A big catchup . . .

Working Artist Mom Life So much has happened since last I wrote. The biggest change that 2018 brought was having the incredible privilege of learning how to be a working mother. You may remember that in 2016, my husband and I suffered the devastating loss of our son, when he was stillborn at the 37th week of my pregnancy. I write extensively about this in a previous blog post if you’d like to read more. In May, 2017, we welcomed our daughter, Ayla Akemi to the world and I am now in the community of parents who work every day to find some kind of healthy integration of cultivating a family, making art and making a living.  I am fortunate that I love being a mother. It isn’t the case for everyone, and am not inclined to judge or begrudge anyone their feelings about motherhood. It isn’t easy, even when it is as wonderful and tender as I’ve imagined. I remember one mentor of mine talking to me about how when his son was born, his son became his greatest creative challenge. In those inevitably difficult moments, that is the spirit I work to channel. It is a work-in-progress.  At a project last year in Detroit, I found myself in the driver’s seat of a parked car beside my mural, staring at a flashing taco truck in Southwest Detroit, windows sloppily covered with random scarves, pumping breastmilk as I watched my team work away. I am pretty sure the pump was plugged into the cigarette lighter. How much paint/grime is too much when it comes to breastmilk? Ah, motherhood. I am, at once, incredibly lucky that I could breastfeed my daughter as long as I could and . . . There really is no dignity in any of this, is there 🙂 The mandatory “wellness room” or otherwise named place for nursing mothers to pump milk in the workplace has not yet made it onto the mural scene. 

Shield of Peace and Non-Violence, Southwest Detroit with Vito Valdez That project, “The Shield of Peace and Non-Violence” was a mural that Vito Valdez and I envisioned in 2015, but suffered multiple delays from challenging moments in our (my) personal lives. Vito and I won the Knight Arts Challenge grant from the Knight Foundation in 2015 shortly after we learned I was pregnant with our son, so that presented its own scheduling challenges (besides the fact it was in Detroit). The project was initially delayed from the pregnancy, then my crippling grief, then my subsequent pregnancy with Ayla and the leave that followed . . . It took a LONG time. But through those three years, we worked on the project, having workshops with the community, trying to get at the heart of problem and the healing of/from gun violence in the Southwest Detroit community. We had beautiful workshops and community meetings, and did the best we could through challenging circumstances. I now know how hard it is to travel for murals with small children and I am incredibly grateful to Vito for carrying the load on so much of that project. (“Scaffolding in this picture is not OSHA approved LOL).

NoVo Foundation Mural Project In general, though, my first year as working mom with a baby-now-toddler, was great and hard. For most of 2018, I worked on a massive mural for the NoVo Foundation. 8 walls (1 of which will be done this year), a team at times of 8 other AMAZING painters, and every weather extreme you can imagine spanning from July-January, when the scaffolding came down. The process of planning this mural was expansive, as NoVo is a progressive foundation that works with hundreds of grantees around the world. Their main strands of work include: Ending Violence Against Women and Girls; Advancing Adolescent Girls’ Rights; Supporting Indigenous Communities in North America; Advancing Social and Emotional Learning and; and Supporting Thriving Local Economies. 

Finished imagery of this mural will be available later, but I just wanted to share a bit of the process since it swallowed 2018 whole. To develop the concept for the mural, I worked with diverse members of the NoVo community’s staff and grantees. That meant I got to meet and have extensive conversations with people doing transformative work globally in areas that matter so much when thinking about the just future of the world we are charged with creating. Here are some links to (just a few of the) organizations whose incredible work helped impact the mural design, but more importantly they are all transforming and healing society in more ways that I can try to be concise about. Check them out! http://gedakina.org/ https://womenandjusticeproject.org/ https://www.highlandercenter.org/ http://www.alongwalkhome.org/ http://www.soulfirefarm.org/ https://aich.org/ http://nolliejenkinsfamilycenter.org/ https://thelifestory.org/ Before I had children, I wondered how I would do murals with children of my own. I had seen it modeled really only by male muralists I know, but very few women, particularly in the United States where maternity leave for artists is not a thing. I always thought, when I have kids, I will focus more on the books as there is more flexibility. And then I found myself with Ayla and with the biggest mural I had ever taken on. And I wondered how it would work. And I really have one main answer. Team. An incredible team who was reliable, consistent and absolutely devoted to doing beautiful work. The original team consisted of 6 artists: Anagh Banerjee, Colin Verdi, Kyung Chyun, Adan Palermo, Jess Poplawski and Shin Moon. When we needed to finish and call in the backups (seasoned mural professionals!), Eric Okdeh, Kien Nguyen and Crystal Bruno (Clarity) came through in a big way for me.

