MC: What is your relationship to Tokyo?
AB: I have been living in Tokyo for three and a half years. I moved to Tokyo right after graduating from university in the US. Previous experience living in Japan and my interests in Japanese printmaking and film made me want to experience living in Tokyo.
MC: When and why did you start drawing the city?
AB: I became fascinated by Tokyo toward the end of high school when I was lucky enough to see some lithographs of the city by Hisaharu Motoda. While studying in Hiroshima in 2010, I would occasionally visit Tokyo. That’s when I started drawing the city, though I really got going once I moved to Tokyo in the summer of 2011.
I started drawing Tokyo partly because of those Motoda prints, and partly just because I was so inspired by everything—all the people and places I saw. So many things in Tokyo spoke to me, and I needed to get those ideas down on paper.
MC: How do you combine drawing with your work?
AB: I previously worked in web design here in Tokyo and would use drawing whenever possible—drawing icons by hand and that sort of thing. Now I illustrate full-time, drawing for gallery shows, etc.
MC: What is it you try to achieve with your drawings of Tokyo?
AB: My character pieces are from a series I did for a Fall 2014 exhibition that discussed images (and what I think are often misconceptions) of what Tokyo is to many foreigners. I wanted to share those ideas with a Japanese audience.
My nightscapes are a bit different. With these, I try to create a sense of quiet and isolation. Sometimes this is just to convey the awe I feel when considering Tokyo. Other times it’s more of a comment on the emotional isolation that Tokyo can create, or reversely to bring attention to just how many people really are in Tokyo. All of these ideas are interesting to me.
MC: Tell us about the place that you have selected.
AB: The character pieces included here feature Kabuki-za and a pachinko parlor, two very different forms of entertainment that both seem to go unnoticed by so many people in Tokyo. They seem so normal that I wanted to bring attention to them using my kabuki characters.
My monochrome nightscape images are based on shitamachi streets in the Asakusa neighborhood, as well as old gates around Tokyo. These areas are a great contrast when compared to brighter and more well-known areas like Shibuya, Ginza, etc.
MC: What’s your favorite Tokyo place?
AB: My favorite place in Tokyo, for several reasons, is the Asakusa neighborhood. For one, I like seeing the different levels of history there, from the Edo period to postwar Japan to the economic bubble of the 1980s, all mixed together with contemporary Japan. Though beautiful, if you leave Senso-ji behind and walk through smaller streets, you start to see the shitamachi streets and the people living there that really give the area character.
MC: Who is a reference for your work or is there someone whose work you particularly admire?
AB: Jamie Hewlett and Katsuhiro Otomo have both had a big influence on my work. Films by Akira Kurosawa, particularly Yojimbo, as well as prints by Motoda have also inspired and influenced me.
MC: Did drawing change your life and if it did can you explain us in what way?
AB: I do not know if it has changed my life, but drawing has always been present when I’m the happiest. All I want to do is create. And though I may be happy creating, I am never completely content with my work, and that keeps pushing me to work harder. In that sense, drawing has given me direction and drive.