Kinuko Y. Craft considers herself a story teller. Her fairy tale books are currently distributed throughout the United States, Europe, Greece, China and Korea. Her art is also widely licensed on calendars, posters, greeting cards and other consumer goods. Her work has been widely exhibited and is now in private collections throughout the United States, Europe and the Far East. It can also be found in public collections at The National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian in Washington DC, The Cornish Colony Museum in Windsor, VT, The Museum of American Illustration in New York City, The National Geographic Society and dozens of corporate collections.
A compelling background
Ms. Craft is a graduate, BFA 1962, of The Kanazawa Municipal College of Fine and Industrial Art (known in Japan as The Kanazawa Bidai). She was born in Japan and came to the United States in the early sixties where she studied design and illustration at the Art Institute of Chicago. Subsequently, she worked for a number of years in well known Chicago art studios. By the end of the decade her work was in wide demand and she begun her long and successful career as a free-lance illustrator. For most of this time she worked in editorial and advertising markets where her work regularly appeared in national magazines and newspapers. Since the mid 1990’s, she has concentrated on children’s picture books, fantasy book jackets and poster designs.
Awards are numerous
Kinuko Craft’s work has been recognized repeatedly by professional art and design publications, competitions and shows, garnering numerous awards over the years. Kinuko Craft’s artwork has won well over a hundred awards to date. She has been elected to the Hall of Fame of the Society of Illustrators, she has been awarded Gold and Silver Medals from the Society of Illustrators, The Grand Master Award from the Society of Illustrators and various accolades dating back to the 1990’s.
Exhibitions, Guest Lectures and Workshops
Ms. Craft has had exhibitions too numerous to list along with guest lectures and workshops at The Art Center College of Design, The Academy of Art College in San Francisco, the Washington DC Society of Illustrators, The Art institute of Boston, Syracuse University, The Rhode Island School of Design, The School of Visual Arts in New York among many others.
International publication covers and famous authors
Her work has graced the covers and throughout the pages of the most important publications in the world including: Time, Newsweek, National Geographic, Forbes, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, US News and World Report, Playboy and cover art for some of the most famous authors today.
She drives to continue to follow her artistic dreams.
“With her broad range of work and international acclaim, there is no further explanation required about Kinuko Y. Craft as an artist. In spite of the many awards and honors bestowed upon her, we must respect most of all, her steadfast attitude and the desire which drives her to continue to follow her artistic dreams.”
– The Metropolitan Museum of Art Curator Shinichi Doi
Kinuko Yamabe Craft /キヌコヤマベ・クラフト/ is an Japanese -born American contemporary painter, illustrator and Fantasy artist.
An Appreciation of Artist Kinuko Y. Craft
One day in 1974, Kinuko Yamabe Craft hand-delivered to Playboy’s Chicago office a set of paintings she’d been commissioned to create for the magazine. Designed to accompany a “ribald classic,” Craft’s elaborate wood-panel triptych and two additional works were so skillfully done, from the intricate medieval Russian iconography to the faux distressed gold-leaf frames, that they looked as if they’d been lifted from the walls of a museum.
Stunned, associate art director Kerig Pope dropped to his knees and kissed her feet.
“I was astounded by how well she did it,” says Pope. “It had a very authentic look, and I was terribly impressed. It’s kind of embarrassing for me; she probably thought, What kind of weirdo is this?”
Craft was unfazed by Pope’s enthusiasm. Still a working artist today at the age of 79, she says that her many Playboy projects gave her the opportunity to learn about other artists and their techniques. “Playboy worked like a school for me,” she says. “It was the most effective training I ever got.”
Having begun in 1967 with an assignment from founding art director Arthur Paul, Craft continued to work for Playboy.. through 2000. Across those five decades, her phenomenal gift for working in whatever medium and style the task at hand required-including art deco, biblical, trompe l’oeil nursery rhyme illustration-is on display in more than 100 magazine pieces.
THE TRIPTYCH CREATED BY KINUKO CRAFT TO ILLUSTRATE PLAYBOY’S 1974 PUBLICATION OF “THE GABRILIAD.”
From the moment she picked up her big sister’s crayons and drew a mountain landscape on a sliding screen in her family home in Kanazawa, Japan at the age of two, Craft knew she was an artist. “That was the first huge painting I did,” she says. “Nobody scolded me-I’m so grateful!”