The team showed up early on 98 degree days and on days below freezing when we had to use heat guns. They stayed until the job was done. They put their egos aside as we worked to figure out the best visual solutions for the concepts we were communicating. They treated the mural with the love and care that you put into your own, most personal work. That is a central reason the reason the project succeeded. And the reason I could have a team that deep was because NoVo was willing and able to pay all artists a living wage for the time we were working on the job. So often, with every single muralist I know and every other project I’ve worked on, murals need more time than there is money. So, we always find ourselves scrambling to finish a project so we can move on to the next thing that will pay the next set of bills. This project paid in a way where our work felt valued in that we did not have to rush like crazy or compromise the collective vision. It was an incredible project and NoVo was an unusual, wonderful client. When the Cousins Came School Visits

Another big moment of 2018 was the publication of “When the Cousins Came.” I talk about making that book in my last blog post, as the book was created in the unusual state of deep grief, as it was my first project back after our loss, and then excitement/anxiety as it also overlapped with my pregnancy with Ayla. Somehow the book turned out well, even though when I look at some of the pages now, I have almost no memory of making them. I have been so honored by the starred reviews and incredible feedback and am no wondering what will happen when Lila, our protagonist goes to visit her cousins in the city!

One of my favorite parts of having a book out is getting to do school visits. I taught in public schools for 14 years (art and Spanish) and I love being around big groups of kids. When they are excited about a book I made, it is all the more wonderful. When the Cousins Came seems to have a pretty broad appeal and I’ve been fortunate to visit very different types of schools with this book. That is also to say that I have visited schools with incredible disparities this time around. I’ve found myself one day at a school in the South Bronx, poorest congressional district in the country, across from the most violent housing projects in the city (the school was thriving, by the way). The next day I might be at a prep school on the Upper West Side with an annual 1st grade tuition of $48K. There are lots of feelings. I’ve been to schools in DC where the classes are run by long term substitute teachers who literally don’t know the children’s names. Also to schools where senators send their kids with a maximum class size of 14 kids. Some schools don’t have full-time teachers, much less art class. Other schools literally have classical music appreciation where a classical pianist will just come and play for the children to listen and cultivate their ears and brains. Some schools find incredibly creative ways to make due with less- they partner with non-profits who provide extra staff and have principals who work from 7am-8pm every day. (See photo of Principal Ortiz below).

Any way you look at it, it is jarring to see children separated geographically by less than one mile having such vastly disparate educational opportunity and access.  “Savage Inequalities” and School Visits I feel incredibly fortunate to have these wonderful exchanges with children of all walks of life, also inspired by the creative solutions educators apply to near-impossible situations, also infuriated by the gross disparity. There is certainly enough to go around, but somehow it just doesn’t. School visits are in some ways like reading and re-reading “Savage Inequalities” over and over again. It is an unusual glimpse we authors/illustrators have into the educational system and it’s a conversation in which I hope I can somehow, someday be useful.

Behind The Book Foundation One of my most moving set of school visits has been with the incredible Behind the Book foundation, which plans curriculums around specific books and has the author/artist come and work with students around particular themes. In 2018, I worked with the amazing educator, Denise Cotton at MS 328 in Washington Heights with a special education ESL unit of middle schoolers, using Fish for Jimmy as a way to teach empathy and encourage students to put themselves into the emotional experience of one of the characters in the book.

This spring, we are using Fish for Jimmy once again to talk to students about the detention of children at the border. We will be doing art workshops to them where the students will create drawings of objects of comfort and love that they will then send, with accompanying letters, to children in these detention centers. I have been so moved by the work Behind the Book does to reach kids where they are and connect them, through literature, to what is happening in the world today. I’m so honored to be included in their programming.  “God’s Big Plan,” Flyaway Books

Another thing that happened last year was that I finished illustrating a book called “God’s Big Plan,” which is set to come out with Flyaway Books in April, 2019. Written by theologians Theodore Hiebert and Elizabeth F. Caldwell, the story illuminates a new understanding of the story of Babel in Genesis, revealing God’s plan for wonderful diversity throughout the world.

