Artist Interview: Yuko Kamei

Yuko Kamei, a long-time Art-Byte Critique member, is a photographer based in Tokyo. In this interview, Yuko talks about how her other forms of artistic expression inform her creative and photographic practice and the personal nature of her work for In the Details. You can read more about Yuko on her bio page.

Explain your work in up to 40 words.
My works stem from inquiries on having a material body and thinking at the same time. The beginning of my artistic journey was in contemporary dance, especially Contact Improvisation, which its founder Steve Paxton describes as “dancing about physics”.

Could you talk about your creative process for responding to the theme of In The Details? Did your idea come to you right away? Did you have to experiment a lot?
Rock surfaces are the first thing that came up in my mind for “In The Details”, but initially I wasn’t clear about exactly where my ideas were at or how to make an exhibition around them. It took a couple months to create and select an initial set of works, and feedback from fellow artists at our regular ABC meetings aided me in deciding which ones to include.

What would you like people to know about your work?
In recent years I have been interested in the world outside the human realm, and visited several volcanic sites in national parks. There were many different types of ground condition such as solidified lava eroded by the sun, and bedrocks altered by volcanic water. By looking into the details of ground surfaces, I enjoyed imagining how the compositional ratio of earth elements results in different shapes and types of rocks, and how the latitude of the Earth affects their course of transformation. 

Last year when I attended a funeral, I was surprised upon seeing bones at a crematory because they had a colour similar to rock surfaces that I encountered at the top of a mountain. I was fascinated by the similarity, and my imagination flew to deep ocean trenches, the grand motion of plate tectonics, and the skeletal development that happens at an early stage in our life.

It is this sense of wonder, regarding planetary processes that occur similarly across bedrocks, organisms, and other artefacts, that I wanted to present in this exhibition. 

Along with photographs I am also showing “stones” which were collected at the shore of lakes and oceans. When you look into details you may find what they used to be and think about how they ended up in these forms.

An interesting thing about looking into something closely is that while your vision is locked in a tiny space, the physical relativity of your body and the subject diminishes, and your mind travels freely deep inside and goes beyond the material limitation. I am looking forward to seeing various artistic attentions to details and discovering how laws of nature operate in our multi-faceted world.


Artist Interview: Mariko Jesse

Mariko is an illustrator and printmaker. She’s been part of Art Byte Collective for a year. In this interview she talks about color, artists and her studio practice.

Do you have a favourite color or color palette?
I tend to use organic colours in my work, like browns, greens and reds, but I like adding little details of bright pink and yellow.

Do you have a favourite artist?
I love artists whose work is unlike mine, but make me think in a new way, or surprise me and inspire me conceptually, eg. Howard Hodgkin, Cornelia Parker, Richard Wentworth, and James Turrell. I’m also inspired by illustrators, such as Tove Jansson, Quentin Blake and Laura Carlin.

Explain your work in up to 40 words.
I’m an illustrator and printmaker, working in etching and mokuhanga (Japanese woodblock), and my prints are generally small and delicate. Being Eurasian, my work explores ideas about sense of place, belonging and mixed heritage. 

Do you pursue any themes? If so, what?
My work often features ceramics, specifically chinaware concerning tea. Tea, and its visual history, is endlessly fascinating to me. I’m inspired by ordinary things, like the teacups we use every day.

Describe your studio practice? Do you have any habits or rituals when producing art?
I can only start making prints when the studio or place I’m working is completely clean and tidy. It quickly becomes chaotic, but it has to start tidy!

Where is your favorite place to do work? Do you have a dedicated workspace or routine?
Working in the print studio is one of my favourite things. It’s a separate environment from my daily life, and I’m then able to shift my mind into a creative mode. I do my illustration work in a design studio, but love making prints in a space where I can make a mess!

Do you do any research and what kind if you do?
I always do research before starting any project or artwork. Usually it’s visual research, in the form of sketches from museum or library visits. I sketch all the time, and my many sketchbooks become my inspiration and source of information.

How long have you been working in the medium used for your work for In The Details?
I made my first print at around 4 years old; a monoprint made at kindergarden, but formally learned etching at art college. I studied mokuhanga in 2004 in Japan.

What do you like about this medium and what are its challenges?
There’s something special about printmaking, an element of chance, that I absolutely love. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but just as often it can be perfect! I’m concentrating on mokuhanga at the moment, and looking forward to experimenting more.

