Jane Teiko Oka: Graphic Art To Wild Animals

Jane Teiko Oka wrote this brief time­line of her art career:
Applied for and received a working schol­ar­ship to Cali­fornia School of Fine Arts in San Fran­cisco, around 1954.
After one year, received full schol­ar­ship until I grad­u­ated with a Bachelor’s Degree.
Accepted employ­ment with a commer­cial art studio – Patterson & Hall in San Fran­cisco.
Applied for and received a Fulbright schol­ar­ship in 1960 to study in Japan. Extended my stay (after my 10 months schol­ar­ship ended) to 1½ year, trav­eling within the country and visiting various studios and hand crafting compa­nies.
Returned to San Fran­cisco in 1962 and began my free­lance career in the city.
One of my major clients – Japan Air Lines
Locally – Blum’s. San Fran­cisco Maga­zine (story illus­tra­tions and cover designs).
Other areas of work:
Calen­dars, gift items, package design, posters, story­book illus­tra­tions, school
readers illus­tra­tions.

The Following is the collec­tion that follows Jane’s time­line:

Around 1954, when Jane was living in San Fran­cisco, she fulfilled her art schol­ar­ship at the Cali­fornia School of Fine Arts in San Fran­cisco (which became the San Fran­cisco Art Insti­tute in 1961) These are just a few of her port­folio samples.

In 1959 there was the huge assign­ment from the Educa­tional Posters Co. Jane created the poster: Chil­dren Of Other Lands, 25½” x 37½”. Jane posed each of the 55 chil­dren and researched the costumes of each country. For the crea­tures of other lands she illus­trated 22 mammals, 1 Toucan, and 5 schools of fish. Added are 3 ships. The exam­ples below: the first image is of the full poster as offered on the web, followed by a “detail” that I have reduced from full size, to print on letter-size gloss paper. (In researching this poster, I found this addi­tional photo of a little girl pointing to the same poster. With little diffi­culty, I found that this little girl is Linda Davick, now also a children’s book illus­trator in San Fran­cisco. I reached her by email and she wanted Jane to know that she loved the poster. Linda wrote: “I’m SURE Jane’s poster influ­enced my art career in a big way. I looked at it all the time!”)

1959 – The Bohemian Club accepted artists (only men) on the condi­tion that they contribute their talents. Jane (and I, also) were put to the task of creating art for a club member. Here is (Jane’s) invi­ta­tion to an event at the Bohemian Grove’s summer encamp­ment. The Owl is the club’s mascot. On line, I also found this example created by Bruce Butte. I had worked for Butte, Herrero & Hyde until April 1965 and I am sure this was Bruce’s art because I also recog­nize Bill Hyde’s lettering.

Also shown above is this photo of Jane at the art studio: Patterson & Hall where she designed a page of the calendar that was a coöper­a­tive project of P&H’s studio and Charles R. Wood, Lith­o­g­ra­phers (which had a notable repu­ta­tion for quality printing). The abstract design by Jane Oka utilized trans­parent and opaque colors printed on foil. The calendar was released in 1961. Jane’s book cover design for “Key To Lasting Slim­ness” was published in 1960.

Jane’s 10-month Fulbright Schol­ar­ship in Tokyo began with many weeks of making Sumi inks, until her talents were real­ized. Then she was set free to explore the local studios of arts and crafts. The exam­ples of Jane’s on-the-spot sketches are shown below. 1962, back in San Fran­cisco, Bots­ford, Constan­tine & Gardner found Jane’s knowl­edge of Japan and art style, perfect for their client: Japan Air Lines. The booklet: Japan Air Lines – Living in Japan – shows thirty of Jane’s illus­tra­tions, large and complex and small and simple. Jane also created two maps. Shown is the intri­cate map of Tokyo and the other map was of the routes of Japan Air Lines.

In 1965 Jane Oka moved from commer­cial to deco­ra­tive art: Blum’s pack­aging designs (Blum’s was, in the 1960s, an exclu­sive candy-shop / luncheonette that created many “sweets” and was known for their unique pack­aging; tins and boxes). San Fran­cisco Maga­zine, covers and story illus­tra­tions. NAVH contri­bu­tions of more than 30 holiday card illus­tra­tions for the benefit of National Aid to the Visu­ally Hand­i­capped. Of this subject: “chil­dren of many lands”, we show just two of the series of 24 – Jane’s yearly gift to the charity. Jane created the designs for match­boxes produced in Japan.

Deco­ra­tive posters: 1968 was also the begin­ning of her creation of posters for Portal Publi­ca­tions, Ltd. – the assign­ments extended to 1973 when the art was converted into yearly calen­dars. 12 Zodiac Signs, 5 Kitchen Charts, 5 Gourmet Guides, 10 Proverbs, All at: 20”x 29” (Size of the Calendar art: 13”x 16”)

Jane Oka designed all thirty-two posters, working directly with Portal Publi­ca­tions from 1969 and into the1970s. Some of the artwork was reprinted as calen­dars, so there is the addi­tional smaller collec­tion. Jane styled and ordered the type, researched and wrote the various copy blocks and list of ingre­di­ents, and presented Portal Publi­ca­tions with the paste-ups ready for printing.

Posters used as deco­ra­tive props In the Woody Allen movie,” Sleeper” there was a scene where one of Jane’s Zodiac posters was used as a prop. There is a website: “The Kids in 201”, it is a blog about the TV series: “Three’s Company”. It shows two of these posters used for room props. Redbook Magazine’s “Redbook Crafts” (March 1978 issue) printed with permis­sion from a published 1976 book: “Things To Do In A Day”. Using Jane’s “Calo­ries” poster as a choice in deco­rating the project.

Posters used as yardage and other items. Without Jane or Portal Produc­tions being aware, yardage was produced using the art from her (most popular) the12-signs Zodiac poster. A photo below shows the Zodiac yardage made into clothing. Jane says that “someone (?)” found and showed her this Playboy Maga­zine ad offering men’s pants – using fabric from her poster art. The San Fran­cisco Exam­iner shows a comforter made of the fabric.

There were blow-up vinyl pillows of each sign, and key chains. These might have been produced by Portal Publi­ca­tions, or not. Jane would see her Gourmet or Kitchen posters used as décor in restau­rants. And, one day, as Jane was standing on the side of a San Fran­cisco street, a Volk­swagen “Hippy” bus drove by with her Virgo poster design painted on it. She was sorry that she didn’t have a camera to record the sight. Jane has a huge collec­tion of these posters and we are searching for a place to market them. The collec­tion is from the printer, never removed from the boxes that were given to her as each poster was produced.

1969 to 1978 was also filled with book illus­tra­tions.

The move from graphic art to the art of wild animal care! An over­lap­ping interest and devo­tion was in the care of Marin County’s wildlife. Orphaned or hurt birds and animals were her first inter­ests, then the sea animals, at The Marine Mammal Center. In 1998, “Healers Of The Wild” was published. Jane Oka’s contri­bu­tions were listed, third, on page 205 (as shown, below). Jane had served as shift super­visor for nine­teen years. In 2000, Jane designed this T‑shirt for the 18th Annual “Run For The Seals” benefit and she recently donated the prelim­i­nary art and the finished art to the center for their on-sight exhibit.

The energy and deter­mi­na­tion needed for Jane Oka’s intense work-mode is still there, she is non-stop. (She does take a break, as at the 2008 Geezers’ Gath­ering and when she visits us.)

Ann Thompson