How Maiko Nagao is transforming words into meaningful art with each brushstroke

Our special guest this week is an inspiring illustrator who combines brush and ink to create striking monochrome art prints. Forging her own unique style, Maiko Nagao has mastered the art of expressive hand lettering and her art prints adorn the walls of houses all around the world. We had a chat with Maiko to find out what led her to follow her dreams of running her own creative business. 


Q&A with Maiko Nagao

Tell us a little about yourself Maiko:
Hi! I was born in Chigasaki, Japan in a cute little surf town an hour away from Tokyo. When I was 6 my super adventurous parents bought a house in Vanuatu (an island in the South Pacific) via a fax machine! We left our family and friends and flew there not really knowing what to expect. All we knew was that it was a tropical island with no traffic lights and endless emerald coloured beaches.

Maiko and her family enjoying life in Vanuatu

Maiko and her family enjoying life in Vanuatu

The next 2 years of my life was the best. We lived in a small house on a beach with a tin boat. We would fish for dinner and shared our house with wild chickens, pigeons, iguanas and more! We had no TV or toys. It was just me and my bro and a whole lot of tropical jungles and the sea to explore. I owe my creativity to those 2 years.

We moved to New Zealand after a family holiday here. We all instantly fell in love with this country I now call home - home with my gorgeous family and 2 year old son, Kaito. 'Kāi' means 'Ocean' and 'tō' means 'to soar' in Japanese. I can't believe I get to do what I love and run my business while staying home with him everyday!

How would you describe your creative style?
I'm always experimenting with new styles however I'm best known for my expressive brush lettering mainly in monochrome.

Maiko Nagao wake up kick ass_!.jpg

What inspired/led you to start your own line of artwork?
I always loved doodling words and making them look pretty as a child. After graduating from Art School I was lucky enough to be offered a job as a designer/creative for a large advertising agency here in Auckland. This experience lead me to working for more multi national brands in London and Tokyo.

As much as I loved my job I knew my full creative potential wasn’t used up. Three years ago while pregnant with our lil' Kaito I fell back in love with lettering again. With the help of my super supportive family and friends I decided to pursue my dreams and create an online store full of my daily scribblings which I transformed into prints.

I believe words can inspire, motivate and transform your thoughts. If my lettering could create some sort of amazingness for people around the world, I would be one happy lady!


In honour of this week’s creative challenge theme, tell us about about some different ways ‘letters’ are meaningful to you?
I'm a letter lover! Creating art with something as simple as letters and their amazing power to deeply evoke emotions and bring meaning, simply by changing the thickness or adding a flick to a letter. Now isn't that magic?

Can you share three of your favourite artworks that you have created and tell us why you love them?

Maiko Nagao and so the adventure begins.jpg

'And so the adventure begins' was also one of my first pieces. It still sits on my shelf and although there are so many pieces I've created where I cringe at the form, aesthetic or flow this is the one piece where I feel all the letters sit perfectly! Yay.

Maiko Nagao x Burrow and Be collaboration.png
Maiko Nagao Wake up kick ass.png

Maiko Nagao x Burrow and Be Collaboration - I absolutely love love loved designing this piece with the amazingly talented and fellow #mumboss Burrow and Be. My son was only 6 months old at the time so I was able to wrap my son in 'love' everyday. So special!

'Wake up, kick ass, be kind, repeat' was one of my first pieces I doodled for the launch of my online store. I woke up to it every morning on my bed side and swear it kept me super pumped and motivated for the big launch!

You can see more of Maiko's beautiful artwork on her Instagram account: @maikonagao
Facebook Page: @maikonagaodesign and shop her collection online at

Get creative and win some Maiko Nagao artworks

Maiko is sponsoring this week's 'Letters' themed creative challenge and has generously provided 3x $100 voucher for her favourite entries. Find out how to participate below.
Yes! I want to enter, tell me how!