about me

kana handel

I am an artist originally from Tokyo, Japan. I came to the United States in 1992 and now reside in Gainesville, Florida, though I am currently living in New York City. I studied art at Musashino Art University in Tokyo, starting my career as a graphic artist in advertising until I became a freelance illustrator.  I have been illustrating books and magazines for over 23 years and have worked for numerous Japanese publishing firms that specialize in children’s issues, including Gakken (Kagaku and Gakushyu) and Shogakukan.

My Philosophy

Although illustrating for children has always been a passion in my work, after 10 years in the commercial world, I wanted to explore more personal art. Not highly skilled or even good-looking art, but art based on feelings, like when I first drew or painted. As a child, I always had a big smile when painting, and I believe we all still have a beautiful child's heart inside of us, even if we are grownups. I do not necessarily paint for or about children, but for the child in all of us. When people look at my work and I see their eyes shining like a child's, that makes me very happy.

Because there are already too many negative things in the world, being the artist that I am, I want  to create positive energy in my work. I do not avoid reality but believe  imagination can help us heal. So even though realism shows up from time to time, most of my work is figurative and narrative--in that I love to tell stories. I filter all of the things that are going through my head--nature, politics, love, war, sprituality, peace--and they all come out through my brush in a story. And it's even better if the story you see is different than the one in my head; we are creating together.

My Technique

I work in a variety of mixed media--from ink to milk. As an illustrator I primarily used acrylic gouache, but most of my current artwork evolves out of my own interpretation of the traditional Japanese art form sumi-e ("ink painting").  Each time I paint, I stone-grind a deep rich black sumi ink, which I brush along with gansai water colors on handmade washi paper.  I often mount finished pieces on canvas frames or paper sculptures, but I have begun to integrate sumi-e into my illustrations as well. I also love to play around with various types of paper. I tear it, collage it, sculpt it, but most interesting to me is the way that sumi and gansai react to different papers and  media. Sometimes it slowly spreads out to form a uniform circle, at others it's path is chaotic and unknown, resulting in what I like to call "happy accidents." When I use acrylic gouache or milk with sumi and gansai, it works as a resist, creating unusual patterns on various papers. I sometimes use kakishibu (fermented persimmon juice) for a dye, which adds a whole new property to the paper. I also print on various papers, using both mulberry and watercolor paper for my hand-pulled prints; for more information on this process, please read about prints and cards in the store section.

My Shows and Galleries

Presently my work can be found locally at the Harn Museum of Art on the University of Florida campus, the Artisan's Guild in Downtown Gainesville, and in my studio in East Gainesville. In  Fall 2008, I began to travel to art festivals both in Florida and throughout the eastern United States. Clicking on the header above will take you to a  schedule of my shows and festivals. If you join my mailing list, I will let you know if I am coming to a festival near you. I look forward to meeting you.

When I am not painting or doing shows, I am  co-authoring numerous children's books with my husband, who teaches at Santa Fe  College. I am a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Sweetwater Print Co-Op, the Gainesville Artisan's Guild Gallery, and co-founder of Nanasui (Seven Waters), a Japanese publishing group focusing on issues for women living abroad.