This article originally appeared in the October 2023 issue of Connect.
Rosie Ball (Hyogo) interviewed by Tori Bender (Hyogo)
Rosie Ball is an Australian illustrator and co-owner of Tobira Records in the quirky town of Kasai, Hyogo. Originally from the suburbs of Melbourne, she and her husband manage the shop and live together with their two adorable and neurotic cats, Eddie and Kuro, who sometimes make appearances in her work.
Entirely self-taught, Rosie creates digital illustrations using Procreate software on an iPad. Her art often explores themes such as femininity, humor, belonging, and environment. The influence of her favorite childhood cartoons makes itself apparent in her cartoony and melancholic style. Most recently, Rosie decided to branch out creatively and release a zine, Hot Lunch, which features two original comics—Itasha and Best Wishes. I decided to sit down with Rosie to chat with her about her unique artistic journey and latest creations.
Before we dive into your art, can you tell us how you found yourself co-owning a record store in the countryside?
When I first came to Japan, I worked at Nova; after that I became a full-time ALT at a kindergarten in Tokyo, which was great. However, the fact is I’m a massive introvert, and it was draining. My husband—who is Japanese—was working as a salaryman, and he had to be out at izakaya with clients until really late at night. One night he came back from work around one in the morning, and we were both just like, ‘this is unsustainable.’ So we just decided that night, ‘let’s move to the countryside.’
We then spent about a year planning to move to his hometown. I think in that year we both knew that we wanted to try to build our own business, so in the end we decided to do the shop together, and it really was a two-person job anyway. We met in a live house venue, so we had that music connection already, too. So that’s the story.
I think you guys have got a really good thing going. Thank you for that story! Now, about your art—Can you tell me about your creative process? How does a drawing come about?
It depends on what I feel like drawing, but there’s maybe two examples I can give. One genre of drawing I’ve done a lot in is interiors, or women/femmes being inside. I’m a really introverted person and I value solitude so much. I always have felt like there’s a mismatch between my internal and external worlds as well. So those drawings come from a place of wanting to create ‘sanctuary’ for myself, or a safe space, with these characters and beautiful spaces. Another thing is I really like putting humor into drawings, so I like to think of funny situations or characters, and have all of these elements relate to each other in an interesting way.
I love the contrast of drawing your inner feelings but adding humor.
I hope that everything I draw has some element of humor. I don’t know why that is, but I always liked comedy and cartoons when I was a kid, so maybe that’s why. Sometimes my drawings are kind of emotional, and comedy just makes it lighter. In terms of the actual drawing process, it’s mainly digital because the cleanup is easier. It cuts the time down. I always wanted to try animation, too, and it just seems easier to get used to digital drawing in order to do that. I also like the way it looks, though.
Everyone is always curious about your artistic background and what inspires your style and these creatures you come up with. What can you tell me about that?
Yeah, everyone’s like, ‘where do the characters come from?’ because I’m doing these weird little characters. I do think that the style I naturally gravitate to is pretty much influenced by cartoons from my childhood—specifically like Cartoon Network and MTV. I was literally addicted to cartoons when I was a kid, so I think that’s why my style is the way that it is.
It seems like sense of place is a recurring theme in your art. What other themes do you tend to draw?
Yeah, that is something that I explore a lot. Hopefully I imbue the characters with a sense that they feel totally at ease in their surroundings. I think that comes from not always feeling that way myself. Femme joy is another theme. I draw all kinds of genders, but I think I tend to focus more on just femmes being happy and being themselves. So just things like that where women are fully themselves and at ease. I think those are the two main themes.
We’ve bonded a lot over gender identity and expression. How do your experiences with gender influence your illustrations?
I definitely feel that my drawings are very feminine. And what does that mean? It’s hard to pinpoint because femininity is also hard to define as a collection of traits. But I think what I mean is softness, gentleness; soothing, curious and imaginative atmospheres—all of these things are what I would describe as feminine. For that reason I feel that my illustrations are very feminine. I try to cultivate those traits within myself, but at the same time I do have a masculine side and I do prefer to present in a more masculine way to an extent. So I always found it interesting that thematically my drawings are very feminine. I feel like my characters are fully at ease in their bodies regardless of their gender. I don’t feel fully at ease in my body, but I do love femininity.