Another early moment had an indelible effect on the nascent artist. “My grandmother was carrying me on her back. Outside was the forest, in beautiful sunlight. A stray bamboo leaf, stuck to the end of a cobweb, twirling with the breeze. The sunlight hit the wooden sash, and I thought it was the most beautiful thing,” she says. “It is etched in my mind. That was the first full awareness of being surrounded by beauty.”
Ever since, Craft has gravitated toward beauty and endeavored to capture it in her work. “Unfortunately, I’m a mere mortal,” she says, “and so I can’t grab it.”
After obtaining a fine art degree in Japan, Craft moved to the States in late 1964 for graduate stud¥ at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Arriving in the thick of a miserable winter, she almost turned on her heel and fled. “No leaves on the trees, and it was desolate, so lonely looking,” she recalls. “And the cold! It was colder than any cold I knew.”
But she stuck it out and began her studies in 1965, frequently visiting the eponymous museum next door to wonder at the master-works within. After a year and a half, Craft left school and started working within Chicago’s studio system, which she describes as “a bunch of illustrators sitting and waiting for salesmen to bring jobs.” It wasn’t long before her portfolio found its way to Art Paul and she accepted her first Playboy assignment: an illustration for a wry short story about urban bohemians. From there the Playboy commissions kept coming in, engaging her virtuoso artistry for everything from fiction, humor, essays and tech stories to a sex survey.
“With her sophisticated citation of many strands from Western art’s tradition of visual fantasy, Craft clearly has high expectations for her audience’s wider cultural knowledge,” writes professor Lorraine Janzen Kooistra about Craft’s Playboy paintings for another ribald classic: Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market. Hieronymus Bosch, Botticelli and Arthur Rackham are among the visual references Kooistra notes in the playfully wicked paintings.
Craft’s versatility also caught the eye of novelist and cultural critic Ray Bradbury. “Kinuko Craft is an artist for all seasons, for all kinds of subjects, and in all kinds of styles,” he writes in his 1985 volume The Art of Playboy. “She fits herself to her subject with charming ease and yet leaves herself free to remain herself. Her illustrations suggest one who is a true connoisseur of art, widely ranging through all the countries of the world.”
Bradbury goes on: “One cannot help but think how delightful it would be to walk into a gallery full of the fruits of her kaleidoscopic talents.” (We’re happy to report that one can, simply by flipping through the Playboy archive.) Years later, Craft would illustrate The Witch Door, one of Bradbury’s original Playboy short stories.
Other notable authors whose stories were paired with Craft’s creations include Paul Theroux, John Collier and T.C. Boyle. Alice K. Turner, Playboy’s fiction editor from 1980 to 2001, described her as “one of our very best artists.”
Writer Gore Vidal was so taken with one of Craft’s paintings for his 1978 story Kalki that she and the magazine decided to give it to him. But in trying to compliment her work, Vidal unintentionally slighted her. “When he received it, he said, ‘I usually don’t like illustration, but I like this one.’ It’s offensive,” Craft says, laughing. “I wanted to say, ‘What’s wrong with illustration?'”
Outside of Playboy, Craft worked for advertising agencies, textbook publishers and other magazines including Time, Newsweek, National Geographic, The Atlantic and Forbes. Rarely given much time to complete her projects and reluctant to turn down work, Craft frequently pulled all-nighters to meet deadlines, drinking a single cup of cold green tea to stay awake.
“Everything that was flying my way, I caught it. It was one of those aggressive periods. I have to do it, I want to do it,” she says. “That was the passion I hadeven for math-book illustrations.”
In the first decades of her career, illustration was a male-dominated field, as Pope recalls. Craft faced additional barriers, especially at smaller agencies and publications. “When they looked at me, all they saw was Asian. ‘Bring me the Asian samples from your portfolio next time,’ ” Craft says potential clients would tell her. “Not being born in this country, and speaking with an accent, was not advantageous.”
FaerieCon Celebrating the art of Kinuko Y. Craft
When I was little and living in inner city Detroit, my world was made richer, brighter and more beautiful because my mother was a lover of fairytales and in turn introduced me to the whole magical world of fairytales from almost every country and culture. Together we explored the adventures of princesses, dragons, fairies, witches and heroes.
Many of the books she read to me, and those I later read to myself, had wonderful illustrations that enhanced each story allowing me in to that other world, away from the realities of living in an inner city. I spent hours studying each one – the more intricate the better, until I felt that I was there, in the tale, a part of the story, watching from behind a tree or just out of sight in the next room of the castle. Those stories and illustrations shaped my life.
