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Kohei Yoshihara

An Illustrator & Printmaker from Japan

The Wise Owl talks to Kohei Yoshihara, a self-taught illustrator & printmaker from Tokyo, Japan. Kohei was born in Osaka and follows his Muse, even as he holds down a demanding corporate job. Currently, as an artist, he is mainly active on social media, where he shows his works under the name of kohei1975. His artworks have been featured in a collection of tanka poems.

The Interview : Kohei Yoshihara

(Rachna Singh, Editor, The Wise Owl, in conversation with Kohei Yoshihara)

 

The Wise Owl talks to Kohei Yoshihara, a self-taught illustrator & printmaker from Tokyo, Japan. Kohei was born in Osaka and follows his Muse, even as he holds down a demanding corporate job. Currently, as an artist, he is mainly active on social media, where he shows his works under the name of kohei1975. His artworks have been featured in a collection of tanks poems. He can be found on Instagram at instagram.com/kohei1975 and his twitter handle is twitter.com/kohei1975_tw.

 

Thank you Kohei for taking time out to talk to The Wise Owl. We are indeed delighted to talk to you about your Art.

 

RS: For the benefit of our readers, please tell us a little about your artistic journey and the creative influences in your life.

 

KY: When I was a small child, cartoons and anime were the teaching materials for my brother and I, and we both wanted to be cartoonists (that's why my works still have a cartoon-like touch). In junior high school, I started making postcards for myself and my family to use. At first, they were trivial, but as I grew older, I became more and more conscious of capturing the fragile, ephemeral sentiments associated with seasonal scenes and anchoring them in my works. I do not know how this happened, but it may have been influenced by my love of old poetry book illustrations and small illustrations printed on small letterheads, which were small but well symbolic of sentiments and seasons. It may also have something to do with the fact that my mother is an amateur tanka poet.

 

RS: Please tell us a little about your art. Is it based on traditional art practices in Japan or is it a melding of traditional and contemporary art forms?

KY: My art is not traditional one, in fact, there are few traditional art techniques, but I think there are unconscious influences of traditional Japanese art and culture in my style. On the other hand, there are also influences from pop culture such as cartoons and anime.

If the appearance of my works gives the impression that they are related to Japanese traditions, this may be due to the frequent appearance of traditional motifs and the woodblock-like textures of some of the pieces. Another reason may be the small number of elements I depict in a single painting. In some of my works, I try to highlight the poetic sentiment I want to express by consciously reducing the number of elements I depict. This is similar to how haiku and tanka poems convey emotion to the reader by cutting down unnecessary words, within a limited number of syllables. I believe that consciously reducing the number of elements, not only in haiku and tanka, is a traditional Eastern attitude to effectively convey the essence.

 

RS: I really loved your New Year card for 2023, New Year card for 2021 and your work of snow and sunshine (Jan 16, 2020, tweet) as well as your gallery of images on Instagram. Those of our readers who are artists would love to know your favorite medium, and the paper and colors you use to bring your work to life.

KY: I am so happy to hear that you like my works. The three works you specifically mentioned are all digital works. However, I do not paint only with digital tools from the beginning. I use watercolors and brushes on paper, scan them into digital data, and then layer them on PC. It is like recording the sounds of analog instruments and assembling them into a single piece of music on PC; the final form is digital data, but the material is analog in origin.

When painting with paint, I use watercolours or acrylics on watercolour paper. In many cases, I use pale, somewhat dull, and subdued colours. This may have been my own way of balancing the color with the white of the paper that remains in the margins and around the painting, but it may simply be a matter of taste.

 

RS: You say you are an occasional Illustrator. So are you a storyboard illustrator or a product illustrator or work in other segments. What does your work entail?

KY: I am neither a storyboard illustrator nor a product illustrator. The works I have produced includes illustrations for my own personal postcards, and book illustrations (only one book; it is a collection of tanka by my mother). Other works exist on their own rather than as adjuncts to something else, my title might have been more appropriate simply as an artist rather than an illustrator…

 

RS: You are also a printmaker. Our readers would be eager to know about the techniques used by you for printmaking, which is a very complex art that needs expertise in etching, lithography etc.

KY: I had used a ‘Gocco Printer’. A Gocco Printer is a simple manual printer previously sold in Japan, and the process is a variant of screen printing. A user draws a manuscript in carbon-containing material, makes a plate, and prints one postcard at a time. I printed about 100 to 200 copies per work. I would often make five or six plates per work, repeating the process as many times as the number of plates, so I would press the printer 500 to 1200 times per work… It was a gruelling and enjoyable process, but when the manufacturer stopped making the printers and supplies, I moved my art making to digital.

A Gocco Printer may have been more of a toy than a tool for art, but this period is important to me. I brought the idea of multi-printing that I had been doing with Gocco Printer into the layered structure of the digital drawing tool, and the result, as I mentioned earlier, was a way of making art that involved layering analog-derived images on PC. I believe that I am still doing analog-like printmaking on PC.

 

RS: Do you have any favorite traditional or contemporary artists? What is it that attracts you to their works?

KY: When I think about it, I realize that I love the works of some cartoonists more than those of world-famous artists. I like the lyrical works of Fumiko Takano, Yoshiharu Tsuge, and Susumu Katsumata, works that have poetic sentiments that can only be found in them. Sorry, I think some of them have English translations, but many of them may only be read in Japanese.… If we are talking about artists other than cartoonists, I like Settai Komura, who is known as an artist of Shin-Hanga. I respect his sense of cutting out traditional objects with sharp composition.

 

RS: What advice would you like to give budding artists, illustrators and printmakers?

KY: I have not yet been successful enough to give specific advice to other artists. Every artist has different characteristics. I have little drawing skills or technique, but I manage to create images by mishmash of what I can do. I think one doesn't need to follow the standard approach, but should pursue what they are able to do best at that time.

 

RS: If I was to ask you to define your work in three adjectives, what would they be?

KY: How about ‘serene’, ‘poetic’ and ‘airy’? I may change my answer if I come up with more appropriate words…

Thank you very much for the opportunity to present my thoughts and work!

 

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with The Wise Owl. We wish you the best in all your creative endeavours and hope you continue to create beauty through your artworks.

Some Works of Kohei Yoshihara
_Sugadaira_.jpg

Sugadaira

_Awai Hikari_.jpg

Awai Hikari

_In the Backyard_.jpg

In the Backyard

_Summer Holidays in Shimoda_.jpg

Summer holidays in Shimoda

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White Magnolia

_Japanese Cornel (New Year card for 2021)_.jpg

Japanese Cornel

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