The blanketed, commanding, at third glance expressionless stoicism of illustrator Sakura the Great entails a fathomless intoxication. It’s as if grasping the visual artist’s gaze is prerequisite to visceral course in her craft. As a draw and sketch virtuoso who also models as muse – and instructs tumbling and all-star classes to Olympic aspirants – Sakura’s facility for explaining spatial simplicity with ridge, color, sight story, and dexterous manual meter are efforts produced only by the gifted. Equal parts cultural cartoonist and landscape framer proficient in both drawing and painting, the bouncing-curls creative uses pencil, ink, and watercolor to create lifeforms – with animals, humans, and nature being consistent themes seen in her work. As illustrative icing on the canvass cake, Sakura, 20, also animates many of her paintings to create a cartoon-like storyboard inhaled as poetic short cinema. The Black-and-Mexican sublime-slinger shot with capture collaborator PhotoLogic in Los Angeles, and later, enjoyed an intellectual free-flow with editor Tone Swep, for this SEXEE Magazine exclusive. Glow up!
written by Tone Swep
images by Photo Logic
(SEXEE) Where do you draw inspiration for your illustrations?
(Sakura the Great: Sakura) I like to pay homage to my name. It is Japanese for cherry blossom. I also focus a lot on gardens and floral scenes. I grew up in my grandmother’s garden; flowers, sprouts, roots and fruits have always caught my eye. In a painting you don’t have to pluck the flower to keep its memory.
(SEXEE) Talk a bit about your creative process as a sketch artist?
(Sakura) I wish I could tell you everything is planned out, but a lot of times I end up wherever the pencil takes me.
(Sakura) Slowly. Some pieces were created with the full intention of being animated. Some are animated just out of the fondness that I have for the piece. There is a lot of planning involved in creating an animation. I try to stick to hand drawn frame-by-frame animation but I do some digital editing to create the final product.
(SEXEE) Many of your creations are offered as prints and products. What types of products do you offer now, and what will soon be added to your on-sale collection?
(Sakura) A lot of my designs can be bought as prints, notebooks, phone cases, zip pouches, bed comforters, and pillows. I intend to make shirts soon, maybe toys in the future.
(SEXEE) The modeling you’ve added to your repertoire has a stoicism and moodiness to it, a certain edge and aura that accents your art. What is the art concept behind modeling to promote your art?
(Sakura) Sometimes I make art, sometimes I am the art. I want to be impactful with my portraits and all of my art. I have the tools to do more than a selfie. My pictures bring my vibe into view.
(SEXEE) Many of the images you promote are black and white, or grayscale. What’s the art theory there?
(Sakura) My in-house photographer, PhotoLogic, believes black and white pictures make the viewer appreciate the entire composition of the photo. With color pictures people tend to focus on the outfit. With these photos it’s about catching the muse’s personality.
(SEXEE) You are based in Laredo, Texas. How does your city and its surroundings inform your art?
(Sakura) The natural landscape is a little boring for me. Laredo is a 100 plus degree stretch of nopales, wild grass, and mesquite trees. The beauty that comes from the work people put in to tending blooming gardens compensates for the rest of my surroundings.
(SEXEE) As an athlete and cheer instructor, you wear different lines of athleisure wear. What are some of your favorite go-to brands from clothing to equipment?
(Sakura) Nike is definitely one of my favorite brands. Forever 21 won a special place in my heart with its affordable clothes for the gym and casual wear. The beautiful gear from Swedish Fall is any cheerleaders dream.
(SEXEE) Life is a learning process, as well as a work in progress. Give us a valuable life lesson you learned, tell us how that lesson has helped you progress.
(Sakura) Not anyone has your vision. No one will support your brand as much as you will. People will watch you every step of the way and still not help you. Your ambition will be met with skepticism but they’ll appreciate its fruits. Keep pushing yourself, positive thinking brings positive results.
(SEXEE) What makes you sexy? How does being sexy empower people?
(Sakura) Knowing that beauty is a genetic lottery. I’m sexy because I have drive, I have a vision, regardless of the support I may or may not have, I’m still going to get my dreams taken care of.