An interview with Toshikazu Nozaka via Hypebeast’s Pen & Paper series. We are working on a project with Toshi to be released next month. Keep an eye out for it.
Beginning as a professional skateboarder Toshi’s work naturally led him to collaborations with skate brands, laying the foundation on which he would later build a career as a professional artist and tattoo artist. Drawing from a strong connection with his cultural and artistic heritage, Nozaka works primarily with traditional materials such as a simple brush and ink, and his inspirations reach far back to artists from the Edo and Meiji periods who were known for their stylized Ukiyo-e paintings and woodblock prints.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO YOUR LINE OF WORK?
I’ve been having independent art-shows for 10 years. Before I started working as an artist, I was skating as a professional and that connection led me to a job working with brands and corporations. My style came naturally from my cultural background.
WHO ARE SOME OF THE PEOPLE THAT HAVE HAD AN IMPACT ON YOU WHEN PURSUING ART?
I am shocked by some of Japanese artists from Edo to Meiji era (approx. 1600 to 1900) such as Kuniyoshi Utagawa, Yoshitoshi Tsukioka and Kyosai Kawanabe. They are all famous for their original Ukiyo-e, a Japanese traditional art style. I am also influenced by skateboarders from the ’80s.
HOW IS THE CITY’S ART SCENE AND HOW HAS IT CHANGED SINCE YOU STARTED?
Tokyo’s art scene has totally changed from 10 years ago. There are many galleries and customers who go to them to purchase art. That makes it easier for young artists to have exhibitions and shows the world what they want to do or who they are. It looks like art is becoming more general, but it’s not popular like how it is in the U.S. or Europe. It’s still hard to live as an artist in this country, so if you want to earn money, you need to set your sights to the world outside of Japan. You need to have a strong mentality and passion about what you are doing to continue being an artist.
HOW WOULD YOU EXPLAIN YOUR STYLE OF WORK? WHAT USUALLY GOES THROUGH YOUR HEAD WHEN STARTING A NEW PIECE OF WORK?
I always respect where I come from. Being Japanese, I want to express Japanese culture and its traditional art style. I mainly use a brush for most of my work. Even when using acrylics, I use lots of water and draw perpendicular to the ground. That comes from the style of writing or a Japanese painting. When producing a new work, I think carefully to make sure it does not become a copy of a great past painter. Sometimes you don’t notice your work is so close to someone else’s because great art is unconsciously printed in people’s minds. One other thing I really care about is composition that includes blank space.
OUTSIDE OF ART, WHAT ARE YOUR OTHER INTERESTS?
Skateboarding, the life of my family and the future of the Earth.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE MEDIUMS TO WORK ON?
Water, Japanese sumi ink and acrylics on paper.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE TOOLS TO USE?
Japanese-made colors, a shading blush and an inkstone. I also like using an INDEPENDENT base plate and ink cup together.
I would like to build a residence for skaters and artists. Talking about the near future, I am going to attend some art exhibitions and also going on a skate trip this year. Thanks!