Illustrating a religious book was definitely a departure for me and I still find myself feeling the need to explain myself every time the book comes up. That is so interesting to me. That said, I was raised in the Catholic Church and come from grandparents who met at a Catholic Worker house run by Dorothy Day- supposedly she introduced them! My mom was raised on a monastery run by French nuns in Western Connecticut. The book makes sense to me in terms of who I was raised to believe God was. I know my grandparents would have loved it. That said, in my adulthood, I’ve distanced myself from the church and still haven’t landed on clear ground in terms of religion.

It’s complex and I’m so curious to see what kinds of conversations and book visits this project sparks. The book is refreshing in terms of God not having a gender (God is just God) and I got to make all the people from Noah’s family have the complexions of people from that region of the world #noahwasntwhite.

Baking, Gentrification, Grandpa (works-in-progress)

So, now I’m working away on some new books. I’m so excited to be making a book called “Dad Bakes” with Holiday House. It’s a simple book, an easy reader that is inspired by the work of places like Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles and On the Rise Bakery in Detroit. These are places that provide employment and other services (therapy, education, housing, etc.) for people who are rebuilding their lives after incarceration.  I’m also working on a book for Norton called “Everything Naomi Loved,” co-authored by Ian Lendler. It’s a book about a young girl who notices her neighborhood changing (being gentrified) and what she does to cope creatively with the changes. I’m thrilled by this book, by its relevance, and by its devotion to the point that in every neighborhood that is “turning over,” people, and all their stories, live there now and likely have lived there for a long time. And their stories matter. I am thrilled to be working with my new editor, Simon Boughton, who was the editor of one of my all time favorite books by one of my all time favorite artists, “Tar Beach,” by Faith Ringgold. I’m also finally working again on my grandfather’s biography, which has been on a bit of a hiatus since originally contracted in 2014. His story, of growing up in an immigrant community and growing his art and vision in spite of the institutional racism, profiling and poverty he experienced is (unfortunately) more relevant now than ever. My hope is that with the book, I can share effectively how his experiences of oppression inspired in him the desire to make spaces where people felt their greatest uplift, where they could do their best work and coexist in peace. We will see how it goes. So, here we are. The end of another super-long blog post. If I can manage my goal of 3 posts a year, I can definitely cut down the length! If you are one of 2 people who made it this far, thank you for spending time with me. I’m looking forward to sharing the next chapter of this (hopefully warmer) journey with you (hopefully) soon. 


“Honda: The Boy Who Dreamed of Cars” Chapter Book

Happy to announce that “Honda: The Boy Who Dreamed of Cars” has been converted into a chapter book for older readers! Illustrations are edited down from the original picture book version (also still in print) and now appear in black and white, but I am so happy that this book will now reach a broader group of readers!

More here.

“When the Cousins Came” Starred Review from School Library Journal

“K-Gr 2–Lila eagerly anticipates the arrival of her two cousins who are visiting from the city. She is excited to have children her own age to play with, but when Rosie and Takeo arrive things don’t go exactly as Lila imagines. They have cool hairstyles instead of a plain braid like Lila. They skateboard instead of biking. “Everything the cousins did was a little bit special,” observes Lila after they show her how they make huge graffiti-inspired chalk-art outside. At dinner they ask for chopsticks, which Lila has never used and didn’t even know her family owned. The cousins are never unkind—they style Lila’s hair, take turns with the bike and skateboards, and give Lila tips on using chopsticks, but Lila still feels a bit inferior. After dark, Lila is excited to take her cousins for a walk and look for fireflies, but the cousins are nervous about being out at night and Lila again feels like an outsider.

“Lila’s worry that her cousins don’t enjoy the things she wants to share with them lasts throughout the visit, but doesn’t make the story gloomy or heavy. The gentle plot captures the nuance of childhood friendships, and how small things can loom large for sensitive children like Lila. Yamasaki’s lively mixed-media illustrations evoke strong feelings, and small background details reflect the author’s own experience growing up as part of a large family. VERDICT A refreshing, reassuring, and honest story about family and friendship that stands out amid a sea of pat friendship stories.”

