David Robert

December 8, 2014

David’s sharp eye observes the Tokyoites and makes a universe with them. The sleepy people in the trains (yes, many people uses their commute in Tokyo as a nap time) serve him well to create a parallel universe where travelers dream of cute characters.


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David Robert. © Luis Mendo.

MC: What is your relationship to Tokyo?

DR: I have lived in Tokyo for a year and half. My first visit was in 2008. I came from France to work as an art director, and now I am living a pleasant and enjoyable life here.

MC: When and why did you start drawing the city?

DR: I guess every drawer starts to draw Tokyo even before coming there. I drew Tokyo in my mind and on the margins of my high school books. I mean, as a French kid I knew about Japan through manga comics, so Tokyo was already in my mind somehow. Then, in 2008 when I first came here, I started to draw the city, especially buildings and temples, as trip souvenirs.

MC: How do you combine drawing with your work?

DR: My regular job is an art director and graphic designer, but surprisingly I never had the chance to combine my graphic design work and my illustration work. It’s like a second person. The things I like in graphic design are not really close to my illustration style, so it’s okay. So far I am okay not merging them.

MC: What is it you tried to achieve with your drawings of Tokyo?

DR: It’s a good way to collect memories and stories other than thousands of photographs made with your telephone. My main problem is that I need a purpose to start drawings. I cannot just draw something. It’s not natural for me to pick up my sketchbook and draw the first thing that I pass by. I need to have a framework or a silly idea to start with.

MC: Tell us about the place that you have selected.

DR: For this series, the silly idea was simple. Japanese people always sleep on the train, which is great for the drawer. It’s the perfect combination. Drawing on the train is a good way to spend your time and there is always somebody who does not move. I also noticed that there was always one of those cute characters that the Japanese used for commercials or signage. Then the sentence inspired by Phillip K. Dick popped up in my head: “Do Japanese Dream of Kawaii Sheep?” If the last thing you see before falling asleep is a cute little penguin with a rolling suitcase, are you going to dream of a suitcase or a penguin?

MC: What’s your favorite Tokyo place?

DR: My favorite place in Tokyo is based in the Hikarie building in Shibuya. On the 8th floor there is a nice gallery and concept called D Department project. Every exhibition focuses on one prefecture of Japan and presents a selection of shops, objects, restaurants, festivities, or people. It is a great way to find inspiration and great still objects to draw.

MC: Who is a reference for your work or is there someone whose work you particularly admire?

DR: My main reference is the comic book artist Daniel Clowes and all the underground comics culture from the US, Europe, and of course Japan.

MC: Did drawing change your life and if it did can you explain us in what way?

DR: Somehow drawing led me to Tokyo because of the love for the stroke, the line, or the trace—whatever you call it. I really think this city and Japan is the most graphic and the most inspiring country for stroke lovers.

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© David Robert.

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© David Robert.