What would you like people to know about your work.
My works are prints, which means they are part of an edition of a certain number, but as I usually work into my prints individually afterwards, in a variety of ways, they then become unique pieces, and not part of an edition. That’s why they are usually marked 1/1. 

Artist Interview: Michelle Zacharias

Michelle is a Canadian painter and printmaker. In this interview Michelle talks about her quest to make handmade, natural pigments from dust. Be sure to read to the end where Michelle makes requests for more dust!

How long have you been working in the medium used for
your work for In The Details?

A little more than a year in my spare time while I also
work in other media, such as coloured pencil.

What do you like about this medium and what are its

What do I like about dust? Or should I say, what do I
like about working with natural pigments? Since it is an
easily obtained natural pigment, it is free. The other
things I need to work with it are also affordable. I also
like that each sample is different. Every location has
variations in the factors that affect the colour, and that is

The processing and the concept are not necessarily
something I like. Why not? I started using filtered dust
as a natural pigment because of my personal
connection to it. I seem to have a sensitivity, a kind of
allergy for an easily understood comparison, to aeolian
dust from China and fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) in
our polluted air. And, yes, working with loose dust is
probably not good for my health.

Other challenges? I make something that looks like
paint, but it does not act like paint or ink. It does not
dissolve or flow like you think it should. Particles are not
always the same size, and tiny wool or acrylic fibres are
almost impossible to filter out. It clumps. Layers?
Possible but also likely to erase the underlying layers
despite extra sizing on the paper. The colour is pale
and delicate, and that frustrates my love of bold line
and colour. It is tricky. On top of that, it might be free but
getting it from other locations can be difficult. Some
people are disgusted by the idea; some are intrigued.

You never know which group a person will fall in. I have
learned that the housekeeping department at a hotel
can be an asset.

Could you talk about your creative process for responding to
the theme of In The Details? Did your idea come to you
right away? Did you have to experiment a lot?

Since I was a printmaker, I tend to do detailed work
regardless of a show’s theme. I have been working on
these studies or experiments for a while. I wanted to
show the wind flows all over the world and indicate how
the aeolian (yellow) dust from China arrives in Japan. In
some seasons, the winds that deliver the dust are much
stronger and larger, resembling a monster in shape and
in character. I have been doing lots of experiments with
medium and with design. I still am.

Sometimes inspiration strikes and everything comes
together just as imagined and other times inspiration is just
a starting place. How close is your finished piece to what
you first imagined?

Usually quite different. An idea is exactly that. It is an
idea for where I can start. After that, each piece
organically moves in its own direction. If I try too hard to
stick with my original idea, I end up forcing it and the
result will be stiff, drained of energy.

What would you like people to know about your work?
* A common, organic energy is in all my work regardless of the medium I use be it etching, coloured pencil, pastel, or powdered pigments (natural or artificial) and regardless of the genre. This should hopefully identify the work as being made by Michelle Zacharias.
* Yes, it really is dust. I filtered out the hair, fibres, popcorn, staples, and so on. I probably lose lots to the environment since I do not work in a lab but I still get quite a lot. After that, I zap it in the microwave to kill any germs and so on.
* I do not usually work on such small pieces of art!
* I am still exploring. I have ideas for both abstract and figurative work.
Yes, I accept bags of dust. I would prefer if it came with a snapshot of the donor(s) wearing surgical masks for a project I have started in which I want to do portraits of people with paint made from the dust or natural pigments from their house. No, I do not want lint from your dryer. That is not dust!
* I am hoping to do a solo show of anti-pollution work in various styles and media in the future. If anyone know the owner of Duskin, let me know. Maybe we can arrange a sponsorship. If anyone knows of someone who works in a lab where they analyze air or dirt for pollutants, please let me know.


Artist Interview: Yoshiyuki Horikoshi

Yoshiyuki Horikoshi is a painter based in Gunma, Japan. His work is mainly with oil paint. You can find out more about him on his bio page.

Do you have favorite color or color palette?
I like all colors. 

What music/album are you currently listening to? 
Kaho Nakamura AINOU. 

Describe your studio practice? Do you have any habits or rituals when producing art? 
Play music.

Do you pursue any themes? If so, what?
Change, transformation, distortion. Freshness for myself. I can’t do the same thing. 

What do you like about your medium and what are its challenges?
I like oil paint. I like that it’s easy to mix. I want to draw a mixed state.

What would you like people to know about your work?
I hope everyone has fun. I wish I could convey the feeling that I was struggling to convey with this piece.