– Anna Haase Krueger, Ramsey County Library, MN

Looking back, looking forward in 2017

2016 was an incredibly challenging year for many, and my husband and I were no exception. In February, I was 9 months pregnant and our baby boy was stillborn just weeks from his due date. The loss was shocking after a perfectly healthy pregnancy, and devastating beyond anything I have experienced before. We have both spent much of the last year learning how to carry our grief as we move forward with life. The support and compassion extended to us by our families, friends and colleagues has been beyond anything we could have imagined. We would not have survived the past year without it.

I took time off before returning to work- I was in the middle of writing and illustrating “When the Cousins Came,” with Holiday House, and beginning my grandfather’s picture book bio with multicultural publisher Lee & Low. I also was in the planning stages of a mural about gun violence and reconciliation with Vito Valdez in Detroit. There was work to be done, but it took time to get to a place where I could actually do it. My editors, Grace Maccarone at Holiday House and Louise May at Lee & Low were beyond patient and supportive. There was no rush. My first mentor wrote me a letter and told me about how when his wife passed away, he was in the midst of a book with a significant deadline, but how making the work helped him learn to process and carry his grief. I was so grateful for that letter and found the same to be true for me.

The little bedroom that was to be our baby’s room was transformed into a small studio for me and I was able to stay home and work near the little shrine that we had made for him. There was an ease to working at home, where I could ride out the waves of grief as they came. So, from those months at home, in the quiet of the recently converted studio, the work for “When the Cousins Came” came into being.

I was also lucky at that time to be working with my good friend Kien Nguyen at Philadelphia Mural Arts on the design for a project that will go on the opposite side of a wall we painted at Smith Playground in 2014. Our project manager understands more than most the struggle of learning to live with grief and she truly helped me kind of pace myself and be easy as it was a time like no other. After MANY drafts and design reviews, we finally finished that mural design and had it approved just a couple of weeks ago.

The greatest blessing of a project this year came from a collaboration with the Women & Justice Project and Hour Children. I had a great feeling about the project from the email I got from Tamar, Jaya and Miyhosi at WJP and will be forever grateful to them for finding me. I wrote extensively about this project in its portfolio under the “Work” section of my site if you care to read about the details.

I was able to work with about 20-30 formerly incarcerated women and their children on a project that explored the idea of “Transformation.” These are women who have faced some of the hardest, most unspeakable hardships this life has to offer and every day they are devoted to making life better, making the world a more just place for other women and children. They know, better than anyone I’ve ever met, trauma, grief and suffering. But the lives they are living are lives of healing, support, determination, optimism and honesty. Being around women who shared so deeply, cared so much and spoke so much truth was incredibly healing for me and I will forever be grateful that this project came around when it did. Without knowing it, the women I collaborated with on this project helped me learn how to be brave again.

I also felt so fortunate to come across Sister Tesa Fitzgerald, the fearless leader of Hour Children (www.hourchildren.org) during this project. She reminded me of my Catholic Worker grandparents, my aunts and uncles, my mother . . . all the people who taught us that being a good person in the world, whether Catholic or otherwise, just means being guided by love and doing the work. Working with Hour Children and WJP just felt like being home when I needed it most.

With this project and so many others, with our loss and with our grief, I thought so much about interconnectedness. Maybe some of you remember that last year I did a project with Amnesty International about a woman in El Salvador named Teodora del Carmen Vasquez who had been sentenced to 30 years in prison after her baby was stillborn in her 9th month while she was at work. She was charged with the aggravated homicide of her stillborn baby. When I painted that mural, I was 7 months pregnant. I was enjoying what seemed to be a perfect pregnancy. I was healthy, energetic, joyful with the new life of my son growing inside me. I identified with her as a human being, as a woman, as someone who was pregnant . . . but at that time, never could I have imagined her loss and her punishment. Still, to this day, I cannot imagine her experience. When our baby died, we were enveloped in love and support- from the medical team around us, to our friends, family and community who somehow knew just what to do in an impossible situation. I can only begin to imagine the devastation of her loss, where instead of support, she received recrimination and punishment for her deepest tragedy. It is unimaginable. I think of her often. I think of the other women incarcerated in El Salvador for the same thing. I worry about reproductive rights for women around the country and world- the sickness of her sentence is symptomatic of a country that does not believe in the reproductive rights of women, nor do they provide prenatal healthcare for anyone beyond the very wealthy. It is dangerous, tragic territory to tread.

