41 Risa Iseda
Risa Iseda is an amazing portrait painter of people and cats. As you can see above (photo from 2016), she is one of the youngest artists on this list, and is the clearest example of a prodigy, progressing to a stellar level of excellence in a very short time. And, this is not simply a question of skilled draftsmanship. Her expressive use of color, her ability to capture a pensive, introspective face, the moods she creates with her work - it hits you immediately and powerfully. There's a quiet defiance in all these works, each sitter presents a kind of challenge. This is a rare case where a young artist figured out exactly what she wanted to create, and then pushed herself, constantly, to her limits, finding all her flaws early on, and learning how to correct them so that she reaches a level of perfection. And she's gained recognition for her work, Hakukakai Gallery Award two years in a row, and a Morimoto Award.
'To the Outside of the Dream'
In this interview with He Art Blog (2015), Risa explains how she got into painting, almost by accident, while studying at Saga University in Japan. She happened to see a painting by one of the drawing professors there, Dr. Makoto Ogiso, and so she asked him for advice and he encouraged her to start painting. It was the motivation and direction she needed, so she began painting in between her busy classes, as she studied to be a teacher. She graduated in 2014, and worked part time as a teacher (middle and high school) for the next two years. At the time of the interview, she was working at university (I'm not sure which one, or the exact title, it's not clear in the translation).
For He Art, Risa talks a bit about her family. She's the middle child in a family of three children. She has an older and younger brother. Being shy, she doesn't like to meet many new people. She prefers cats, befriending some of the strays in her prefecture. Like many of the painters on this site, her models are friends of hers, I think some may be her students?
In the same interview, we learn that she has her studio space at her grandmother's house, and that she paints there daily from noon to 11 PM, including holidays. When she needs a break she takes walks, or goes to a batting center - she can hit a speed ball going 80 km.
She talks about her process on He Art:
"When making a picture, after transferring the rough sketch using tracing paper and inking, I paint an imprimatura and then paint at least three layers until finished. Oil paintings take a month even for small works."
She also explains how she paints on wooden panels that she prepares herself.
Her advice to young artists is constant practice, to 'always keep your hands moving.' She says it happens often that an artist will stop painting after college, as she did, and then they say they were so much happier in college. So, she made the time for it to keep going.