Christopher Laurence Examines An Artist Spotlight: Ori Lai/Orikami
My time on Twitter has largely been aggravating, to be honest. But, it has also allowed me to “meet” and interact with people I most likely never would have otherwise. One such person is fellow Catholic and prolific young artist, Ori Lai; or Orikami, as she is known on social media.
Ori spends her time on Twitter attempting to extoll the beauty and glory of the Catholic Faith, while simultaneously displaying her talent with art and amassing a following comprised of her fellow artists and Catholic manga fans, but also big brains such as Adrian Vermeule, and the Archduke of Austria and Hungarian Ambassador to the Holy See, Eduard Habsburg (who said of her, “You had me at ‘manga’ and ‘Catholic’).
I asked Ori some questions about her art, her Faith, the intersection of the two, using creativity to evangelize, and more.
Christopher Laurence: What is your Faith background? Are you a cradle Catholic?
Ori Lai: I am Roman Catholic. I was baptized into the Faith when I was a baby, and I never really strayed away from the Faith. I did have a reversion experience last year that brought me closer to God, which I’ve talked about a few times on Twitter.
Christopher Laurence: What importance would you put on the Faith as an aspect of your life?
Ori Lai: It’s the core and at the center. Without God, all things fall apart. And I never realized what that truly meant until last year, when I had my reversion experience. But if one is grounded in God, then all things start to fall in place, even if one cannot make sense of it all at first.
Christopher Laurence: When did you first develop an interest in art?
Ori Lai: To be honest, I think my interest in art was piqued at an early age, when I first got into anime and especially watching the Studio Ghibli [multiple Academy Award-winning Japanese animated film studio] movies. I was fascinated by every single detail that went into creating different scenes and characters and wanted to make my own, but I was always terrified I could never measure up to the standard I had set for myself, so I turned to writing instead. I’m glad that life took a slightly different path, though.
Christopher Laurence: When did you decide to start creating your own art?
Ori Lai: It was actually last year. Around February 2020. I went through something very difficult, and I was suffering greatly. I found that words could not express the pain I was feeling sufficiently, so I turned to art instead.
Christopher Laurence: At what point did you decide to start using your art to exhibit aspects of the Faith?
Ori Lai: I was practicing my art styles by just looking at different images I liked and trying to copy them in my own style. I remember one day an article about St. Corona came out because of the pandemic, and I thought, “Hey, what if I drew her in an anime/manga kind of style?” So I did. I still have a copy of it! It’s quite rough. After doing a St. Corona icon piece, I decided to do other saints in a similar style, and that’s how it all started. It was a good way to combine both my love for God and anime interests into one. Currently I am trying to make as many company logos as I can Catholic before June for something I’ve been planning for a while.
Christopher Laurence: How did you develop your style? Who/what were some significant influences on you?
Ori Lai: Lots of practice! When I was first starting out, I looked a lot at Qinni’s work (may she rest in peace). I used to draw skies quite a bit, and for that I looked at Sugarmint’s art. Hayao Miyazaki and his work with Studio Ghibli were also very influential.
Christopher Laurence: What do you see as being the true ends of creativity?
Ori Lai: I believe the purpose of all creativity is to give honor and glory to God in some way, whether it be through a reflection on the human condition of suffering or an expression of joy. For me, it is not “Art for art’s sake,” nor is it “Art for others,” but rather “Art for God alone.”
Christopher Laurence: Do you believe art can have an important place in evangelization?
Ori Lai: Absolutely. Art has a way of moving the human soul, and it can certainly move it towards God. I think now more than ever, Catholic artists need to use their art to evangelize in some way.
Christopher Laurence: What do you think impedes or inhibits Catholics from using their creativity to evangelize the culture?
Ori Lai: Almost everything about the current secular culture seems to impede Catholics from using their creativity to evangelize. The media is filled with messages that directly contradict Catholic teaching. The world we live in seems to become increasingly more unkind and less tolerant of Catholics, and even though we are called to stand for the Truth, even when we stand alone, it can be very hard at times. A lack of organization for a sort of movement of Catholic artists also contributes to the impediment of Catholic evangelization.
Christopher Laurence: Why do you think good Catholics are so seemingly absent from popular culture/the arts?
Ori Lai: The current popular culture definitely does not foster an environment that encourages a culture for good Catholics. There is a lot in popular culture that is against Catholic teaching, and it seems that most people support such a culture. There are definitely good Catholics out there, who are trying to do art. But art is a hard industry to make a living in, in general, and it’s even harder, when the work you do seems to go against the world.
Christopher Laurence: Do you think it is possible for Catholics to retake parts of the popular media by creating alternative entertainment and arts?
Ori Lai: Yes! Especially with the group of artists that I have met on Twitter, the passion is certainly there, but resources to do this is hard to come by. There’s been talk of creating Catholic art studios and such, and I think it’s really important to have a group of passionate Catholic artists who want to create art that helps retake popular media.
Christopher Laurence: What are your plans for the art you create?
Ori Lai: I want to keep working on Catholic icons drawn in anime style. I haven’t done that in a while. I plan to keep honing my skills and eventually create a sort of Catholic Twitter manga. I’d eventually like to animate. That’s going to take a lot of hard work and patience, though.
Christopher Laurence: Do you think art created by Catholics needs to always be explicitly Catholic (portraits of Saints; poems about the Eucharist; etc.) or can it simply be entertaining and engaging without promoting anything morally or spiritually problematic?
Ori Lai: Definitely the latter. I don’t think art created by Catholics always needs to be explicitly Catholic, but they certainly shouldn’t be creating art that is morally or spiritually problematic or anything that directly contradicts Catholic teaching.
Christopher Laurence: Do you think there is anything to the idea of being subversive with what we create, in order to draw in non-Catholics (for example; Tolkien weaving Catholic imagery and morality all through “The Lord of the Rings”, but ultimately creating an exhilarating and compelling story)?
Ori Lai: Yes! I think there is a lot to be said about creating art that incorporates Catholic themes into it. Modern media does it nowadays to promote themes that we consider subversive to Catholicism, so I think creating art that promotes Catholicism in an indirect way is a good form of evangelization. Tolkien did not have outright Catholic imagery or morality throughout “The Lord of the Rings”, but it certainly is embedded throughout the entire series. A non-Catholic might be wary, apprehensive, or even intimidated by outright Catholic art at first, especially when Catholicism at times seems very harsh and unwelcoming (at least in the way the media presents it), so creating art that has Catholic themes incorporated into it can reach a wider non-Catholic audience than blatant Catholic art at times.
Samples of Ori Lai’s art can be see on her feature at SiQuaVirtus.com, here.
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