For most of the last year, I could barely speak about that project. The irony of losing my baby after painting a mural of a woman who suffered the same loss at the same time was too acute. But I also think there is a beauty in the interconnectedness of all of our suffering, all of our joy. You never know what people have lived through. You never know what it takes for anyone to go out into the world and be brave and stand up for the rights of others. I learned that from the Women & Justice Project and the women of Hour Children. I learn that with every project. I also have heard so many stories since our own loss that remind me that we share so much with so many and it’s so important to have a platform to tell our stories.

Now, when I am making new work, I am always thinking about my son. He is in every illustration, in every mural, in every brushstroke and pencil mark. He lives with me always. The shock and trauma of the loss will be there as long as it needs to be, the grief is here to stay, but that’s okay. I read somewhere that grief is just learning to live with death. That is what I am working on. It’s the most painful lesson to learn, but I’m so blessed to be able to share this grief, this pain with my amazing, compassionate husband, our loving families and community. Together, we are all learning to gain some acceptance of, and maybe eventually surrender to, the simple truth that there is so much mystery in life, so many things so far beyond our control. Like everything, that understanding is a work in progress.

As I look into 2017, I look forward with an open heart. I am regaining my optimism. I have projects I am excited about, collaborating partners who thrill me. I have a new agent who believes in my stories and my work. There is, indeed, so much to look forward to . . . so much to be thankful for.

Thank you for reading this, the most personal piece I have ever published. I wish you and your beloveds the very happiest and healthiest in 2017.

Catching up . . .

It’s been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve written a post, so here goes . . . If you have a chance, please check out the new projects posted in the “Work” section of my site- there, you will find many new photos of recent work.

In December, I was excited to be invited to Amnesty International’s Art for Rights event in New Orleans, where I focused my work on a campaign to free Teodora del Carmen Vasquez in El Salvador. At work one day in 2008, in the 9th month of her pregnancy, Teodora tragically suffered a stillbirth. She was then arrested and charged with “aggravated homicide” and has been sentenced to 30 years in prison. Amnesty is working to free her, and you can learn more about her story and how you can help here.

At the end of last year I also wrapped up a long project at Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx. Tired of the lack of safe and affordable exercise facilities in their community, the hospital and neighborhood worked with me to transform the first 3 floors of their massive stairwell into a wellness and exercise facility of sorts. See more in my gallery! Both the planning and installation were massive team efforts and I so loved working with the Lincoln family. My dear friend Eric Okdeh even came up from Philly to help install. Hopefully in the next year or two we will take the mural all the way up to the 12th floor.

Currently, I’m working on a couple of books and a couple of murals in their early stages.

Vito Valdez, longtime Detroit muralist and dear friend of mine, and I won a Knight Arts Challenge grant to create a mural in Southwest Detroit, centered around peace and non-violence. We will be working with many families, members of law enforcement, and other community members who have been personally impacted by gun violence in the SW community. We are painting on a wall where an Aztec shield was painted in the early 90’s, an effort to halt gang violence by rival members. The project wasn’t finished then, but we intend to do so. We are currently fundraising for our matching grant and beginning to have community meetings. Any leads on fundraising for this project are more than welcome!





I’m also back working with Philadelphia’s Mural Arts program. A couple of years ago, my friend Kien Nguyen and I created this mural with a team of young men in various detention facilities in and around Philadelphia. IMG_1926 Now, we are going to paint the other side of the wall and have begun meetings with the local community about the concept. The first mural, “Heavy Blanket,” reflected a still moment of contemplation and identity. The central figure considering his identity within the context of our nation’s “heavy blanket” of racial and ethnic discrimination. For the opposing side, we intend to utilize similar visual motifs, but focus on lightness and motion, and how the youth of the Smith Playground community see themselves as active, healthy beings. Design coming soon! Here’s the crew from an early design session. IMG_0730

Caleb Neelon and I have also done a couple of new projects, both at Welling Court in Long Island City, Queens. Last year’s was about Kalief Browder (please read). This year, we did our project related to the Flint Water Crisis.



