Azuma Itsuko, Japanese Illustrator

Recently while researching some material for references, I came across Azuma Itsuko (東逸子), a Japanese illustrator who made me fall in love with her works at first glance.  Unfortunately, information about the artist is vague on the Internet. The few images I could find about her work were enough to spark my interest. After a week of research, I decided to buy some of her books which, as they were printed in the ’80s and ’90s, are no longer being reprinted, becoming quite the collectibles.

Four books caught my attention the most: Pulstella, Passacaglia,  Aquarium and Twilight. I also bought a few others, including from other artists. The illustrations are made on textured paper, using dry and oil pastels, I believe. Most of them are monochromatic or with only a couple of colors. The theme is very interesting: mostly nymphs, with symbioses with animals such as mermaids, butterflies and birds. Often the characters merge with the environment.

The use of light effects is impeccably carried out adding lightness and transcendental airiness. Flowers are also often used, followed by various types of ornaments like pearls; angel-like creatures are also frequently seen. Often the characters are levitating or in very smooth and peaceful conditions, reminiscent of a pure fantasy world. A few of them, however, can have a more dense atmosphere. The sky, stars and constellations are also used in both the characters and in decorating the background. Nothing seems isolated, but rather interconnected between the entire composition, with a dynamic effect for the viewer—a continuous flow.

Below I’ve selected some beautiful images from the books.

Azuma Itsuko – Pulstella (cover) (1987)

Asuma Itsuko – Pulstella (page 21) (1987)

Azuma Itsuko – Pulstella (page 30) (1987)

Asuma Itsuko – Aquarium (cover) (1989)

Asuma Itsuko – Aquarium (page 12) (1989)

The cover of Passacaglia is quite damaged, but the content is perfect.

Asuma Itsuko – Passacaglia(cover) (1991)

Asuma Itsuko – Passacaglia (page 25) (1991)

While trying to acquire Twilight, I was scammed by the Japanese store selling the book, in a pack with other artists. I’ve lost a good amount of money but, hey, it’s life. I don’t have any images from this book.

Asuma Itsuko – Twilight (cover) (1988)

Another book that I couldn’t find anywhere to buy is Pirouette, about ballerinas:

Asuma Itsuko – Pirouette (cover) (1993)

Azuma Itsuko – from Pirouette

She also illustrated few story books, with several Japanese authors, mostly with fantasy and fairy tales as the subjects. There are few more gorgeous images and not so much famous works scattered through the internet. You can find the originals in Japanese auctions, but the books are still hard to find.

Into The Night, by Benny Mardones: classic (and controversial) rock song from the ’80s

Benny Mardones was an American rock singer known for his great success, Into the Night, written with Robert Tepper, where Benny (34 years old at the time) falls in love with a 16-year-old blonde schoolgirl.

Into the Night music video (1980) (screenshot)

Into The Night is the third track on the 1980 album ‘Never Run, Never Hide’, by Polydor Records. The success was immediate, skyrocketing to #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in that year.

‘Never Run, Never Hide’ album cover (1980)

In the music video, Benny goes to the girl’s house, but her father insists that he leave. After this, Benny calls her, goes to her house, they both exchange touches and finally, Benny takes her onto a flying carpet, where they kiss passionately, ending the video.

Into the Night music video (1980) (ending)

The video is simple in production, but it was enough material to disturb people and be censored for a long time. It was not so recently made available on YouTube. Below are the lyrics and the video can be found here.

She’s just sixteen years old
Leave her alone, they say…
Separated by fools
Who don’t know what love is yet…
But I want you to know…

 

If I could fly
I’d pick you up
I’d take you into the night
And show you a love
Like you’ve never seen—ever seen…

 

It’s like having a dream
Where nobody has a heart…
It’s like having it all
And watching it fall apart…
And I would wait till the end

 

Of time for you
And do it again, it’s true…
I can’t measure my love
There’s nothing to compare it to…
But I want you to know…

 

If I could fly
I’d pick you up
I’d take you into the night
And show you a love…

 

If I could fly
I’d pick you up
I’d take you into the night
And show you a love
Like you’ve never seen—ever seen…

 

If I could fly
I’d pick you up
I’d take you into the night
And show you a love…

 

If I could fly
I’d pick you up
I’d take you into the night…

Also, I strongly recommend watching the live version too. It’s one of Benny’s best performances, with a lot of passion and quality. The final part where he takes more freedom, looks like a wounded animal: a raging vocal, tremendous skills.

Benny has given some rare interviews about the origin of this song. In one of them, he sums up that he met the girl who inspired him in this song while living in Miami. I find it much more interesting to hear the story directly from Benny than to read my summary. However, for those with little time available, I give a brief summary below.:

During his time in Miami, this 16-year-old blonde schoolgirl lived with her family who had financial difficulties, in the same apartment block as Benny and co-writer Tepper.
The girl was known by both, due to mundane daily interactions. After a while she and Benny became friends.

On a certain day, the girl showed up at Benny’s apartment, in tears, explaining that her parents had suddenly split up. Benny comforted her and her brother, then offered her $50 a week to walk his dog every day before she went to school.

After another night with little sleep, Benny and Tepper were still struggling to make progress writing the song. Early in the morning, someone knocked on the apartment door; it was the girl, to talk with Benny. Tepper was mesmerized by the 16-year-old’s beauty in traditional school clothes: uniform, short skirt, knee socks, with hair done. Benny quickly tells him “She’s just 16 years old. Leave her alone…”. This phrase clicked with them, and fit perfectly with the harmony they developed up to that point.

With this small interaction is born one of the most iconic lines of rock. After that, the music flowed quickly and both managed to finish it in the next few hours.

After the tremendous success of the song, the girl became a celebrity, met a guy, and got married. The girl has always been grateful to Benny for how this song changed her life, always writing to him on Christmas. And Benny was always grateful for how this girl changed his life.

Benny had serious financial and health problems in his senior years, mostly due to drugs. He developed Parkinson’s and had many difficulties paying for the treatment, relying on friends and relatives to help.

Still, Benny at 71 years old gave a last performance of Into The Night in 2017 at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in New York, where he said goodbye to the public. Benny amazed with the vocals (really, really awesome) and said thanks a lot to the audience, accompanied by a fevered response from his illustrious presence. Months later, Benny died from complications from Parkinson’s. Check out this link to his last live performance.

It’s one of my favorite songs. Hope you enjoy it.