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The Drawaholic :- a chat with Akinori Oishi

Akinori Oishi is a self-confessed ‘drawaholic’ who immerses himself in a landscaped playground where hierarchies have disappeared. Oishi is best known for his typographic language that seems to have no beginning or end.

He studied fine arts at Kyoto City University of Art followed by multi-media at IAMAS (International Academy of Media Arts and Sciences / Japan). After winning the MILIA award in 2001, he worked at the French creative design studio TEAMCHMAN (2001 – 2003). Today, he’s an independent artist, teaching at Tama Art University in Tokyo, and a guest lecturer at ECAL (Ecole Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne / University of Art and Design Lausanne) in Switzerland.

Akinori Oishi will be appearing at the NEoN festival in Dundee, Scotland, from 13th-14th November.

[Fired By Design] I started by asking Aki for some background information on his training and experience:

[Akinori Oishi] I think I started drawing (doodling) when I was a small kid, around 3 years old.   Growing-up I was inspired by Japanese Manga, but at the same time very inspired by children’s picture books from Europe and the US. My older cousin, a university student, collected many imported books, so she showed me her collection.   Of course I didn’t understand the foreign languages, but I loved how they sparked my imagination.  I think this experience brought me up to dream about going abroad.

I studied oil-painting at the Art University in Japan.  Unfortunately my professors only taught contemporary arts.   They way they always talked about this art was incoherent to me.  They seemed to possess no fun, no playfulness and no happiness for their art – and used too many concepts. So maybe I chose the wrong school!   However this only had the effect of making my belief in myself and my art stronger.

After 4 years, I went to another school – “IAMAS” in Japan. This was similar to a Masters level and lasted two years.  The students were from different backgrounds but we specialised in all forms of multimedia, art, design, programming and sound.  It was really nice to share our various skills with each other, based around the same keyword of ‘computer’.    At IAMAS, I saw a big bright future – how I could develop myself and how my drawings could become digital, animated and interactive in the Internet universe.

[FBD]What artwork won you the MILIA award and how has your work/style developed since then?

I developed my drawings as an interactive artwork based on characters in my sketchbook.  Whenever I draw my characters, they always are alive in my mind.  So, using interactive software, I was able to create my own universe in which my characters were really moving around.   I basically work in analogue but develop my output in a digital form to add interactivity. There are a lot of possibilities with computer techniques.

[FBD]Can you describe a couple of favourite examples of your commercial work please?

[AO]One of my best experiences was creating a TV commercial for one of drink products from Coca-Cola Japan.  It was about 10 years ago when I worked in the design studio in France [teamcHmAn].   I worked on the main part of the animation process. All our team except me were French guys, but it was just a coincidence the director chose me for the Japanese client.   The product was very successful and our commercial was on air for a long time.  Unfortunately I couldn’t watch it in Japan because I was in Europe, but still many people remember it.

Another great experience has been my latest animation work, a jingle animation for the kid’s TV program “Yo Gabba Gabba” on Nickelodeon in the USA.   I’m honoured that they found me, because at the moment it’s one of the most popular TV shows in US and in the world. My small son and I are big fans of the programme too!

[FBD]Can you give some details about your typographic work and your wider design philosophy please?

[AO]My typographic work involves repeating my characters.  They are graphics but it’s a pictogram. People may think it is stupid given the recent fashion for digital Copy-And-Paste.  So I called it “Drawaholic”. It starts from left to right and involves making lines, so is something like hand-writing letters.  There’s no big achievement and special meaning to it, but I feel happy when I completely hand-draw all the space.  I just want to do it.

[FBD]Regarding being a ‘drawaholic’, how does this ‘addiction’ manifest itself?

Drawaholic is just me concentrating on drawing for myself.   It takes quite a lot of time but provides really good meditation.

[FBD]What media do you use in your work?

Basically pen (or marker) to draw on the paper.  And of course I use software to develop animation and interaction after scanning my images.   My favourite software for this is Flash.

[FBD]Where did you get the inspiration for your last few pieces of artwork?

I travel a lot for the project, and I am inspired from the experiences at each place I visit.  For example, I created a Potato character at the festival in Germany [Pictoplasma].  I know they eat a lot of potatoes, and I like them too.   I’ve never been to Scotland, so maybe at NEoN I’ll have a lot of inspiration from life in Dundee.

[FBD]Which artists and creatives do you most admire – and why?

My favourite artist is not really an ‘artist’, as such.  I greatly admire the French film director,  Jacques Tati. I first encountered him through his classic movie “Mon Uncle” when I was a university student. I like his movies because they are very natural, with a slow and calm atmosphere. I am greatly influenced by his work when providing humour and happiness for my creations.

[FBD] Can you provide a quick overview of the nature and subject of your presentation/involvement at NEoN?

[AO] I’ll be talking about the art of my character universe, and how I developed my drawings into various media.

More information here

[FBD]What do you hope to achieve or experience here?

[AO] I don’t know so much about the UK.    So, at the NEoN festival, I’d like to see how the art scene is in the UK and how British people are thinking about digital media. I think it will be great to see the nice people in Dundee and staff at NEoN during the festival.   The most interesting thing about participating in a festival is communicating with friendly people and native audiences.

[FBD]How important is collaboration and interaction to you, both with other artists and the wider community?

[AO]When the artist is working, they are always alone.  But it’s nicer to share the experience with some people, so collaboration brings us more joy in our art.

Images©Copyright Akinori Oishi  Words© Copyright Fired By Design 2010

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