Drawing has always been an important part of your life. How so?
I always read comics as a child and in school my desk was a canvas for me. In every class, I'd draw on the whole desk, and then erase it at the end. This was actually a really useful way for me to learn what was being taught, as opposed to learning directly from the teacher. At the time I didn't know I was going to be an artist!
You're based in Barcelona as an artist despite having no previous formal training.
Has it been challenging breaking into the city's diverse creative scene?
I was the annoying student in school; I had too many ideas and always asked too many questions. Because I never went to Art College, I don't have an artist stereotype. I don't know how things are 'meant to be' and I really like the freedom of that, as though everything is possible. "Because I never went to Art College, I don't know how things are 'meant to be'. I really like the freedom of that."
Believe it or not, I didn't know that Barcelona had a thriving art scene before I came! I'm really lucky, because the people here are genuinely interested in art, so when I draw in public (like shop windows or walls), even old ladies with their grandchildren seem really fascinated. I love feeling like I'm giving something to the people.
You moved here in 2005.
What was the attraction to come to Barcelona and leave your home town of Osaka?
Osaka isn't multicultural in the same way. It's a great city – very avant-garde, but being Japanese means that I know what way I'm 'supposed to be' there, and it's hard to get by there as an artist. I lived there for more than 20years, so I wanted to be in a new environment. I also like being a foreigner because I can get away with doing whatever I like, and I can escape politics.
"To have fun is always my aim." Before I came to Barcelona, I'd lived in London and Chicago each for two years. I think the London times made me change my life. I was working behind a bar, listening to the music, having an easy-going lifestyle... It suited me at the time, to work all night and relax all day. But I had to be more realistic about what I could do when I was older. I started contacting the press in order to organise events. I had to make flyers, which led me to make posters (I hung one beside a Bansky in Shoreditch). I also had to make invitations for events, so I decided to collect empty bottles from the bar, and put the invitations in them, and release them down the river. A couple people found some and attended the event! OK, it wasn't too good for commercialising, but it was just a bit if fun. To have fun is always my aim.
These times made me remember how much I used to love drawing, so I thought: why not? I'd met so many people who were trying to figure out what they wanted to do with their lives, and I started to feel an emptiness in my heart. I had an urge to start something before 30. I wanted to have a job I enjoyed.
"I came here on a whim – I didn't know anything about the city before, except for the beach, the sun ...and football."
Following this, I went to New Zealand for a year to travel, in order to draw the scenery (it was the time of the Lord of the Rings movies!). I partied a bit too much though and didn't do many drawings like I'd intended. I then thought, 'OK where is a good place to draw?' Realistically, you can draw anywhere though: Thailand, Colombia, Iceland ... you just need pen and paper.
What's your favourite thing about the city?
"...in Barcelona you see young, old, black, white, Asian, everyone, all integrated together." After starting to live here, I've felt quite emotional. I love how society isn't segregated here; in Barcelona you see young, old, black, white, Asian, everyone, all integrated together. Yet everyone keeps their own culture and respects each other's history. This means a lot to me.
Your Japanese heritage gives your work an elusive edge. Has your drawing style or work method changed since your environment did?
"I love Japan...and I hate Japan." I was worrying about other people's opinions too much and didn't have enough confidence. I felt limited in a lot of ways. I just wanted the freedom to do what I wanted to do. I feel better drawing here, plus now there are customers; I want to make them happy. Before, I wanted to express my egoism! But now I like to work with clients and to please them, but still be given a sense of freedom.
Your attitude towards your art seems very philosophical. How does drawing help to guide you through life?
When I finish a drawing and put it away, it has a different effect on me a few weeks later. I discover different things about myself when I'm drawing. Sometimes I draw without thinking at all, and I learn a lot this way.
I mostly use Posca water-based pens for drawing. I love going to art shops to try out new drawing materials. Before, I used to use the same pen, and I'm trying to use Sakura pens now. I've always preferred drawing to painting. I've tried out some graffiti but I prefer to watch great street-artists spray painting more than doing it myself.
Have you ever collaborated with other artists or professionals?
I once did an exposition with my Japanese friend Genta Kosumi. It was fun – he did what he wanted to do and I did what I wanted to do. We did some live drawing at the front of a shop for its inauguration. In Madrid, we did something similar at a food and drink event; we drew beside a speaker who was discussing the drinks in front of an audience.
I'd love to collaborate more, but without meeting beforehand, without planning too much. It's better to be spontaneous and see what happens on the day. Maybe one day I could collaborate with street artists.
"I'd love to collaborate more with other artists, but without planning too much"
I prefer free-style in general, which is why I don't watch movies very much. The whole idea of 'acting' isn't for me. But sometimes I come up with an idea for a drawing, and maybe I'll develop the concept, but keep it cloudy in my head and see how it goes. I have an idea for an exposition, but it's a secret for now!
Your artwork has inhabited galleries, restaurants and shop windows.
Where can we find your current work?
Recently I worked in Hotel Vincci Bit in Diagonal Mar; you can see my work on the ceiling of the entrance floor, and on the wall in the 7th floor. This is very important actually, because I think it's the biggest drawing I've done. In Barcelona, I have some current work in The Tatami Room Restaurant in Poble Sec, in En Ville in Raval, in Ikkiu in Borne, in Bouzu in St. Antoni and in Montesque in Sarria. If you're not in the city, my work is in EDC London Furniture in London and in Madrid's Mahou-St.Miguel Museum.
I'm going to start drawing in Hemmingway bar on Placa Catalunya from around the 20th of June for a week or so. Be sure to drop by and see me! They have another bar near the Sagrada Familia which I'll work on soon too.
"It was fun. I like to be a panda in a zoo." The last exposition I did was in Vincon on Passeig de Gracia. Before the exhibition, the gallery was open to the public and people were coming to watch me draw. It was fun, I like to be a panda in a zoo.
|From top: Illustrations on the walls of Hotel Vincci Bit; Yoshi drawing in preperation for an event; a snap of a colour drawing|
What do you hope to have achieved by the end of your career?
My career will only be finished when I finish eating! But I'd love to design money. I think the Euro looks too serious. Why can't it be more fun?
I'd love to create something new and make people think it's normal. For example, why aren't flowers ever green? I want to make what is 'strange' a normality. Before, when people of different races and colours saw each other for the first time, they were surprised. When people first heard hip-hop, it sounded just like people talking. I want to give people the same kind of surprise, and be considered a creative pioneer, bearing in mind that I love tradition, cheesy jokes (...ketchup catch-up), and embracing a culture when it comes to local food, customs and music. But I want to betray myself and how I'm 'supposed to be', and break continual habits. Why not do things another way?
"Everything is possible. Why not?" Sometime, I'd really like to draw something in the sky, or in the water. Of course I ask myself, 'how would I draw in the sky?' Maybe I could do some sort of light projection. I often have ideas, but don't know how to do them. My ultimate goal is to make the most obscure parts of my imagination real. But everything's possible. Why not?