I didn’t become familiar with Kinuko Craft’s work until I was much older, living in my own fairytale world in England, but I remember that the first time I saw one of her beautiful, jewel-like illustrations, it took me right back to my childhood -back to those magical hours I spent immersed in the fairytale world I so loved. The more I discovered her work, the more enchanted I became with her unique vision. She combines wonder with sophistication in equal parts and I find the mixture incredibly satisfying.
Kinuko’s paintings touch that need for fairytale, that yearning for magic that lives inside all of us. When we step into one of her paintings, for indeed that is what we do, we experience a world of dreams, visions and wonder. She is truly a fairy godmother who bestows riches upon us with a wave of her paintbrush. Kinuko is pure magic and our world is so much the better for her presence in it. – Wendy Froud
I remember first coming across Kinu.ko’s work on book covers. They drew me in, inviting me to explore the rich worlds that must be contained within the pages of something that was so lavishly and enchantingly illustrated. The images felt like stories in and of themselves, weaving a spell made of lush details, jewel-like colors, and dream-like figures.
Her style has some of the grandeur and sensua] richness of Baroque art, while at the same time being entirely something of our modem era, with the colors that seem to vibrate off the page. I feel that I can get lost in any one of her paintings, letting my eyes wander across the textures and the botanical beauty of the magical realms. Like the stories of a traveler who has wandered inadvertently into the faerie realms, time stills while inhabiting the space that her mind and hand and. brush have created. – Stephanie Law
Kinuko Y. Craft is one of the most prestigious artists living today. Her timeless imagery has roots in history, mythology, and fantasy. With vibrant colors and incredible attention to detail, she create; an entire world in a single painting. While she has worked with a variety of clients for projects around the world, her i!Justrated children’s books have always captu.red my imagination the most.
It’s a rare thing to find such intricate and carefully crafted illustrations in publications for children. It was what initially drew me to Craft’s work when I was young.
Lush environments and delicate feminine beauty are common themes, along with intricate borders reminiscent of the illuminated manuscripts of late antiquity. The more you look at one of her paintings, the more there is to discover. One can easily get lost in her creations uncovering the secrets in these fantastic worlds. The standard of excellence in Craft’s work is one that should be both appreciated and celebrated. Work like hers will be enjoyed by both children and adults alike for years to come. – Annie Stegg
What a lovely place Kinuko Craft’s must be, judging from the worlds she has created for us. To view them is to step for a moment into fairytale. There is the wondrous castle in the distance, on the hill rising above dark forests. Find your way into those trees, and there are the mysterious realms of faery, caught in a beam of lighl There is the sleeping princess, dreaming on a bed of flowers and fallen leaves. A brave and lonely traveler, the woman warrior, passes by you, intent on her quest. A witch makes and unmakes in her strange house. Above her, in the forest’s night, a smiling woman rides across the stars on the smile of the crescent moon.
In Kinuko Craft’s worlds, nature is a magical force, always blooming, recreating, one beauty appearing after another wherever you look. Winter is very far away, perhaps only a dream. The worlds of air and water flow into one another. Fish wander across your next breath; vines and sea snails inhabit the same starry dark. Women are more likely found than men; even within the castle on the hill an emporess rules. Like flowers on the vine, face after face blooms for us, revealing beauty, strength, dominance. The Sacred Feminine becomes, in her work, a force impossible to belittle or ignore.
As one of the most widely respected and celebrated fantasy artists in the world today, Kinuko Y. Craft considers herself first and foremost a storyteller. She brings a strong narrative sensibility to her illustrations, allowing the images to tell the intimate tale that lies behind the words. Known for her passionate love of fine art and a deep knowledge of art history, Kinuko’s work has graced the covers of many well-known fantasy authors, opera posters, fairy tale books and national magazines. Her original works reside in both museum and private collections. – Patricia A. McKillip
Contemporary Painter & Illustrator
Harryet Candee: Who in your life was your inspiration for entering the world of fantasy and storytelling through art?
Kinuko Y. Craft: I think I was born with a certain set of receptors for fondness of mylh, legend and fairy tales. The house I grew up in was filled with books of all kinds, on all sorts of subjects such as children’s stories, science, biology and mythology. There were my father’s picture books that he had when he was in grade school. There were also the children’s picture books of my older sister and my Grandfather’s set of books about art of the world which covered both western and eastern art. As a preschooler I found all of these mesmerizing. You could say I was almost literally born into the middle of them. All of them had plates of fabulous fine art and illustrations. But early on. I was most attracted to Italian Renaissance work. They were intricate, complex, very enigmatic storytelling pieces. After I started school and finally learned how to read. I discovered comic books. That was my second awakening. I devoured them like some ogre with an insatiable appetite. After the comic book attack. the libraries of the schools I attended provided all I needed. I read virtually everything I could get my hands on. Books were fuel to my imagination. I think I was just really lucky to be in the right places at the right time. Fortunately. no one ever attempted to change how I and my head were wired. There isn’t any one person who was an inspiration to me. However. it was Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey that truly ignited my imagination, setting off fireworks in my head like the 4th of July.