So you just made your second zine, Hot Lunch, with two new comics—Itasha and Best Wishes. Can you tell me a bit about the zine and comics?
The zine is loosely about self-destruction. Itasha, the first one, is based on my neighbor who lives in my apartment building. He’s probably in his mid-twenties and he drives an itasha, which is a car decked out in anime girls and stickers. Taka and I noticed it sometimes looked beat up, and the bumper would always be either on or off. He also would always come home around 3 a.m. or something. We were like, ‘what is this guy doing?’ It was such a mystery. And then we realized, oh my god, this guy is probably out there in the mountains drifting at night. So the story kind of wrote itself. He lives with his parents and has this blonde mullet. In my head he’d just become such a character. I wanted to give him a story that I felt he deserved.
It’s just this, like, great lore for your apartment complex. I kind of love it.
Yeah, so that’s Itasha. And then the second one, Best Wishes, is actually based on myself. It’s sort of a neurotic tale about being in your head and when you start to feel disconnected from reality because you think too much. I was with my friend in Tokyo, and I found this comment on a forum. When I came back, I was sort of in my own head and thinking about this comment. So the start of the story is true. The main character also has this dream—which happened to me, too—and she thinks herself into this crazy place. Then there’s a little twist at the end, which is just like my own wish fulfillment, maybe.
What illustration are you most proud of recently?
I finished this illustration recently, and there’s a few things going on in it. In the middle ground, there’s this big apartment building; in the foreground there are children, and in the background there’s a huge, many-tentacled monster coming onto the building. On a balcony there’s a woman spraying this monster with a water gun. I feel like that’s the one I like the most right now because it’s so weird and bizarre. I hope that when people look at it they’re like, ‘what the hell is going on here,’ and then kind of have to fill in a lot of blanks. And that’s my favorite, making people wonder what the heck is going on.
We recently collaborated on an exhibition titled Sanctuary at Void, the gallery and space located above Tobira Records. Do you feel like that experience changed your outlook on being an artist?
Yeah, it was completely mind-altering. It was such a crazy experience to be able to show my work in that way and have conversations with people about the work and about the ideas behind it. My art is very emotional and I put a lot of myself into it, so showing people that was very scary but fulfilling. So it really motivated me to keep doing it. Another thing that struck me is that it’s nice to feel like part of the community. It’s just really lovely.
What’s next for you as an artist?
Basically I’m working on more illustrations that can be blown up to a large size—at least A2, because I would love to do more exhibitions. I love the idea of there being lots of tiny details as an opportunity for comedy and curiosity. It’s out of my comfort zone, but I’m working on that. I have this comic I wanna draw that’s gonna be about 40 pages as well, which could be cool to publish in book form. Lastly—and I haven’t dived into this yet—I want to make an animation.
It seems like you have so many new projects to look forward to. I’m really excited to see what you do next!
Oh, thank you!
One last thing—you’ve told me that you always listen to music while drawing to get you in the right headspace. Do you have any music recommendations?
I’ve been loving an artist called Gia Margaret. Her recent album is called Romantic Piano. It’s mostly ambient piano, sometimes with strings or brass. Another thing I’ve been enjoying is Anne, EP by Joseph Shabason. It’s sort of jazzy and funky, but hard to describe. It’s just a vibe!
I’ll give them a listen. Thank you for doing this interview!
Rosie is an illustrator and co-owner of Tobira Records in Kasai, Hyogo. Her zine and stickers are available for purchase at Tobira or upstairs at Void. You can see more of her art and shenanigans on her Instagram. Additionally, Tobira welcomes all with open arms.
Tori Bender is an ALT and artist based in central Hyogo. She loves the countryside and anything cozy or nostalgic.