Finally, I’m working on some books! “When the Cousins Came,” is wrapping up and most of 2016 has been devoted to this project. Inspired by my own giant family and cousins from diverse backgrounds (racially, culturally and geographically!), this is the story of cousins visiting for the weekend and learning more about themselves and their own identities by spending time just being kids and having fun. Soon, I’ll be working on my grandfather‘s biography for Lee and Low, and more to come after that!

Here is a sneak peak of some collage works-in-progress from “When the Cousins Came.” Coming soon from Holiday House!
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2016-08-01 14.52.17

Thanks for taking the time to catch up with me!

Spring-Summer Wrap-Up, 2014

It’s been such a long time since I last posted! 2014 has been a whirlwind of a year, full of eye-opening new projects and experiences. The year got off to a great start because I was able to sell two books that I’ve been working on for a very long time. One is a story called “When the Cousins Came,” that I sold to Holiday House, the publishers of “Fish for Jimmy.” The story is inspired by a lifetime of experiences with my own cousins, from every culture and urban/rural corner of the country, and is set to come out next year. The other story, “YAMA,” I’ve literally been working on for at least 10 years. It tells the story of my grandfather, architect Minoru Yamasaki. I’m publishing that story with Lee and Low and am beyond thrilled and humbled to be able to share his remarkable journey with children everywhere.

This year has also been exceptional because, I had a final art show with my 4th-8th grade students at Ballet Tech, The NYC Public School for Dance. I’ve been a teacher there since 2000, and have decided to take this year off from teaching because of other work demands. We had a wonderful end-of-school-year exhibit, and this fall was the first year since I was 3 years old that I did not go “back to school.” And as much as I miss my students (A LOT!!!), the extra time has been really important so far this September.

Here are a couple of pieces from the end of the year with my Ballet Tech kids. Their work is always so inspiring!

IMG_3949        IMG_4346 IMG_4321 IMG_3987


I also wrapped up the teaching year with my Continuing Ed. class at the School of Visual Arts. I had an incredible Spring semester with amazing students and guest speakers. One of my students from that semester sold the book she was working on (and got a two-book deal with a major house)! Another student also sold her book to an educational press and another student is waiting to hear how about her project after signing with one of the top agencies in the city. It was an amazing semester! I’ll be back at SVA for the winter semester with the same class, “Writing and Illustrating Children’s Books.”

At the end of the school semester I got to go out to the Japanese American National Museum for a “Fish for Jimmy” book signing and event. It was wonderful and I am so thrilled to be returning to JANM from Oct. 15-Nov. 15 for a mural project! Painting at the JANM is truly a dream come true for me- it is a site so special to my family and JA history. We’ve been planning the project all summer and I can’t wait to get out there in a few weeks!



IMG_4228 Fish for Jimmy friends and family making their fish crowns at the museum.





IMG_4204 My new wall!!!!!

The summer also brought the conclusion of an amazing project with Philadelphia Mural Arts’ Restorative Justice program. I partnered with Philly artist Kien Nguyen and teaching artist Ellissa Collier to work with incarcerated teens at a couple of detention centers in and around Philadelphia. Please read more about that project in the portfolio/murals section of my work page.



Also, big thanks to my friend George Gardner III for helping me out and being such an incredible model for the project!!



This summer also brought about the incredible good fortune of a trip to Basque Country, Spain, where I was one of 13 artists invited to participate in a mural event that explored women from rural societies both in Basque Country and globally. It was a fascinating place- totally unique in my experience. Please check out the work I did with the community of Azilu (population:30, seriously). I also had a chance to spend some time with my Spanish muralist friends, especially my friends Eva Mena and Veronica Werckmeister in Vitoria. Amazing! What a joy to be able to travel around and see the great work that is going up by muralists (and lots of women muralists!) all over Spain. I even saw a beautiful piece by the wonderful Philly muralist Michelle Ortiz.

IMG_4414 IMG_4575 IMG_4612 Beautiful piece by Philly artist Michelle Ortiz in Vitoria

IMG_4628  Old School Prince by Eva Mena IMG_4642 IMG_4648

IMG_4626 3 Amazing pieces by the Werckmeister sisters/organization!!