Career and Special Awards
2002: GRANDMASTER — winner
World Fantasy Awards
- 2011: ARTIST OF THE YEAR— winner
- Chesley Awards —
- 2016: lifetime artistic achievement — winner
- 2011: Midsummer Night
- 2008: “The Elven Queen of the Golden Wood” — color work
- 2007: artistic achievement —
- 2006: The Divided Crown
- 2006: Metallic Love
- 2005: Thomas the Rhymer
- 2004: Wolfskin
- 2003: Sleeping Beauty
- 2003: artistic achievement — nomination
- 2002: The Adventures of Tom Thumb
- 2002: artistic achievement —
- 2002: “Die Walküre” — product illustration — winner
- 2001: The Tower at Stony Wood by Patricia A. McKillip (Ace)
- 2001: Cinderella by Kinuko Y. Craft (North-South/SeaStar) — interior illustration — winner
- 2001: “Angel” — product illustration — nomination
- 2000: “Honey Lemon Ginseng Green Tea”
- 1999: Song for the Basilisk by Patricia A. McKillip — cover illustration, hardcover — winner
- 1999: Pegasus by Marianna Mayer — interior illustration
- 1997: Winter Rose by Patricia A. McKillip — cover illustration
- Hall of Fame: Society of Illustrators
- Silver Medal: Society of Illustrators 33rd annual exhibition
- Gold Medal: Society of Illustrators 35th annual exhibition
- Gold Medal: Society of Illustrators 38th annual exhibition
- Silver Medal: Society of Illustrators 39th annual exhibition
- Silver Medal: Society of Illustrators 41st annual exhibition
- Gold Medal: Society of Illustrators 42nd annual exhibition
- Hamilton King Award
- Society of Illustrators, NY in 1987
- Conflux3 fantasy 2006 in the International Art Show at the National Museum of Australia
- Best International Art – Winner
- Renaissance 2001 show, The Franklin Mint Museum.
Best in show.
- Society of Illustrators
- Five paintings, including a Silver Medal, in the Society of Illustrators, NY 1991 annual exhibit.
- Four paintings, including a Silver Medal, in the Society of Illustrators, NY 1999 annual exhibit.
- Silver Medal in the 1995 Society of Illustrators Los Angeles show.
- Hamilton King Award from the Society of Illustrators, NY in 1987
- Locus Awards and Poll
- Locus Awards — for SF/F/H works, polled by readers of Locus Magazine (16 nominations)
- 2017: Beauty and the Beast (by Mahlon F. Craft, illustrated by KYC) (Harper) — art book — 4th place
- 2017: Myth & Magic: An Enchanted Fantasy Coloring Book (Amber Lotus) — art book — 9th place
- 2017: artist —
- Spectrum 10 Silver Award: Books 2003
- Spectrum 9 Grand Master Award 2002
- Spectrum 8 Gold Award 2001
- Spectrum 7 Gold Award 2000
Spectrum Awards — for SF/F/H artworks, juried (5 nominations; 3 wins)
2003: Sleeping Beauty — book — Silver Award
2001: “Das Rheingold” (Wagner’s Ring Cycle) — advertising — Gold Award
2000: Biting the Sun — book — Gold Award
1995: Les Fleus du Mal — editorial — Certificate (tie)
Paintings in the permanent collections of:
The National Geographic Society
The National Portrait Gallery at The Smithsonian
The Cornish Colony Museum in Windsor, VT
The Museum of American Illustration, New York City
Other corporate collections.
COLLECTORS IN USA AND AROUND THE WORLD, BOTH PRIVATE, CORPORATE AND MUSEUMS:
LITERARY AND MASS MARKET AUTHORS book jackets illustrated by Kinuko Y. Craft
SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY AUTHORS book jackets illustrated by Kinuko Y. Craft
-Orson Scott Card
-C. S. Lewis
-Sherri S. Tepper
-Guy Gavriel Kay
-Raymond E. Feist
-Marion Zimmer Bradley
-Patricia A. McKillip
Kinuko Yamabe Craft (born January 3, 1940 in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan) is a Japanese-born American painter, illustrator and fantasy artist.
