Tak Toyoshima

Hanover, MA

Tak Toyoshima is the creator/illustrator of Secret Asian Man, a comic strip exploring race relations. It became the first nationally syndicated comic (United Features) with an Asian American lead. He is the art director for MICE (Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo) and teaches comics to middle schoolers on the weekends.

Tak has also won awards for cover design, layout, photo illustration, and info-graphics during his 10+ years as a creative director for Boston’s alternative newspaper The Weekly Dig. He advocated for the use of illustration for covers, working with hundreds of local renowned and up-and-coming artists such as Shepard Fairey, James Jean, and Peter Max, to name a few.

Tak Toyoshima

What was your favorite book as a child?

Dr. Slump (series) by Akira Toriyama. As a child I read a lot of comics, both American and Japanese manga. Dr. Slump stands out in my mind for so many reasons. It is hilarious, thoughtful, borderline inappropriate (without being raunchy), features extremely well-designed and interesting characters, but mostly I fell in love with the art style that seemed to flow effortlessly from childish simplicity to technically stunning detail.

Who or what inspires you the most, and why?

I love working with kids. Not necessarily teaching AT them, but learning WITH them.

On Saturdays I teach a comics class for middle school kids to help develop their skills in writing as well as drawing. Their stories always remind me of what is at the core of my love for comics: the challenge of transferring stories in my head to blank pages. It’s important for kids to learn how to communicate and to expose them to comics as a playground where they can develop these skills in an open and non-judgmental way.

Mediums:

pencils, pen and ink, digital, coffee

Specialties:

Awards and honors:

GET IN TOUCH ABOUT TAK

Art Process:

For pure illustration work-for-hire, it’s all about the client. To me the challenge is in finding my voice in the assignment. Usually the end goal is relatively simple. “We need a beer label with these elements. Use green and red.” “We need a spot illustration about the slippery slope of A.I. art. But make it funny.” Countless illustrators and designers can accomplish these goals but what is it that only I can offer? That’s what keeps me up at night.

Now, not all projects are created equal and I am certainly guilty of being less invested in some than others (gotta pay that mortgage!). But at the end of the day if I am putting my name to something I want it to stand alongside the best work. And when it comes to longer-form work like comics series and graphic novels, there are no excuses.

Available for School Visits:

I am currently represented by the American Program Bureau for speaking engagements and have been traveling to present about my comics work since about 2015. Most of my presentations have been at universities (Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Georgetown, Baylor, UNLV, etc.) speaking on my journey in comics talking about Asian representation, the challenges of advocating for a minority voice, and the complexities of race relations in America.

I have presented to younger students as well, from grade school through high school, where I mostly speak of the experience of working in comics and the effort that comes with the “fun” of drawing pictures for a living. Many of these talks include hands-on workshops where kids join in and create comics.

I have also presented at professional conferences for teachers, discussing how comics can be used in school curriculum and how the art form is a powerful tool for students to use for self-expression and critical thinking.

Forthcoming books:

Published books:

The Daily Days (collection of 3 years of nationally syndicated daily comic strips distributed by United Features, 2nd printing 2023)
Make Good Choices (print and online choose-your-own-adventure style book revolving around controversial social justice topics such as abortion, police brutality, critical race theory, gun control, 2023)
Kwok (anti-Asian hate crime fundraiser for local elderly care organization in Boston’s Chinatown, 2021)
RISE: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now (Mariner Books, 2022)
Enough About Me written by Richard Lui (Zondervan Books, 2021)
New Frontiers: the Many Worlds of George Takei (SI Universe Media, 2017)
Gwan Anthology (Forward Comix, 2016)
Artists Against Police Brutality (Rosarium Publishing, 2015)
Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction (Stone Bridge Press, 2012)
Out of Sequence: Underrepresented Voices in American Comics (U. of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, 2008)
Secret Identities: the Asian American Superhero Anthology (The New Press, 2009)
East Main Street (New York University Press, 2005)
Attitude 2: the New Subversive Alternative Cartoonists (NBM, 2004)

Location:

Hanover, MA

Visit Tak at: