Miyuki Tanobe’s work depicts scenes from everyday life in residential neighbourhoods around Montreal and in other Canadian cities. Her colourful, playful documentary style approaches primitivism, or naïve art. Tanobe paints principally using Nihonga, a technique developed in Japan toward the end of the nineteenth century, in which hand‑ground coloured pigments are mixed with glue and applied, with paintbrush and water, on an acrylic‑primed Masonite panel. Rock crystals, sand, and other minerals are incorporated to lend the surface more or less texture or substance. For a support material, the artist uses rice paper stretched over a frame, or paints directly onto rigid panels.
Tanobe received a Canada Council prize for her illustration of the Gilles Vigneault poem “Gens du pays” in 1981. In 1994, she became a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, and she was elected an Officer of the Ordre national du Québec the following year. In 2002, she was appointed a member of the Order of Canada and received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.