Designer & Stop Motion Animator: Michele Keane

Well folks, here we are now in the month of November and as the temperature is dropping it’s also getting near that time. That wonderful time when capitalism takes over, holiday music runs rampant on the radio, and everyone’s preparing to ‘Tis the Season. The end of 2019 is drawing ever nearer and it’s definitely exciting. However, before you rush off to make arrangements for the holiday fun, we’d like to remind you of just a couple more things to be thankful for along with your loved ones…namely all the wonderful Black Creatives out here of course.

The Happy Graduate – May 2019

This month we are pleased to present illustrator & stop motion animator Michele Keane. Born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, the skilled artist journeyed here to Japan in pursuit of a Master’s Degree from the highly renowned Kyoto University of Art & Design. After completing her studies, Michele continues to live and work in Kansai, while using her student portfolio as a springboard to brew up even more amazing pieces. Once our schedules allowed, I had the pleasure of kicking back with Michele to discuss our mutual love/obsession over animation, sip some seasonal konbini drinks and witness the graceful, yet obnoxious antics of Japanese cranes on the Kamogawa River bank:


Black Creatives Japan: Firstly, I don’t know if I’ve told you before, but ‘sotsugyo omedetou’ – Happy graduation! How has post grad life been so far if you don’t mind me asking?

Michele Keane: Aww, thanks! It’s been almost half a year since graduation this past May. It’s crazy to think how much time has gone by and how close I am to finishing another year (I think my 3rd) in Japan. It’s been quite a learning experience.

I started working after Golden Week and it’s been weird getting used to, or rather, getting into a routine. My Japanese is still awful…I need to study a lot more than I am, which is literally not at all. My job is entirely in Japanese and it’s difficult to say the least, but I love my job! 

I also recently started learning Spanish on Duolingo. I still have to pick up Swedish though. Maybe after Spanish since that’s more useful to me at the moment.

Goache painting on wood panel 22x27cm

BCJ: Wow, that’s amazing! Six months after graduation and you’re already so busy! It’s definitely understandable that you’re still working on your Japanese at this point so don’t be too hard on yourself. Learning just one language is hard enough, but you’re absolutely doing the most, adding two more into the mix haha! So, let’s jump right into it and let me ask how did it all start for you? Did you always know you wanted to be an animator? From what I’ve seen, you have some beautiful illustrations as well! When did you first decide you were interested in illustrating & animation?

MK: Um, well no, actually in high school I really wanted to become a comic book artist. I was even contemplating somehow doing some sort of exchange program in Japan for that, even though looking back I don’t think that was available to people from my country haha.

I used to draw comics in high school with a good friend at the time. We would take turns drawing as many pages as we wanted. Sometimes a whole chapter and then exchange the book so the other person could continue afterwards. That was a lot of fun! Everyone in our friend group would read those comics. I remember wishing I could draw as well as my friend at the time though.

And thank you for calling them beautiful! I always find some issues with the way I draw and I’m almost always changing it, but I guess I do have a distinct style that I always go back to. I’ve been illustrating for a while actually and even did a comic book for someone back in Jamaica — I absolutely hated that commission though — it wasn’t in my style and I was thoroughly uncomfortable with drawing in that way. To be honest, if I could I would totally redo it the way I draw now, but it wasn’t my story. Oh well, haha!

As for animation, I first developed an interest in university. I did a degree in multimedia so we got to do a little bit of animation in our program. I’m terrible at flash, but animation kinda stuck with me and the love just grew from there.

Sticker Set for Thumbelina Project
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Illustrator & Designer: Alexander Ito

Trick-or-Treat, it’s October, people! There’s finally a crisp breeze in the air and we’re coming close to the end of a pretty rough typhoon season. There has been quite a lot of damage sustained in areas around the Kanto region by way of Typhoon Hagibis, which caused some high winds, flooding and even an earthquake in the Chiba Prefecture. Our hearts & prayers go out to all of those severely affected and recovering from the storm’s impacts. If possible, please consider contributing a donation to any relief funds for the survivors out there ( ;

Now moving on to some bloodcurdling business, y’all know that Halloween is right around the corner. So while you’re getting all prepped for candy, costumes, and the craziness to come, we at BCJ ask that you all stay safe, informed and absolutely get lit in whatever capacity in which you’re comfortable. Additionally, we’d also like you to keep in mind the vast array of events going on in Kansai, some of which are being organized by the members of yours truly!

Check Alex’s Instagram

Before getting to all of that though, let’s introduce our next member in the spotlight for this month: Alexander Ito. Alex is known for his uniquely intricate and vibrant illustrations that are cool, clean, and simple in design, yet speak volumes. As is the case with many other creatives, he wears a few different hats and has dabbled in a bit of modeling, photography, and can strum a mean ukulele. If Alex wasn’t already on your radar, he definitely should be so read on and get to know a little more about this upcoming artist:


Black Creatives Japan: It’s pretty straightforward, but when did you first start drawing? Was it something you always did when you were a kid? Did you go through school and beyond wanting to become an illustrator?

Alexander Ito: I started drawing young at around 2 years old and was always encouraged by those around me. Having said that, once the time for choosing universities came around I was reluctant and afraid to apply to a university for Fine Arts and went elsewhere. Originally, I was looking at an international fashion school in Italy. In high school, I was interested in fashion, but it never lead to anything so I opted away from it for the reasons previously stated. I got a Liberal Arts degree ‘cause it was cheaper and because my mom kicked me out of the house, haha! I mainly came back to drawing later as a meditation of sorts.

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