Monday, September 12, 2011

Tak Murakami (1933-2011)

* A few days ago I received an email from Jason Millet:  "A friend and co-worker of mine, Tak Murakami, recently passed away and - as Tak was an excellent storyboard artist and illustrator before that - I'd like to post some of his work and a tribute up at Storyboard Central."  What follows is Jason's tribute to his friend, Tak.  ~ Leif

Artist and illustrator Tak Murakami passed away Wed., August 24th after a five month battle with cancer. He was 78 years old.

All of us here in the Chicago illustration, advertising and storyboard communities who knew him are saddened, faced with the loss of this great draftsman and man. I had gotten to know Tak over the past two and a half years while freelancing for Poison Pencil art studio, but I’m sure that there are many others who visit this blog who may have known Tak during his twenty-plus years over at the Art Bunch. Still others here or over at Today’s Inspiration may have met Tak at the art studio Stevens Biondi DiCicco or as a teacher at the Chicago Academy of Art during the late 1970s.


 Tak was a farm boy - one of thirteen children - whose education came in the form of the original Famous Artists School and a homemade studio set up in the family barn. He and I shared a love for a lot of the illustrators that he grew up with - Austin Briggs, Al Parker, Albert Dorne, Noel Sickles and - for Tak most of all - Robert Fawcett.

Tak was even profiled very early on in his professional life by the FAS magazine and got to meet Al Dorne.


Tak worked as an illustrator for many years and unfortunately I don’t have much of that work (and this blog is about storyboards anyway). He did develop a sculpted and cut paper style in addition to his drawn and painted works that I find extraordinary. As a teacher, he taught and mentored Gary Gianni, Hilary Barta, Scott Gustafson and Geoff Darrow among, I’m sure, many others.

Tak had not been aware of what any of these former pupils were up to, but it’s worth your Googling each of these gentlemen if you don’t know the names. Tak was especially proud to find out that the young kid Gary who had helped him out on a film strip job grew up to draw Prince Valiant.

By the mid- 80’s, Tak was looking for new streams of revenue that illustration had ceased to provide and that brought him to storyboarding and The Art Bunch.


Tak was a wonderful artist, but he was just as wonderful a man. He had a charming, child-like quality and sense of wonder that was accompanied by great depth and insight. I truly enjoyed our conversations about religion, politics, family, world events, history and, of course, art. A couple of our best conversations came during visits I made to the hospital while Tak was sick. I think that there’s something about being with someone in a hospital - both of you removed from deadlines - that really puts you present in the moment you have with each other. It’s sad that we can’t bring that same presence and stillness to the noise of our daily lives. Tak had a love of people that comes through most in his off-handed sketching and train doodles.


There’s a delicacy of line in these that’s hard to capture in a scan...


... but I just find these people as warm and likeable as I know Tak did.

We love and miss you, Tak - Godspeed.


  1. It was truly a pleasure and honor to work with Tak, he was an awesome illustrator and a great mentor. He will be missed.

  2. Great work! So sad when one of our own passes away. RIP Tak.

  3. Gorgeous gestural linework and selections..
    An apt in memoriam.

  4. Thank you Jason, this is a wonderful memorial. I love everything you've written about Tak.

    We love and miss you, Tak - Godspeed.