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 cooperative 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