Mid-summer, I got to go back to Boston to work with my good buddy Caleb Neelon at Tobin Elementary in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood. It’s amazing the ground we can cover in 3 days 🙂


So  . . . it has been a time of a lot of work and personal growth. 2014 has been full of blessings, most simply by being able to share and collaborate with friends, family and expanding communities all over. My gratitude abounds. I’ll try to keep things updated as the future projects unfold, particularly the mural at the Japanese American National Museum in downtown LA, October 15-November 15!

Love, Katie





Catching up!

Hi! Thanks for visiting. I haven’t updated this blog since the website was built in the beginning of the year, so there is a lot to catch up on! It’s been an exciting year- “Fish for Jimmy” was released, I attended a public art event/mural conference in Argentina and painted several murals over the summer in Detroit. For more pictures and stories from the work below, check out the “Work” section on the site which I have also, finally, updated.


Early in the year, I was invited to participate in an international mural conference in Cosquin, Cordoba, Argentina, to paint alongside about 50 other artists from around the world. I painted 3 murals in Argentina but the highlight from this trip was connecting with Sabotaje al Montaje and my other friends from the Canary Islands, to be able to paint with them all over Cordoba. The collaborative process continues to stun me as a way to open yourself up to images that may not have otherwise ever come out, had it not been for the collaborator. This is one of the favorite paintings I’ve ever done, on the riverbank of the Rio Cosquin, with Sabotaje al Montaje.


I’ve been anticipating the release of “Fish for Jimmy” for some time now, but I could not have anticipated the amazing support and enthusiasm that has surrounded its release. Friends (new and old), family, children of all ages and my Japanese American community have come out in such strong and loving support at every signing  and reading I’ve had. I’ve been invited to schools, bookstores and conferences across the country to share this story. When I was growing up, frustrated by the complete absence of the Japanese Internment from any lesson in school, I wish I could have told my adolescent self that it was coming. I feel so blessed every time I share this story with a child or group of children.


Speaking of children, in the Spring, I hosted what I think was the 9th year of the Ballet Tech Evening if the Arts. My 4th-8th grade students’ work was prominently displayed in all of its glory. Check it out in the work section of my site for more pictures. There is nothing in the world like their work and their indomitable creative spirit!!


Check out the new Boggs Educational Center mural in Detroit. My friends have put years of their lives into making this school a reality for the children of the east side of Detroit. I’m so, so happy for them. The mission of the school reads as follows: Our Mission is to Nurture Creative, Critical Thinkers Who Contribute to the Well-Being of Their Communities.” What could be better!

"We Must Believe We Have the Power Within Us to Create the World Anew." Grace Lee Boggs

“We Must Believe We Have the Power Within Us to Create the World Anew.” Grace Lee Boggs

While in Detroit, I also had a chance to do a memorial piece for Trayvon Martin. Detroiters came out in big support, with so much love and solidarity for the message. Thank you, Detroit.


Also in Detroit, I had the chance to collaborate with the Detroit Catholic Pastoral Alliance, who developed a gorgeous new Head Start center on Gratiot Ave. 72 children, newborn -five years old now have a brand new preschool to attend, in what was a previously abandoned lot. There is a sweetness to painting in preschools that never gets old for me.


This year, I also moved studios and had a visit from the independent booksellers from across the country who were attending the Book Expo America conference at the Javits Center. After 10 years of sharing a studio with my beloved friend Yuko Shimizu, I moved to Brooklyn, closer to home, and started subletting. I miss Yuko like crazy, but it’s great to have my own big walls to paint on and I can definitely say that the studio that we shared is like 500% more beautiful since I left and Yuko remodeled!!


These days, I am working on some new book proposals, busy teaching my students at Ballet Tech and continuing ed students at SVA. My Writing and Illustrating Children’s Book class is an absolute joy to teach. The students, from all walks of life, are an inspiration and their stories are wonderful too! The fall schedule is a little grueling, but well worth it. I’ve been able to have amazing guest speakers come to class- Edel Rodriguez, Lizzy Rockwell, Jan Carr, Zetta Elliot, Marcellus Hall and Marcos Chin. These students are so lucky 🙂

And . . . there was the 5th year of making murals at the Welling Court Mural Project with my friend Caleb Neelon! This year’s project was particularly fun with little Lucia, daughter of my dear friends, as our star!


Now that I know how to update my website, I’ll do it more often! Please come back for a visit soon!