Artist Interview: Misako Oba

Misako Oba creates encaustic collages. Encaustic is created by adding pigments hot beeswax. Find out more about Misako on her bio page. In this interview, Misako talks about her theme and hidden text in her work.

Do you have a favourite color or color palette?
My signature color is blue and blue shade (and brown). However, I almost used green colors for the first time as the dominant color in the work that you will see at the exhibition. Yet, you may still see the trace of blue.

Is there a book or a film that influenced you?
For this particular works and the series, yes. The series title and pieces “L.I.P.Y.L‘essentiel est Invisible pour les Yeux” (=what is essential is invisible to the eye) were inspired by the book The Little Prince (by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry). The verses in the Bible also provided a vision (for example, The Book of 2 Corinthians 4:18 and others). For other series, current events and social issues sometimes influence my work.

However, the biggest influence regarding imagery has been my personal experience and deep thoughts in life.

Explain your work in up to 40 words.
The body of my work reflects my interest in human life as a journey. It examines our soul and explores universal experiences, such as emotions. It also depicts its transient nature, sadness, hope, and perspective. 

Do you pursue any themes? If so what?
I have been developing and working on the series related to stars, desert, and our lives for quite some time. Although scientists and professionals continually research the details, patterns and more, there is still something beyond human knowledge or understanding. I have been exploring the mystery with a conceptual and psychological approach.      

Describe your studio practice? Do you have any habits or rituals when producing art?
I remind myself of the following “7 Creative Affirmations”* that are on the wall in my studio and pray to God. I then draw for five minutes (circle, oval, straight lines) to relax my muscles before starting each session.

◆ As I create and listen, I will be lead.
◆ Creativity is the Creator’s Will for me.
◆ I am willing to be of service through my creativity.
◆ My creativity heals others.
◆ There is a divine plan of goodness for my work.
◆ Through the use of my creativities, I serve God.
◆ My creativity leads me to truth and love.

(* I selected seven of the original 20 sentences from the Creative Affirmations in The Artist’s Way, and a couple are customized for myself.)

Do you do any research and what kind if you do?
I do a tremendous amount of research and preparation, which ultimately translates to the physical artwork. Or it becomes reference material with no use. For this series, I researched stars, constellations, maps, and charts. My art includes layers of memories, thoughts, dreams, paths, imaginations, illusions, and disillusions. I recollect my thoughts and sometimes past photographs and ponder the concepts to create my vision.

I also research words, Bible verses, other materials, and modern computer-programming languages (codes: Python, C-language). With the help of an assistant who is a software engineer, I finally found the available codes that are astronomical calculation algorithms, which correlate with the stars, universe/planets for this series. I try not to illustrate my findings in a literal sense. I probably use more of my emotions or right brain than left brain once I start creating. Subsequently, you can see the results of my research in an abstract way in my artwork.

What do you like about this medium and what are its challenges?
It is challenging to apply this medium (encaustic) during the hot summer and cold winter months while using a heating palette, heat gun and torch with ventilation. Therefore, the working location matters. Temperature control is critical with encaustic. When using pigment ink transfer technique onto encaustic, I try not to melt or blow away the image.

Another challenge is that encaustic and its overall value are not yet well known unlike oil paint or watercolor, especially in Japan.

Did your idea come to you right away? Did you have to experiment a lot?
Yes. I get so many ideas flowing, but organizing, combining and executing those ideas is a different story. 🙂  

Could you talk about your creative process for responding to the theme of In The Details?
Yes. I am describing in the artist page here. Stars in the sky: Some stars are possible to see and others cannot be seen by our eyes…..(continue reading)

What would you like people to know about your work?
There is a solid concept behind the series, which you (audience) can discover by visiting my blog Behind the Scene. However, when visiting the gallery and viewing the works, I recommend viewing without logic or theory. It’s okay if you don’t “understand” the work. Focus on them with your heart, go closer to the work, or take one step back. You can just stand and feel it with your heart instead of your head.If you look closely, in art and life, the details and patterns may emerge.  However, sometimes, “L‘essentiel est Invisible pour les Yeux” (= What is essential is invisible to the eye).

My work is ‘semi-abstract.’ In the last eight years, I have used encaustic as a primary medium to create mixed-media work…often by incorporating text. I also do image transfer onto encaustic work because I feel applying real contemporary elements from our time provides meaning.

(Encaustic is made of beeswax, damar resin, and pigment. I started to make my own medium since 2013. The work you see is encaustic mixed media using oil, water color, Japanese paper, gold and pure silver flecks simultaneously.)