Akiko Stehrenberger Likes to Draw Exhibition Opens at Gallery Nucleus

Gallery Nucleus is hosting an exhibit with award-winning artist, Akiko Stehrenberger, from March 25, 2023 – April 9, 2023. An industry veteran, Akiko has an eye for visual detail that speaks for itself through her stunning posters. Her ability to distill the content of a movie or TV series into an image epitomizes the proverb, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Previously, Akiko has hosted a show called, Made All of This, at a gallery in West Hollywood. She titled it for its “mix of both movie posters and personal work.” For this current exhibit, Ben of Gallery Nucleus, suggested the name, Likes to Draw, because it’s the signature on her email.

Akiko describes her start in the world of poster design as something she “fell into.” After studying editorial illustration at Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, she did spot illustrations for music and entertainment magazines. But once she had returned to Los Angeles after living in New York for four years, Akiko needed a job to cover her school loans. Luckily, her friend referred her to a receptionist job at a movie poster agency. One day, she brought one of the magazines that she made a poster for and was noticed by one of the agency’s owners. “At that point in time, I had very minimal experience with computers,” said Akiko. “But I learned on the job, and I don’t know how I didn’t get fired every day.”

Her impressive resume spans two decades, and I asked what she would suggest for artists who hit a wall every so often. “My advice is to not beat yourself up and to know that everybody has a creative block.” The pressure to “hit homeruns every time” is the most overwhelming hump to overcome, and she suggests traveling or exploring other artists’ work to recharge.

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Although not a part of the exhibit, her brash display of the fiery tension between Ali Wong and Steven Yeun’s characters in Netflix’s Beef caught my eye. “With Beef, I was lucky to see most of the episodes to kind of get a feel of the show. But oftentimes, I’m brought on very early, and they want to get a poster out even before the movie’s finished filming sometimes,” she shared. In those cases, she’ll base her concepts on limited information, such as a synopsis or summary. “It’s about distilling what that concept is and trying to come up with something from there.”

Given Akiko’s partnerships with big Hollywood studios, we ended the conversation on her perspective of the decline in moviegoing after 2020. “Nothing beats seeing something in the theater because you’re also feeding off of the rest of the audience.” During the production shutdowns, she and her peers were nervous over what would happen. On the other hand, the streaming services had an insatiable appetite as they needed artwork, providing a fresh avenue for more creative work. “They often need multiple pieces of artwork because they’re trying to reach out to so many different audiences,” she explained. In contrast to theatrical posters, the artwork appears as a thumbnail on TV, which don’t include extra typography outside of the title. “It takes away the fuzziness from a piece…and makes for cleaner, more striking work.” Akiko joked that the work from streamers “saved [her] from having to sell a kidney.”

Prints and original artwork from the exhibit can be purchased at the Gallery Nucleus website.

Kalai Chik

Pop culture writer focusing on animation, music, and games. Los Angeles native, USC alumni, and contributor for Asia Pacific Arts since 2015. Follow me on Twitter, @kalai_chik.

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