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