Half Empty, Since 1998

Illustrator Ilan Katin combines Israeli and American heritage with Asian influences. Interview by Brazilian artist Cisma.

Do You Ikuchiku?

Cisma, Ilan Katin. June 3rd, 2003

Drawing by Ilan Katin

CISMA: Hi Ilan! Why don’t you introduce yourself?

ILAN KATIN: I was born in a suburb outside of New York City. In the early eighties my family moved to Israel. When we returned nine years later I wanted to go to art school and received a scholarship from The School of Visual Arts. At first I majored in Fine Arts and later transferred to Computer arts.

When I graduated I did not exactly know what I wanted to do. Thankfully, due to my computer skills I was able to get work doing graphics and light programming jobs. Today I work at a broadcast design studio called PSYOP but I only do tech stuff for them and occasionally I get to do some 2D animation.

I currently live in Williamsburgh, Brooklyn.

CISMA: How was your life in Israel? Do you think of living in Israel again?

KATIN: I don’t know about right now. I work with some Israelis who just returned from a visit there and they say it is really depressing. When my family and I moved there in the early eighties we lived on a Kibbutz (a sort of self sustaining co-operative community) and there was still some of the idealism that had inspired the early settlers of Israel.

To the east of the settlement was the Dead Sea and to the west mountains followed by a vast plateau of desert that consisted of rolling hills and just north of us two major fresh water streams. It was fun to be close to nature. But it was also difficult because a Kibbutz is a very closed/close community. All of my classmates had grown up together and I was the new kid. It was tough trying to become a part of that even after I learned the language.

CISMA: What does ikuchiku mean?

KATIN: It’s two names put together. Iku and Chiku are two characters that I designed.

They are derived from Japanese names. There are certain aspects of Japanese culture that interest me. Primarily it is interesting to me to see a culture that has taken full advantage of technological conveniences and yet maintains a strong connection with its past. You can see women walking around with Kimonos and pulling out their video cell phones. It is also interesting to see how young people embrace pop culture and yet maintain the social protocols of bowing and so on. You can watch a guy on TV who is dressed up like a punk rocker but still smiles politely and bows to the interviewer. You can’t see that here in the west.

I am also really interested in how you have people stepping out of the “mask” of their culture and really going overboard when doing a performance. Even though it is nice there, clean streets, polite people, it is also in many ways very oppressive. Living in New York for so many years you expect outrageous things to happen everyday and in a place like Tokyo even though it is a very exciting city everything has its place. You go to Ropponji for entertainment and every neighborhood has its Pachinko parlor. All that formality can be very numbing. That is probably why we have so many Japanese people living in New York. I’ve been to Japan three times in the last five years.

CISMA:I know you draw every single day a different piece. Why do you do this? And why do you call yourself an illustrator, not a graphic designer?

KATIN: When my wife suggested that I should try and become an illustrator she also suggested that I do a daily journal where I drew something every day that related to whatever happened to me. It has helped me to refine my drawing skills and my visual language. It’s good discipline.

I call myself an illustrator for professional purposes. Other than that I have no preference as far as the arts are concerned. I like to make images and I prefer to use pen and ink and then enhance these with the computer or sometimes just scan them so I can post them on my web site. I don’t know what to call that kind of behavior.

CISMA: Who are your favorite artists and graphic designers?

KATIN: I don’t have any favorites. I see it more as phases of influence. Right now for me that would be Jim Woodring. I relate to him in the sense that all of his source material comes from his imagination and that is usually where I go for my material when I just want to draw. His craft is also very refined and although my drawing “style” differs from his I would still like to achieve something that I feel would be as refined as his, technique wise.

(More art by Ilan Katin can viewed on the next pages. Included in Half Empty #1.)