Sophie Usui is one of five winners from the international Wacom competition, The Next Level. Her artwork was handpicked from over 3,800 applicants worldwide. The local, an Animation College student, has a beautiful and distinct style, using extensive amounts of detail to create personal and atmospheric pieces. Looking at her work, it was no surprise she was chosen as a winner! Recently, I had the chance to catch up with Sophie and discuss her art.

Art by Sophie Usui.

How would you describe your artistic style?

Detailed, full of narratives, and usually with a somewhat sad and cold feeling to it. I also try to explore nostalgic, sentimental and mundane feelings quite often.

What artists inspire your work?

At the moment,  Kamikurou Matsmura, and Krenz Cushart are my biggest inspiration, and also many other illustrators or comic artist around the world. However, Miyazaki Hayao has been the biggest inspiration since I was little.

Your artwork at the moment was part of a project series – could you describe the series?

A personal, post-apocalyptic themed project where I explore and develop my characters and their world through each illustration. They are all done with pen on paper and sometimes coloured digitally. In the future, if possible, I would love to create a comic series out of it as well!

You’re studying at Animation College at the moment, what do you hope to do after college?

I would of course love to do illustration all the way, but for now, I’m not quite sure what I will be doing straight after graduation yet.

Have you had your art publicly exhibited before? what does/did it feel like?

One a couple of years ago through an art class I used to take, but nothing like this, and I’m very excited!

What do you hope to achieve with your art, what message do you hope to convey?

I want people to be able to engage with my works and be able to feel the same sort of emotion conveyed in the picture.

What advice do you have for young artists trying to break it in the industry?

I’m still  also only  a young artist trying to break in to the industry as well, but I tell myself to practice lots, don’t give up, have fun with your works, focus on the style of art you feel most comfortable working with because that’s often your strength.


Sophie’s work will be displayed at “The Next Level” exhibition in Silo Park, Auckland from 12th-16th October!  


JENNIFER CHEUK is an English/Communications and Linguistics major with a passion for graphic novels and sophisticated picture books.  She likes eating grated cheese and watching niche films. Can be found cartooning and writing on Instagram: @selcouthbird.