Audrey Kawasaki is an amazing artist whose work I’ve been aware of for years, but whom I only met a short while ago. Matter of fact, I was half-convinced she was imaginary, the figment of my friend Bryan’s fevered brain.
This is not true. She is real. And awesome. So I went and asked her some questions. Here we go:
How’d you become interested in painting/illustration?
Back when I was little I was an avid reader of japanese manga comics. Mostly girly love story types and of horror creepy thriller mystery types. That got me into drawing. kept sketchbooks. Trying to duplicate my favorite manga artists.
End of middle school I took private drawing/painting lessons weekly, which helped me develop my skills.
My two years at Pratt in Brooklyn was an interesting experience. It was one of the top art schools in the east coast, and I did enjoy some aspects of it, but I just wasn’t able to fully dive into my own personal work there. After the first year, I was back home in LA for summer break. 2003. That’s when I made my first piece that sort of changed it all. Made me think “yes! this is what i wanna do. THIS makes me feel good!!” I still remember finishing the piece and proudly showing it to my mother in the dining room. I just felt a huge spark in my heart, that i haven’t felt before in my previous attempts.
Here’s the piece im talking about:
Of course its full of imperfections, but at the time, it really showed me a new direction.
At this point, you’ve built up an awesome following, and are able to work solely as an artist. does being a professional artist put any pressures on your work? does it ever actually feel like “work”?
It can, but thats fine. Drawing/painting isn’t all just fun and games. It shouldnt be too easy. It should be challenging and stimulating, and that requires work.
In the beginning of my ‘career’ though, it was very difficult managing my time and getting those certain number of piece done for a show. There’s been many times where I had to clench my teeth and pull some hair. I wasn’t very good at deadline or having to feel obliged to paint, but thankfully I’ve gotten better at it.
There’s a lot of focus on the female form in your work. what is it in particular that draws you to portraying that?
It feels natural to me. Something I can’t get tired of. All my pieces, all my girls, are a portrayal of his one particular being. They are all portraits of her. maybe physically different, but ultimately its she who i am conveying. I am addicted to her, she haunts me. She is my obsession. My love. My drive. My muse. My curse. My unattainable.
When I paint/draw, it’s like a desperate search for her. Painting is like digging. Sometimes I find her. Sometimes not. Though even if I do capture a glimpse of her, she’ll often immediately fade away. Never is she forever captured in my paintings, and that what makes it so interesting to me. It’s the hunt, the chase, that makes it so thrilling.
(haha though not sure if this answered your question. :p)
What is it, if anything, you’re try to convey with your work?
(if anything i think i answered this in the last)
Because it’s not like I have a certain message or idea or concept im trying to tell the world. If I were to have to write a thesis of some sort, if would feel very strange and impossible and pretentious, because its something so simple to me.
Do you find your work cathartic? is it something you feel compelled to do?
It definitely is a release for me. If for a long period of time, I stopped working, I know would feel very anxious and stuck and unfulfilled.
But it’s hard to define it now, because it’s something I want to do, and at the same time, it’s something I have to do.
It’s like I do have a choice, but I don’t, really. This is what I do. This is my only outlet I am familiar with. My creative outlet.
I can’t think of any other way to do it.
Do you set regular work hours for yourself? Is there a certain amount you like to produce in a given, say, week?
No set hours. I tend to work better at night though, so I tend to stay up till 5am or so. Sleep till noon. This month I haven’t painted at all. Had a recent big show, so I’m taking it easy for now.
Starting the new year though, I intend to get it up and going again. When preparing for a show, I like to make a painting or two in a week. Some might take longer or shorter, depending on the size and amount of detail. And then there are days when I spend basically all day working non-stop. Those are the times when I can really dive in to my work. Full concentration and commitment, where nothing else seems to be important. I like it when that happens. It’s so meditative and thrilling at the same time.
I remember we had a discussion over dinner about marketing and the business side of being an artist. I know that you basically handle all the ins & outs of selling your work yourself. Is that something you view as a necessary evil, or a part of the process?
Actually all the pieces go directly to the gallery shows, and so they are the ones that handle the selling of it. In fact, I have no idea who they go to…
I’m not a good business person at all, so it would be impossible if I had to handle it myself. Of course if I were to take on commission work (which I have yet to do), I would make the exchanges directly with the buyer.
On the topic of ‘evil’ or ’shady’ there are always minor things that happen that tend to make my frown(Though its all pretty inevitable since art exchange involve money…).
Flippers dont make me too happy. They are the ones who buy a print (or a painting) and immediately try to resell them for double or triple the price on ebay or other sources. They buy art not for the genuine appreciation of it, and to keep it for them selves, but to make a quick profit. When really, that print could have been in the hands of a true fan.
Though I feel kind of funny being defined as an ‘erotic artist’, especially since my recent works are very tame. My earlier pieces from a few years ago were definitely charged with a kinkier vibe, but things change. I have different phases.
How, if at all, has the internet affected your work?
I owe a whole lot to the internet!! Without it, my work would have definitely not be seen by so many people. It’s such a wonderful thing! All these blogs and forums, all these exchanges and comment and opinions.
I started having an art blog 4 years ago, and I think that helped people feel more connected and updated to what I’m doing. Blogs are great. It’s so alive! I love editing images and words and posting them. Spending time on them never get old. It’s so rewarding to me!
We know each other through your boyfriend, Bryan Cowe. In what ways, if any, is he an influence on your work?
Bryan has been a huge influence and inspiration to me. Not only in the topic of art, but in general, he lets me see things in a different light. He’s given me new appreciation for the calm and serene. For balance. For patience. Understanding. Accepting. Compassion.
I love the photos he takes. He has a keen sense for composition and light. All his photo have a distinct tone to them. Like a chord. A low mellow murmur. Like a breath. A light sigh.
My brain tends to be a hectic place, but he brings order and clarity. And I’m sure that transcends into my work as well. :)
How does it feel when you see people with your artwork tattooed on them?
Yeah, it’s kind of crazy! It’s beyond flattering that they would eternally engrave an image by me on their skin!
I’ve met a few people in person with tattoos inspired by my work (I say ‘inspired’ because I’m not the one actually tattooing it on them),
and every time I’m like OMG OMG woooooow!!!
Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
I have shows lined up for the next couple years. Asmall show in Japan in May. And a big show in NY in Decemeber, which should be quite epic.
Also plans for Australia in 2010. I hope to be showing more outside of my home-city LA. reach out to wider, different audiences.
Other than that, I don’t know… I’m sure there will be new opportunities. Maybe a book. Maybe I can find new ways to work. Maybe I might have a whole wood shop to my self, where I can go all out and crazy and build extraordinary wooden structures to paint on! How fun that would be!
Artists I’m really into now:
Master of skill and concept and composition- James Jean.
There are plenty of other artists I aspire to, but it would take too long to list them all here.
Thanks to Audrey for the interview!!!
Audrey can be found online at her website:
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