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When Japanese artist Ami Suma took her colourful murals to New York, high-end clients clamoured for more. Here, she talks about her work and what it’s like returning to Tokyo after her Big Apple successes.
text by elizabeth bentley
Has your art changed since you’ve returned to Japan?
I don’t see obvious changes in subjects that I draw but one thing I’ve got better at is drawing the postures of the characters, how they stand, how they sit and move. I learned it from my baby.
Have you seen a giant panda bear from the back? They are such a character. It’s a very similar silhouette to babies – cute, but also funny looking. And I love that now I can draw them easily.
What are the differences between working in New York and Tokyo?
I haven’t painted in a client’s home in Japan yet. The projects I have done are all for business, nursery schools, trade shows, a paint shop etc. I am still looking for the crowd that lets me paint for their personal homes. That’s what I love the most.
Though, homes here are usually so small and not yet as sophisticated as NYC homes. So I am hoping I could be one of the inspirations for them! A good thing about Japan is that I work with my first language. Which makes communications and promotions easy and smooth. I am amazed that I am pretty good at it in Japanese.
Do your Tokyo clients want different things from your American clients?
Not so far. I think clients here want the touch of American from me, since my approach, “painting murals for the kids room” is very American to them. Nobody paints the wall here.
How do you create your designs? Do you work with the client, or to a brief or do you get free rein?
I always start with interviewing clients for what they are thinking and wanting. Everybody has some ideas for how the space should be – some could be just an idea for the colour, and some could have a subject in mind. Either way, I am there to make their dream come true. I try my best to make whatever they want into a sweet design. I feel free too since clients ask me knowing my style now. It was different in the beginning. So I feel super thankful.
Where do your imaginative figures come from?
Intuition! I get the best ideas when my Uni Ball point pen moves freely without thinking.
READ THE FULL STORY
See our complete interview with Ami Suma in LMNOP Magazine, Issue 16.
Download it now