The Ladies from Shanghai

by Eyal de Leeuw | 03.11.18

Jonathan Katz is a young Tel Avivian illustrator, graduate of the Shenkar College in Visual Communication and this month opening his first solo exhibition during the 5th edition of Tel Aviv Illustration Week. The exhibition is titled: “The Ladies from Shanghai – Aristocracy and Decadence” and it mixes his experience from recent stay in Japan and his adoration for vintage posters  about the wealth and decadence of Shanghai women.
We sat and talked with Jonathan about his unique drawing language and his orient inspirations.

Hi Jonathan can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in Tel Aviv,  studied high school in Thelma-Yellin School of Art and received my degree in design in the Visual Communication from Shenkar College. After graduating, I went to Japan to study Japanese, and worked occasionally as a freelance illustrator. I lived in Kyoto for one year and had the chance to travel around and experience the culture and atmosphere of this country.

How did the trip influence your work?
Living in Japan for one year I experienced the four seasons and their spectacular ceremonies as well as unique cultural events typical for each each month of the year. Throughout my stay, I had an ongoing creative life. Once in a few days, I created a new short story, inspired by memories of experiences I had while staying in Japan. Being able to be exposed to different culture’s aesthetics, helped me to create not only new kinds of images and characters but also narratives that are inspired by the way I see Japan as a foreigner through my illustrations. As an illustrator and an enthusiastic traveler, I was fascinated how the Japanese people admires the nature and their national heritage.

Who are The Ladies from Shanghai?
The Ladies from Shanghai were fashionable and sophisticated young women who posed as models for artists. The original paintings were created as posters for advertising and promoting western goods during the years 1920-1940. I was first exposed to the original posters by my parents and always knew I will create something with them. In my illustrations, I took the images of these beautiful young women from the periodic posters and created a new unique timeline for each character by using the aesthetic of the original posters.

Can you give us some insights to your technical methods of drawing this series?
At the beginning, I did a visual and historical research of the aesthetics in Shanghai’s ladies calendar posters. The main purpose was to collect as much visual references and materials as possible. I did many sketches very spontaneously in my sketchbook with colored pencils. Then I chose 7 images that interested me the most and built a narrative story for them. When the final images were completed, I used watercolors and colored pencils to paint the illustrations.
In my works, I am mostly passionate about handmade illustration techniques and attracted to the essence and idea of the craftsmanship.


The 5th edition of Illustration Week, in collaboration with the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, will take place from November 15-24. This year, the festival will showcase over 50 exhibitions and hundreds of Israeli illustrators, designers and artists. The exhibitions will be taking place in galleries, museums, and alternative venues throughout the city including Old Jaffa, Kiryat Hamelaha area, Rotschild Boulevard, the Eretz Israel Museum and more. Most events are free of charge and open to the general public.


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