Mari Inukai is a friend to Japan Cinema and we wanted to put the spotlight on her and her work. Her work is often depicting her daughter Sena, but she also explores popular culture with her own range of characters. She has worked at Cartoon Network and Mattel. Her Professional works include Nickelodeon and NGTV. Her short animated film, Blue and Orange, has been an official selection at numerous national and international film festivals, including the Sundance Film Festival 2003 and was the Japanese Grand Prix winner at Short Shorts Film Festival EXPO 2005. Read below for the full interview…
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and what sparked your interest in the arts?
Mari: I came to the United States to live in 1995, with my two years old daughter, Sena, who is the best inspiration to me to made me to realize who I am. She made me pursue my dream and to be able to do something with my dream. I love to draw. Since I was really, really small, I was always drawing and I remember what I even drew when I was 4 years old at kinder. On the card, the question asked, what do you want to be…? I drew a ballerina.
This year you got a chance to turn some of your characters into toys! Could you tell us a bit about that process and what event led up too it?
Mari: It was like dream come true, and they are not toys, they are artworks… because you can not play with them, it would be dangerous. They are heavy, hard and have pointy ears and horns. Toys should be things you can play with, but not my SEKAISEIFUKUDAN. I am working on a picture book series of SEKAISEIFUKUDAN, and hopefully I can finish first one, “MARILLA”, before next years San Diego Comicon.
At the time of this interview, the biggest art news concerns The Wake Of Dreams gallery with yourself, Audrey Kawasaki, Amy Sol, and Stella Im Hultberg. Tell us what it means to you to be apart of this?
Mari: It’s super special! This time around at Thinkspace, it is actually the second time for four of us have shown together. We first had a show together in January 2007, at Compound Gallery in Portland with curator Monica Choy Salazar. Since then, we kept in touch, and finally, four years later we are able to have another show together! [I’m] so happy and I believe that we are going to have shows together forever.
What kind of mindset did you acquire to provide the type of work you did for this?
Mari: Paint what I really want and feel, that part is always same, but this time I took more time to finish every and each painting. I wanted to be careful as much as I could to record my feelings and thoughts in every each stroke. I was really, really paying attention and I wanted to do better…to make it better.
Why did you originally leave Japan to study art? Does the United States educations provide better opportunities for creatives?
I left Japan, because I wanted to change my way of life, and my sister was a student at UCLA at that time. She just said to me, “It would be hard where ever you would live, so why don’t you come here. You wanted to come here to live didn’t you?”, so I did. I did not have any confidence to be able to become a professional, to be able to say myself, ‘I am an artist’.
How important do you feel daily sketching is to improve one’s overall abilities as a painter?
It is one of most important and fun things to do, and I cannot leave the house without a sketch book and a pen.
You also are skilled in animation as well. I know there are a lot of other players and key elements in bringing together an animation, but from your stand point, could you tell us a bit about the process and how it differs from normal sketching?
Mari: Animation is sequences of drawing on animation papers (whatever with any medium you can flip the drawings as frames for animation), sketch is sketching everything in front of you in life. two different things, but both are deeply related.
In addition to that you are also talented in ceramics, fashion, character designs and more! We’re overwhelmed just thinking about it! Any time management tips for a person who is able to juggle so many talents?
Mari: Wow thank you so much! That is really encouraging. I am not sure if I am managing really well…I just do not want to regret not to do what I want, so I try everything I want to do.
Are you a fan of Asian films or Anime? Have any favorites?
Mari: Of course!! Tooooo many! If I start talking about [movies] I cannot stop. I was a film student who loved movies and animations!
Lastly, we know you have a lot of exhibits and shows coming up, what kind of tricks do you have up your sleeve that you can share with us for the duration of late 2011/ early 2012?
Mari: I wanted to work on my picture books, so I won’t have big shows for a while. But [there are] some group shows I will participate [in]. Please keep in touch!
Want to keep tabs on Mari’s work? Follow her cookie crumb trail below: