a crazy trip through Catsville, a left field choice, but it's so mental and harmless that I love it)

4. Spirited Away (won best animated feature at the Oscars in 2003, a well-deserved win for something so imaginatively created)


Ghibli fans, do you agree with my list?

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Artist working out of Godstone, Surrey, United Kingdom


© 2018 by Nicola Budd. Created with Wix.com.