Did you grow up dazzled b the girls of Takahashi Macoto, without knowing it? I did. I can still vividly recall the Colleen colouring pencils that came in pompous tins, 36 colours all arranged in an ombre rainbow. For years, I attempted to copy the cover illustration, a Marie Antoinette type girl clutching a poodle, wearing a huge picture hat just laden with flowers. I thought the pencils were meant for re-creating the drawing. It is only now, decades later, that I learned that Macoto drew with pencil and then coloured with watercolour, in delicate layers, and that his signature sparkles in the the eyes were added later in a constellation of goauche dots and stripes!
Takahashi was born in Osaka in 1934, debuted as a manga artist in 1957. He's still working today and that means that there is a huge archive of his work (there have been exhibitions and books). Of his work and inspiration, he has said: "Why do I always draw girls? I have this lingering image I had when I was a sixth-grader, right after the war. There was a church of the Allied Occupation Forces near my house, and one day I saw a girl over the fence. She was about five and was playing in the garden filled with flowers. The girl, her leg in a cast, was called by her mother. She turned around and ran to her mother, her beautiful blond hair flowing. It was such a beautiful scene in such a gloomy time in postwar Japan. The image stuck with me, and I came to want to paint that girl. I wanted to express the world of girls in a short two- to three-year period of adolescence, to express elegance, gentleness, shyness and sense of cleanliness." One of the authours of "kawaii" genre, I can see Macoto's direct influence even in Takahashi Murakami's work, in the obsessive detail, crazy explosive flowers, and the maniacally glittering, unseeing eyes of his creations. I wonder if Murakami has ever acknowledged his debt to the older artist?