Monday, August 1, 2011

A Conversation WIth Juuri

Juuri, a Tokyo-born, Japanese-American artist working in Norman, Oklahoma,uses highly decorative elements to examine and illustrate Japanese feminine beauty. What struck me most about her artwork is the delicate nature of her lines, the use of color and the way the paint drips eloquently throughout her work. The artist talked with ArtSeen about her artwork and her artistic process. 

Can you tell us a little about your artwork and your artistic process? 

"Tears & Rain" 2011
I am a Japanese+American artist working in Oklahoma. My main focus is to capture the beauty of Japanese women, culture, and historical elements. I work a lot
with watercolor and mixed media on paper, and gold leaf.

I start with an idea or feeling that I want to convey. Of course my work usually features beautiful girls, but I’ve painted boys every now and again when I need a change.
I look through tons of reference material, faces, poses, colors, and develop a sketch. Once I’m pleased with the sketch, I scan it into the computer and play with color schemes and pattern elements, just to make sure it all works harmoniously together. From there the real work beings. I transfer my sketch to Arches cold press watercolor paper and lay down the watercolor. After that’s done, I define detail with colored pencil— my favorite part of the process. I then cut the girl
out, making sure to preserve all the little details in her hair. I prepare a wooden board with a non-objective background, usually incorporating Japanese patterns and paint drips. I might collage on Japanese paper or origami. In the end it’s all glued together and I add gold leaf where appropriate. I think my complex process produces a very intricate look. 

What inspires you as an artist? Why do you create art?

"Dream Moon"  2011
 As an artist, I find inspiration everywhere. It could be a Japanese film or drama, lyrics to a song, music video, fashion magazine, or just the way light falls on something, a new
plant, a pretty pattern, anything. If I'm out and I see a beautiful girl that looks like
one of the subjects of my paintings, I might stare and stare until people think I'm a 
creepo! I definitely create art because I can't NOT create art without feeling a lot of stress and irritation. I loved college because of the challenge of constant art assignments. After I graduated, I started working at a video production house and was too busy to do any fine art for about 3 years. I felt strange, empty; but somehow very afraid to pick up a brush again. Luckily now I've moved past that now and am able to create freely.

What types of themes, ideas, or concepts do you explore within in your artwork? 

"Spring" 2010
 Obviously I try to portray beauty, or what I 
consider beautiful, in every work. I also like the combination of non-objective elements as well as the tighter, more realistic faces. Those are two parts of me I feel. I also like to hint at mystery or something deeper than what you first see. I think you can see it on the melancholy faces of the girls I paint... inner struggle, emotion, and mortality. I am currently trying to incorporate more Japanese folklore into my pieces. 
There are so many wonderful symbols and stories to explore and share.

Are there any artists that inspire you ? If so who would they be and why? 

I find so much inspiration every day and it's necessary for me to keep me going! Here are my biggest inspirations and why. From the past: Caravaggio (his luscious figures, faces, and bold chiaroscuro), Klimt (his use of pattern, gold leaf, and the female figure) [and]  Schiele (his beautiful lines, textured look and posings.)

Current artists: Audrey Kawasaki (her perfect female faces, color choices, [and] unparalleled technical skill), David Choe (his crazy use of all kinds of media and his unbridled wild, artistic attitude), Conrad Roset (his beautiful paint drips and super  skilled pencil drawings of girls), Hikari Shimoda (her gorgeous use of mixed color and rainbow skin-tones; her incorporation of traditional Japanese style into a very modern one.), Charmine Olivia (Her persistence, dedication, branching into different outlets for selling art, and her girls just make me feel happy.) [and] Makoto Fujimura (his perfection of his chosen medium, his pursuit of unwavering high quality [and] his positive attitude and worldwide success.)

The entire Los Angeles art scene energizes me. I identify with it probably more closely than any other art scene. Juxtapoz Magaine, Hi-Fructose Magazine, Blue Canvas. That’s what I read. 

For you, what do you think the role of the artist is? 

"Smolder Mist" 2011
I think artists have a responsibility to seek perfection in their craft or medium, whatever it may be. My work is certainly nowhere near what I consider perfect, so I'm going to keep painting until I get closer to that goal. 
It bothers me when artists do
a half-hearted job just because they can, and people still buy their work... or to have a mental block against learning or taking classes because they feel it somehow is a slap in the face to their natural talent. That's so not true! Education and practice are imperative and very important. So, I feel we should seek to constantly improve to provide the best and most beautiful art pieces we can to our viewers. 

What’s the best and worst part about being an artist? As an artist, how do you stay motivated? 
Best part: getting to do what I'm meant to do. I can't feel fulfilled if I were in any other career. Worst  part: the constant struggle to stay inspired, to do good work, to avoid laziness and to keep marketing the work. I didn't take any marketing classes in college (which I think should be required for art majors!) so I'm learning as I go, and I'm not naturally talented in marketing or sales! I stay motivated by finding good art online and reading stories of people who have become successful... people who started out just like me. :)

And finally, what advice would you give to 
other artists? 

"Captive" 2010
Take some classes. Become a master at 
what you love. Paint what makes you
happy, not what others expect you to paint. Don't listen to people who say "You can't make a living at fine art." I believed that,
and that's why I was stuck for years in a job that didn't make me happy. With hard work and a little clever marketing, you can live your dream. Practice as much as possible, every day.

For more information about Juuri and her artwork you can visit her website, blog, and Facebook page for more details.   

All photography provided by Juuri.

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