Kinuko Yamabe Craft was born in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan on January 3, 1940. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1964 from the Kanazawa College of Art. After graduating, she came to the United States in 1964 to study at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she continued her studies in design and illustration. A majority of her earlier work was for the editorial and advertising market.
Craft illustrated the cover art of the older editions of Shakespeare’s work for the Folger Library. She has a passionate love of European fine art and draws on a deep knowledge of European art history in creating her work. She is most inspired by the works of Leonardo da Vinci, the Pre-Raphaelites, and Symbolist painters. Her work is done with a combination of artist oils and watercolor on clayboard gesso panels.
Craft has illustrated eight picture books (fairy tale and classic mythology) designed for children and young readers. Since the mid-1990s, she has concentrated her efforts on art for fantasy book jackets. Her art has included paintings for the book covers of many well-known fantasy authors such as Patricia A. McKillip, Juliet Marillier, and Tanith Lee. She has also designed opera posters, fairy tale books and painted cover art for many national magazines such as Time, Newsweek, and National Geographic.
She has collaborated with many authors and worked with her husband Mahlon F. Craft and her daughter Marie Charlotte Craft. Her original paintings, drawings, and limited-edition prints are represented by Borsini-Burr Gallery in Montara, California, and other galleries.
Her art has been licensed on calendars, posters, greeting cards, and other consumer goods. Her fairy tale books are currently distributed in the USA, other English-speaking countries, Europe, Greece, China, and Korea. She has received numerous awards for her work, including several gold and silver medals from the Society of Illustrators, New York, NY. Ms. Craft’s work can be found in the collections of National Portrait Gallery (United States), the Museum of American Illustration in New York City, the National Geographic Society, and other corporate collections.
She has been nominated five times since 2001 as a Best Artist for the World Fantasy Awards and won the World Fantasy Award for Best Artist in 2011.
Craft has also lectured and given workshops at numerous art schools, universities, and organizations, including Art Center College of Art and Design, San Jose State University, Rhode Island School of Design, Philadelphia College of the Arts (2012), and more.
- Kinuko Craft Drawings and Paintings: V. 1 (Imaginosis, 2007)
Children’s picture book illustration
- Rumpelstiltskin: A German Folk Tale from the Brothers Grimm, translated by Lucy Crane (Scott, Foresman, 1970)
- Gingerbread Children (Poems), by Ilo Orleans (Follett, 1973)
- Bear, Wolf and Mouse, by Jan Wahl (Follett, 1975)
- Come Play with Me, by Margaret Hillert (Modern Curriculum Press, 1975)
- Mother Goose ABC (Platt & Munk, 1977)
- What Is It?, by Margaret Hillert (Modern Curriculum Press, 1977; Perfection Learnin, 1989)
- Classics: A Child’s Introduction to Treasure Island, Black Beauty, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Robin Hood (Platt & Munk, 1977)
- The Tower of Geburah by John White (IVP, 1978 edition only)
- The Cookie House, by Margaret Hillert (Modern Curriculum Press, 1978)
- The Black Swan, by Paula Z. Hogan (Heinemann, 1979; Steck-Vaughn, 1987)
- The Elephant, by Paula Z. Hogan (Heinemann, 1980)
- Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson (Steck-Vaughn, 1980)
- Tales of the Ugly Ogres, by Corinne Denan (Troll Communications, 1980)
- The Twelve Dancing Princesses, by Marianna Mayer (Morrow Junior Books, 1989)
- Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave, by Marianna Mayer (HarperCollins, 1994)
- Cupid and Psyche by M. Charlotte Craft (HarperCollins, 1996)
- Pegasus, by Marianna Mayer (HarperCollins, 1998)
- King Midas and the Golden Touch, by M. Charlotte Craft (HarperCollins, 1999)
- Cinderella, by Charles Perrault (SeaStar Books, 2000)
- The Adventures of Tom Thumb, by Marianna Mayer (Chronicle Books, 2001)
- Sleeping Beauty, by the Brothers Grimm (Wilhelm Grimm and Jacob Grimm) and Mahlon F. Craft (SeaStar Books] 2002; leather bound edition by Easton Press, 2006)
- Beauty & the Beast, by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont and Mahlon F. Craft (Harper, 2016)
- The Cornish Colony Museum, Windsor VT “Heroines in Literature” (Winter 2006/2007)
- The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art Kanazawa, Kanazawa Japan “A Spring Night’s Dream” Spring 2006