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Kinuko Y. Craft, Fantasy Artist

"To me art is all about beauty. I’m driven and inspired by it always. In that one simple word is my whole world."

— Kinuko Y. Craft

"Thomas the Rhymer" from  Women of Enchantment  Calendar (Sellers Publishing, Portland ME 2008)

"Thomas the Rhymer" from Women of Enchantment Calendar (Sellers Publishing, Portland ME 2008)

About the Picture

Thomas the Rhymer or True Thomas was actually a person who lived during the 13th century. He was known for his prophecies.

The lady depicted may be the Queen of Elfland whom Thomas legendarily courted in the ballad also called "Thomas the Rhymer." The painting suggests that Thomas himself was a musician with the depiction of a harp in his right hand; however, no mention is made of the real Thomas Learmonth ever being a minstrel.

Note the flowing drapery of the dress and cape, which is echoed in the fore mane and tail of the horse, and to a lesser degree in the gentleman's garments. The lady's skin is a white ivory, even lighter than the horse's color.

Intricate details in shading, flowers and birds are achieved, and the couple's images are framed by a halo-like treatment of light.

Also interesting is the horse's position, suspended as if in the middle of a canter or gallop, hardly giving Thomas time to hold the queen's hand as shown.

Detail of Thomas holding the queen's hand.

Detail of Thomas holding the queen's hand.

Kinuko's General Timeline

  • 1940 born in Kanazawa, Japan
  • 1962 BFA from the Kanazawa Bidai, Japan
  • 1964 came to the U.S. and met Mahlon F. Craft, her husband
  • 1966 completed studies at School of the Art Institute of Chicago
  • 1967 onward: worked in established Chicago art studios, began freelancing in advertising and publishing markets
  • 1983 moved to Norfolk, Connecticut
  • 1987 recipient of Hamilton King Award
  • 1990 began drawing for children's books, fantasy books, and posters
  • 2002 Spectrum 9 Grand Master Award
  • 2008 inducted into Society of Illustrators' Hall of Fame
  • 2009 posted on Facebook

The Artist Herself

As a young girl, Kinuko became acquainted with art through her grandfather's calligraphy. The man kept an art library, which inspired Kinuko and established her life's focus.

Her artwork is a unique blend of watercolor and oil on gesso panel, and she is a prolific artist, depicting a variety of subject matter for magazines, books, calendars, and private art collections.

While she achieved great success and finds happiness in drawing and painting, she claimed that she never completed a single work that satisfied all of her expectations completely.



Commentary on "Eclipse"

The word "eclipse" has its origins in the Greek language, a term meaning "to leave out, forsake, or failure to appear." Since the scene is depicted as nocturnal through the use of midnight blue and variations with a large, heavenly body in the sky, possibly a moon, a viewer might assume the title refers to a lunar eclipse that is about to happen. The female flautist could be any of the Greek goddesses: Phoebe, Artemis, Selene or Hecate. If she is intended to represent a goddess of water, she might be the Greek goddess Doris or the Chinese goddess Mazu. Whoever she is, she plays the flute under a full moon and stands upon gentle waves while a single file of flying fish, typical in tropical or subtropical zones, leap out of the sea behind her.

The winding bead in her long tresses suggest an almost Christmas theme, but this particular image embellished the month of September, suggesting a harvest moon. Her delicate gown almost disappears into her skin, while the ruffled hem about her ankles and flowing fabric across her lower body indicates an ocean breeze.

In the upper left-hand corner is an unknown constellation, possibly one common to the southern hemisphere.

Like the Queen of Elfland in "Thomas the Rhymer," this goddess' skin is ivory and appears luminescent against the dark evening sky and ocean.

"Evynd and Nessa"

"Evynd and Nessa"

"Evynd and Nessa"

These are characters from a fiction novel titled Wolfskin by Australian author Juliet Marillier. "Wolfskin" refers to a special warrior under the Norse God Thor to whom Evynd has pledged allegiance. Nessa, in the story, is a princess of the Isles of Light and priestess-in-training. The two become lovers.

