“I fell in love with grandeur-especially the gothic and baroque ones. They are highly unique and stylish. As a kid, I used to say to my dad, ‘Let’s go travel the world when I group up!’” said Emi Nakajima, expressing the transportive power of art.
Claiming herself to be a ‘dream traveler,’ illustrator Nakajima designs fascinating architecture renderings. In her mind, this Thailand-based artist travels the world. Her tastes in art are the Gothic cathedrals of France and also the Sagrada Familia in Spain.
Nakajima, who is half-Japanese and half-Thai, started looking at pictures of buildings as a child. With an insatiable desire to travel to new places, she began meticulous architectural sketches as a high-school student.
Amazingly enough, she hasn’t taken any art lessons in her life. “I never studied art. I started by drawing small pictures and found out that I was good at sketching. I learn something new and make development every time I draw a picture because I always challenge myself by drawing bigger, more detailed pictures.” Some of her art could fit in her palm, while other pieces span her entire drawing desk.
After ten years, the 27-year-old Japanese artist has amassed an impressive body of work, including the Wat Rong Khun or the White Temple in Chiang Rai Province, Thailand, and Notre Dame de Paris. She has also built up an Instagram following of more than 42,000.
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Nakajima described how her trips to Wat Rong Khun temple, designed by the famous Thai visual artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, were instrumental in her budding career. Her rendering of the temple began in pencil after going in person to inspect details. Then she added precise lines with ink pens, and her trademark style began to emerge. “The white and silver chapel is otherworldly beautiful,” she said.
Nakajima adds complexity to her art by using variable weights, pressures, and wrist movements to give lines their character. However, Nakajima defies the architectural conventions of placing more detail in the foreground than the background. She explained, “I want to collect all the details. I want my drawing to present all the alluring details of my architectural subject. In this way, I may not seem as professional as those educated in architectural drawings; I do what’s shunned by many others.”
She admitted that drawing this way takes “unwavering determination,” so it’s fortunate that she gets immersed in her work. As an aspiring artist, she always pushes herself to perfect her skills. Her objective is to wow the audience with all of the small nuances.
Nakajima revealed, “One of my followers said that my drawing looked more realistic than a monochrome photograph,” referring to a striking illustration of Notre Dame de Paris. For this piece, Nakajima added shadows with a pencil. She started with the rose window in the center of the picture and then sketched the houses on the left and right, as well as the plantations in the background.
All of her art is created in the hours she is free from her full-time corporate job. “I need to be very disciplined with time management. If you knew that I had only a little time each week to draw, you might think that I could draw very fast,” she stated.
While she hasn’t yet visited many of the destinations she dreams of seeing, Nakajima is, in her own way, achieving that childhood ambition to travel and see the globe; from the wonderfully St. Peter’s Basilica to London’s Big Ben, she has observed more in these buildings than any tourist.
“I felt like drawing myself in this picture,” she said of her 2020 artwork Dream Traveler featuring herself. “All the places are my dream destinations. I felt like drawing my dreams in this work.”
Nakajima is clear about her goals; she plans to quit her regular job and become a full-time artist. She seems to have boundless prospects, with possibilities for developing a line of products based on her art, and showcasing her work on additional online venues.
These are her spectacular artworks: