Nana: Fashion has infinite possibilities, and new power is born from it. As a carrier of culture and times, fashion encompasses everything. From trendy to traditional culture, from celebrities, idols to everyone’s daily life, and from West to East, it is our discourse, our power, our time. Through Asian Voice, we hope to spread the local Asian fashion culture to the world by moving cross languages and borders.
Text: Yiyao Zhang
In this issue, We welcome Wataboku, a Japanese digital artist. Most of his work is based on the fixed and original character, SAI, an actual friend of mine from the school days, which made him distinguished from other artists. Through SAI, he reconstructs the scenery felt in his memory. By showing the work on the social media, he gains more and more followers and attentions. Now, he has expanded his range of work to TV commercials, music videos, and apparel brand tie-ins, such as the MV of Greenish Yellow Society’s Mela! and Yohji Yamamoto, a very special experience for him. Let’s take a closer look at Wataboku and the inspiration behind his work.
Who is Wataboku?
A Japanese digital artist. He creates works using his original icon SAI, a young girl in school uniform to continually expand his fan base around the world by showcasing his works on social media.
He released his first art book in 2016 and his highly anticipated second book in October of this year. Since then, he has held many solo exhibitions in Japan as well as in several cities overseas, mainly in Asia. Recently, he has expanded his activities as a contemporary artist. He has done a lot of client work both in Japan and abroad, expanding his range of work to TV commercials, music videos, and apparel brand tie-ins.
Nana: Can you give us an introduction about you and your current job as an artist?
Wataboku: I create artworks and sell them through exhibitions. I have been active in this field for about 10 years. In 2015, I was selected as an excellent work in the first category of ASIAGRAPH’s CG Art Gallery Open Call for Entries, and in 2016, I released my first solo exhibition and art book.
In 2016, I released my first solo exhibition and art book, and since around 2017, I has had solo exhibitions in 4 cities in Asia. This year, I will hold my third solo exhibition in Tokyo, which was postponed due to COVID-19.
I am grateful for the many fans.
Nana: Why and what motivated you decide to choose art as your career?
Wataboku: I had been working as an advertising art director while continuing to create artwork. However, I gradually became more and more involved in painting and became an artist eventually.
My father was a Manga-artist and my sister went to an art college. I was surrounded by paintings when I was a child, so I think I had a deeper knowledge of drawing than graphic design or video.
I also continue to work as an illustrator, but the big difference is that I can create my own content, which I think is the big strength of myself. I enjoy the different feeling of feedback I get from it.
Nana: What processing steps do you usually go through when creating a work or taking a new project?
Wataboku: A work can be either a stand-alone piece or a continuation of a work, like a series. Recently, many of my works are the latter. I often have to make a certain amount of plans before I start painting, and then move on to the actual work. I also need to increase the number of series depending on the number of paintings required for an exhibition.
However, in all of these cases, the most important thing is that it has to resonate with me. If it is not what I want to paint at the moment, or what I want to show to everyone, then I will not be able to sell the work.
Nana: You have done many amazing collaborations such as Yohji Yamamoto. How was that? Is there any special experience or difference when working with fashion brand?
Wataboku: Working with Yohji Yamamoto was a very special experience for me. I had already had several experiences of drawing pictures for apparel items, but they were textile-like patterns or T-shirts with pictures placed on the stomach.
In this collaboration with Yohji Yamamoto has made bold modifications to the paintings to fit the clothes while respecting my inspirations. I believe we were able to create a wonderful item that harmonized the arts and the clothes.
Nana: Could you please share us some memorable collections, collaborations, or project that you have had before?
Wataboku: I have very fond memories of working on the music video for Greenish Yellow Society’s Mela!
I remember that when I was working on it, the news about the Diamond Princess was on TV, and as Mela! was released and the number of views increased, the situation in the world changed rapidly.
It has been two years since its release, but there are still many people who came to know about it through that work.
Nana: How do you get your inspiration for your work. Has any culture, art, music, film, etc. or other styles influenced you a lot in the creation of your work?
Wataboku: I don’t have a clear source of inspiration, but I get inspiration mainly from my imagination, dreams I am inspired mainly by my imagination, dreams, and accidental sightings.
I loved the graphic works of Nagi Noda and the world of CD jackets made by Yutaka Kimura. I also loved the world of Yutaka Kimura’s CD jackets. I often feel empathy with the aligned space and sophisticated graphics.
Nana: What do you think makes you different from other artists, in terms of the way you create, your inspiration, your work, etc.?
Wataboku: In my case, I have a fixed character named SAI that I have been drawing for 10 years. SAI is based on an actual friend of mine from my school days, and I reconstructed the scenery I felt in my memory by having SAI play the role of the character. I think this is a big difference from other artists.
Nana: Nowadays, there are many arts e-commerce and various self-media platforms, Is there any unique way of promotion for you?
Wataboku: Now I use social media to update information about new works and exhibitions, but it is not unique. NFT, which was talked about last year, is still a flawed system in my opinion, but I think it is an indispensable system for digital artists.
The way to monetize digital works has so far been to maintain a semi-permanent service for many fans. There are two ways: Patreon, which requires a semi-permanent service for fans and commissions, which responds to fan requests, both of which require more time to complete the original work. This is a very important issue for digital artists.
I am not sure if NFT is the answer to these problems, but we hope that an appropriate platform will be created in the future.
Nana: What advice do you have for the new generation of artists who just starting out?
Wataboku: Even art, no matter how free in its expression, can be bound by common sense. It is very important to know the basics. However, I would like you to question once again whether the expression that suits you is correct.
If there are 100 people, there are 100 different lives. Even if there are already expressions in the world that are close to your sensibilities, don’t just follow them. I look forward to seeing some creativity surprises in the future generations by their original influences and creations.
Question once again whether the expression that suits you is correct.