After traveling to Japan, India and Mexico, Long Beach artist Emily Tanaka developed the habit of travel-journaling in her sketchbooks. Her pen is her favorite medium. She describes her pieces as “organized doodles.”
Tanaka got her bachelor of arts in architecture at California State University of San Luis Obispo. “The creative field I entered has to do with drawing, and the stuff I’m doing now is more for myself than other people,” she said.
As a kid, Tanaka would go to Japan every summer. Japanese calligraphy was the first type of art she tried at the Long Beach Japanese Community Center. She continued doing it throughout high school. In college, she took a life-drawing class. “I also did a lot of journaling for architecture,” she said. “It’s the one way to get your thoughts out.”
In college, Tanaka’s professor invited her to go to Mexico for a week to learn how to do travel-journaling. “Basically, you are recording your thoughts when you’re traveling,” she explained. “It was really fun.”
Tanaka also travelled to India for a semester. “During that whole thing, I drew all the time,” she said.
Through travel-journaling, Tanaka found a passion to sketch. “Give me a pen. Give me a piece of paper. That’s my favorite,” she added.
For someone who has studied architecture, it is no surprise that Tanaka’s greatest inspiration is the city. “I love buildings…and people-watching,” she said.
Tanaka is also influenced by Jill Sykes, a Los Angeles painter. “She’s been my mentor,” Tanaka said. “I’ll go to her, asking her, ‘What do you think of this?’ As the scale of these drawings get bigger, it can be a bit too much. She [told me], ‘Well, if you focus on doing these small things (sketchbooks), you’ll be more successful.’”
Currently, Tanaka is working on a children’s book called Forty-Eight Buildings. It will be a counting book for those in the first grade and younger. “I hand-make journals,” she explained. “They’re more like DIY, crafty kinds of stuff…I’d like to publish it, maybe have it available online.”
Tanaka has also been participating in the Second Saturday Art Walk that takes place every month in the East Village Art District in downtown Long Beach.
In addition to Tanaka’s art life, she dedicates a lot of her time to the community. In 2011, she graduated from the City of Long Beach Neighborhood Leadership Program.
“I like to do art, and then I do a lot of community organizing,” she said. “So, the goal would be to bring those together somehow.”