MC: What is your relationship to Tokyo?
AC: I have been based in Tokyo since 2013. I lived in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture for a year in 2009 but have always wanted to work in Tokyo as it is the center of the illustration industry in Japan. It is also a melting pot for the creative community in Japan, drawing some of the most talented designers and artists from around the world together.
MC: When and why did you start drawing the city?
AH: I began drawing almost as soon as I was off the airplane from Australia. Drawing always helps me maintain my creativity and makes me aware of what is going on around me and attune to small details. The energy of Tokyo itself, the millions of people who live here, good food, and culture always inspires me to pay attention and think about how to capture the things I see around me in visual form.
Tokyo is visually different from Australia and the flatness of the city was disorientating at first. During my first few weeks in the city, I would go to the top floor of many office buildings to draw the landscape around me to learn the layout of the city.
MC: How do you combine drawing with your work?
AH: I work as an illustrator so drawing is essential to my everyday practice. Most of my professional work is finished digitally but I always start by drawing with pen or pencil on paper.
Drawing is such an expansive topic and there are so many approaches, techniques, methods, and thought processes for one to navigate and explore or even completely disregard and do in your own way. It’s a never-ending journey.
MC: What is it you try to achieve with your drawings of Tokyo?
AH: I strive to capture my impression and record people, objects, and memories. I tend not to take many photos so this forces me to make sure the drawing communicates what I felt or saw. By posting some of these drawings on my website and Instagram, I hope that I can highlight moments of everyday life in a personal way that would otherwise be overlooked by people.
MC: Tell us about the place that you have selected.
AH: These drawings are of different residential and shop fronts in my local area. Tokyo has an image of being a very glamorous and glitzy city but I have always been attracted to the older, run down parts of the city. I also now enjoy the flatness of the buildings and the lack of depth and perspective in the streets. My approach to drawing is very influenced by western methods so it is an interesting challenge to apply them to a different environment.
MC: What’s your favorite Tokyo place?
AH: I enjoy walking along the Meguro River between Nakameguro Station and my office in Aobadai. The river is lined with trees and in the summer, you can often see curtains of light pouring through the leaves. In the spring, the cherry blossom turns into full bloom and creates a beautiful, surreal atmosphere.
MC: Who is a reference for your work or is there someone whose work you particularly admire?
AH: One of the best parts about living in Japan is discovering new artists. My favorites at the moment are Settai Komura, Shohei Morimoto, and Makoto Wada. When I began to draw everyday, I was particularly inspired by the prolific output of work by Katsuya Terada. He has a book called Rakugaking that contains 1,000 of his sketchbook pages. That book gave me a visible example of the amount of work that one needs to do to improve. Drawing, like any discipline, requires constant practice to maintain and improve your skill level.
MC: Did drawing change your life?
AH: Drawing in public here in Japan has led to some fantastic experiences. I’ve learned that sometimes, just by blindly doing the thing you love and then sharing it with others, the opportunities you want will present themselves to you. A lot of my work in Tokyo initially came to me just by drawing the right people at the right time.For example, one day I was at Shibuya train station and drew a woman standing on the platform, when I got on the train she appeared beside me and asked to see it. We exchanged business cards, and I learned that she was the director of PR at a popular clothing brand here. Eventually I was commissioned to draw portraits of customers at their head boutique store in Aoyama during Vogue’s Fashion Night Out event in 2014. I have also met some of my closest friends in Japan while drawing and being able to meet and share our passion has encouraged me to keep going.
This September another architectural landmark will be lost. The main building of Tokyo’s iconic 1960s Hotel Okura will be torn down and rebuilt as a bigger and taller hotel.
Built in 1962, two years ahead of the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, the Hotel Okura has remained unchanged, maintaining intact its modern, clean, and elegant design. Designed by architects Yoshiro Taniguchi and Hideo Kosaka along with folk artist Shiko Munakata and potter Kenkichi Tomimoto, it is a masterpiece impossible to replicate.
Adrian Hogan visited it with his sketchbook to capture the place’s soul before it gets demolished.