Much is happening in this scene. Nessa, holding a harp in her right arm and a magical dagger in her left, appears to be giving an incantation (note the two burning candles at her feet and the dancing circle of smoke framing the couple), possibly for Evynd's protection. His warrior helmet with a cape or vest lies on the ground in the lower right-hand corner. Viking ships are approaching in the background just behind Evynd's elbow.

Animals depicted are English Wolfhounds and sea lions in the fore-background near Nessa's left hand. Dogs often represent loyalty and serve as guards. Sea lions or selkies are elusive, and Celtic folktales of these marine mammals tell how these creatures are able to take human form.

A nearly invisible last crescent moon appears in the sky, suggesting waning energies. So, another interpretation of this color illustration could be a celebration of Evynd's success ending a raid or battle. Not having read the novel, the actual representation is uncertain, but the imagery certainly carries a message about the couple's relationship.

Detail of Evynd and Nessa, with Nessa's flowing hair, and Evynd with magical light shining on him from his right; he wears a weapon in his belt.

Detail of Evynd and Nessa, with Nessa's flowing hair, and Evynd with magical light shining on him from his right; he wears a weapon in his belt.

A Final Comment

Kinuko Craft's work shows an artist truly dedicated and engaged in her expression and style.

"The artist is essentially the instrument, and he stands below his work, for which reason we should never expect from him an interpretation of his own work. He achieved his highest with his composition."

— Carl Jung

Recognition and fame can often overshadow humility, but this lady remains soft-spoken and true to her inner calling. Aspiring artists should not feel they can never accomplish work worthy as Mrs. Craft's, as success comes from the fulfillment and satisfaction in the process of creative expression as it evolves.

Be sure speakers are HIGH for the following video.

Resource Credits

http://www.locusmag.com/2002/Issue08/Craft.html (biographical information and interview by Karen Haber)

http://www.encyclo.co.uk/define/Kinuko%20Y.%20Craft (year of arrival in U.S.)

http://www.kycraft.com/biography_mc.html (former link on Chicago days by Mahlon Craft)

http://www.borsini-burr.com/cm/Artists/Kinuko%20Y%20Craft.html?gclid=CM6XxIS7yrgCFejm7AodGRkA6w (timeline information re major onset of illustrating children's picture books and fantasy books and posters)

http://www.societyillustrators.org/HallofFame.aspx?id=294&terms=Kinuko+Y.+Craft (2008 Hall of Fame)

Your Experience

© 2013 Marie Flint


Joy M from Sumner, Washington on July 26, 2013:

I had not heard of this artist before. But I like her work as shown on her pages that you linked too. Thank you for the introduction.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on July 26, 2013:

Thanks for the introduction to Kinuko and her art. I like Carl Jung's quote and I think it also applies to the art of writing. Thanks for an interesting article.

rose-the planner from Toronto, Ontario-Canada on July 25, 2013:

Thank you for sharing this interesting and enlightening story about artist, Kinuko Y. Craft. To be honest with you, I have never heard of Kinuko until I read this most fascinating hub. Her artwork is simply spectacular. Thank you for bringing her story to our attention. (Voted Up) -Rose

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on July 25, 2013:

Five years ago, I ventured into the Blue Moon Gift Shop in East Tawas, Michigan. I was searching for a gift for my daughter's birthday, which falls during the last part of the year. The calendar "Women of Enchantment 2008" caught my eye. Always having enjoyed fantasy and delicate artwork, I purchased it for under $15 and mailed to my daughter in Florida.

Now that I'm living in my daughter's home, the calendar, sitting on a shelf, once again, caught my eye. I decided to learn a little more about this artist and had no idea how much she had accomplished with her art except for the 12 images presented on the calendar.

In writing this hub, I feel I have accomplished my goal except for one question: the impetus that influenced Mrs. Craft (not her name then) to come to the United States. I have solicited her website but, as of this writing, do not know the answer. Should I learn of the reason, I will post an additional comment.

In the meantime, I can only hope my feeble attempts at presenting Mrs. Craft's work meets with her approval. The images were taken directly from the calendar, and I did my best to edit them for presentation here. For better views of her work, the reader can follow the various links provided within the hub.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope the reader, especially aspiring artists, find it uplifting and inspirational.

A P.S.: I'd thought about illustrating children's picture books myself but, for whatever reason, I have not applied myself--for the most part, my art is labored.