Are we celebrating episode 140 already? Well what better way to celebrate then to visit the bright and welcoming shores of Hawaii all the way to sunny California to catch up with the extremely talented Edwin Ushiro! He is a transplanted from Maui to California, where he attended the Art Center College of Design and attained a BFA in Illustration with Honors. Since then, he has been working in the amazing world of entertainment as a Production Designer, Visual Consultant, Art Director, Storyboard Artist, and Concept Designer. Read below for the full interview…
When you left Maui to attend school in California, what initially brought you there? Were you attracted more to the Art Center, or just creating art in Cali?
Edwin: I’ll fess up. I did not take selecting an art education very seriously. My choices were narrowed down to California and Chicago only because New York was too far and there was no way I could afford to study abroad. There were many colleges that offered me a full scholarship, but it felt too easy so I thought there must be a catch. David Correa, a recruiter from the Art Center College of Design visited me a few times when I was in high school and my art teacher, Janet Sato said this was an unusual event. She suggested that I consider sending an application. It was the only art college application I ever filled out.
Wow! So, where do we begin? You wear many hats in the creative field…how are you able to juggle being an Art Director but then switching gears to Storyboards and producing concepts?
Edwin: The art department strives to solve the same problem. That is, how do I bring the script to life? From that perspective, all my roles are essentially the same.
Many of your paintings are based on real life myths, folklore, or legends. What other stories tied in with Japan/Hawaii are you interested in tackling but havent had a chance to execute yet?
Edwin: I go with an instinct. I produce what inspires me at that very moment. My friends who know me well can transparently see my personal life beneath the folklore interpretations. Will I move beyond this theme? Possibly. But right now, I feel there are many stories I would like to explore.
You have done plenty of work for a variety of Fortune 500 clients. At this stage in your career how much creative freedom do you get? What are the stages like during the Commercial creative process?
Edwin: Since art college I have always been able to get what I want to do from an assignment. It’s no different than working with clients in the commercial world. I know what will please them and what will please me. So when the final moment arrives, both parties are excited, with a marriage that produced a great product.
What brought upon your need to switch gears and persue the gallery scene? Do you feel any anxiety when attending your solo shows versus participating in group shows?
Edwin: When I had an opportunity to take a break, I wanted to work on producing art for myself. I have always been interested in obake stories but hesitated to make art about it because I didn’t think anyone would be interested in them. So one day, I blocked that thought and began making art. I feel really fortunate that people support what I enjoy.
I am filled with anxiety the first few minutes before my show. Then something magical happens. I walk into the gallery, my anxiety goes away and everything feels like a dream.
With the increase rate of learning institution removing art programs, how do you think this will affect art in the next generation?
Edwin: Interesting that you ask. My friend, Ming Lai made a documentary about this. Wait. Is this a random question or are you good with your homework? His documentary is entitled, “Art Recession.” It explores the importance of art in our education system and what are the effects once it is removed. Art can make our lives interesting. Without it, I think the next generation will be boring.
What kind of steps can we do to prevent this?
Edwin: You may help prevent this by volunteering and supporting art programs.
Do you have any favorite Asian films or Anime?
Edwin: Otomo Katsuhiro’s Memories. Specifically, Magnetic Rose.
What is the single most important rule you try to instill in your students when you are having the opportunity to teach?
Edwin: Go with your instincts. It will make you happy.
Lastly, do you feel Asian and Pacific Islanders get enough credit in the art world? Has there been a steady progression throughout the years?
Edwin: I hope this does not come across as insincere, but I don’t really ponder over this topic. I hope everyone that makes art for all the right reasons get what they want. But credit or no credit, I will continue making art because it makes me feel good.
Want to stay updated on all of Edwin’s future and current works? Visit his official site below: