Stories

Neal Yamamoto: A Talented Artist and a Funny Guy

It’s impossible to count the number of wacky creatures and characters that have emerged from the tip of Neal Yamamoto’s pen.

A professional artist for 20 years, Yamamoto’s humorous creations have ranged from Kung-Fu Dog (a comic strip for CFW Publications), Ninja Bats, a caffeine-addicted cat, and “virtually every other animal under the sun, including the extinct ones.”

Even other-worldly beings have not escaped his imagination. He has illustrated over 30 children’s activity books of various topics, and among them are “how-to-draw” books such as I Can Draw 50 Nifty Aliens.

A native Angeleno, Yamamoto received his degree in Design and Illustration from California State University, Los Angeles, in 1983. His “fever-induced scribblings” have been used by L.A. Parent, Backstage West, Lakeshore Learning, Asatsu America, “and many other companies with more okane (money) than sense.” In addition, his cartoons have enlivened the pages of such publications as American Legion Magazine, Medical Economics, L.A. Funnies, and Animal Press.

He credits many cartoonists and artists with inspiring his work, including Eyvin Earle, Paul Conrad and the late, great Charles Schulz (creator of “Peanuts”). Beyond his prolific cartooning, Yamamoto has also produced a series of striking gouache artworks featuring images of darumas and kokeshi dolls in surreal settings.

Yamamoto has worked on many projects with the Japanese American National Museum. He created the freewheeling “Sumo Boy” character that adorned T-shirts in the Museum Store, and also created the National Museum’s current “Maneki Neko” Golfer Shirt, and has recently given new life to the Museum’s Courtyard Kaeru. His design of the mascot frog is being used for this year’s Courtyard Kid’s Festival and new Courtyard Kaeru “Matsuri” t-shirt.

Recently, he has also received a California Civil Liberties Education Fund grant to work on a science fiction comic book with scenes from Manzanar titled “7-SEI.” He is currently in the research phase, but hopes to have the comic completed by the end of the year.

Neal is keeping busy with a myriad of projects. But despite his workload, the odd creatures that inhabit his mind are far from becoming an endangered species. They are continually multiplying.

July 2002



Update (4/9/08): Neal now contributes a weekly comic to DiscoverNikkei.org called My Name is Neal.




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