MASAKI YADA

 

My Story as an artist:

I was born in 1979, Tokyo, to a regular middle class family. My mother was an art teacher in a local primary school and my father was working for a large corporation in central Tokyo, typically called then, “a salary man”, meaning “chained to a salary of the life time employment.”

It was in the middle of the booming economy that Japan was enjoying, and my parents were baby boomers. Japan was thriving during the industrial age where mass production and mass consumption were the bedrock of the soaring economy, and the large tide of conformists underpinned the ascendance. The future looked bright for everyone and the generation that doesn’t know the harshness of the post-war period was growing up in a spoon-fed environment.

For better or worse, that mental greenhouse helped many children grow safely, but simultaneously directed into a monolithic path.

Growing up seeing my parents moaning about their well-worn and monotonous career paths, as a child I was determined to live as an anti-thesis of their career decisions, which meant prioritizing my passion and natural inclination towards certain things over a sense of security. 

My mother was mentally strong and stubborn woman who was yet always insecure about what she is passionate about. While she became a teacher, which provided her a sense of security, her real passion was not quite teaching, but painting. She secretly longed for becoming an artist, and her dream was, to a certain extent, already achieved, as a amous artist once said, everyone is an artist when they start to express their vision in the medium of their choice. In her 20s, she spent all her spare time on making paintings at home, typically 6 hours after work. In her late 20s, her effort started bearing a fruit. Some art magazine featured an article on her painting. When she found out about it, she was exhilarated. Despite an early indication of her success, simultaneously, peer pressure of settling down, having kids, and building a family was creeping up on her. She could not help, but surrendering the idea of conforming to social norms, and she is, as I know very well, that kind of a person. Her dream and social conformity kept an apparent equilibrium on her mental balance up to the point, however eventually she gave way to it, and given all the hardship that being an artist entails, she definitely made a right choice. 

Only a couple of years after then that I was born, and she still remained passionate about art and being idealistic, so she gave me a name in Japanese, meaning “art”. Her big dream of becoming an artist was handed over to her son. That was the start of my life.

I was not certain until late in my teens when I was confronted with a moment, as my peers did, to decide what I was going to do with my life and who I was going to be. By then, painting was a large part of my life. In the kindergarten years, I was always taking art classes, as it was not only because I was encouraged by my parent, but also it gave a good excuse to avoid the naptime. I was a very hyperactive kid, and could not contain my energy in my tiny body and hated the naptime after lunch in my kindergarten. I continued to take private art classes until the age of 14 or 15. To tell the truth, I hated the class around that time. I didn’t think that art was a cool thing for boys to do, but too feminine, too tiresome, and lacks a kind of excitement that boys like. I used to sneak the tuition fee and explored city centers. I frequented a particular bookstore where no close circuit television camera was installed so I could read any books I wanted including some romantic or erotic stories. Even though there was no seating area in the bookstore, I did not mind being forced to stand all the while and was completely absorbed into those stories. I cannot quite remember what I spent the class fees on, but looking back on it now, I feel bad for my parents about what I was doing behind their back. My parents are actually nice and earnest people only wished their child to cultivate some skill and passion. Needless to say, my mother was always encouraging when it comes to me taking art classes. She, kind of, pushed me in that direction in a, sort of, passive aggressive way. Anyhow, gradually but surely painting became a large part of my individuality. So when I was confronted to make a career decision, what I was left with was only painting.
Now I must really inherit my mother’s dream and fulfill it, and there is no way back.   

I flirted with the idea of becoming an architect for some time, as it symbolized the amalgamation of art and some more assuring academic subject, such as math, which seemed more promising as a career path. Despite that, it was quickly overridden by the joy that I gained from the rapid progress that I was making in drawing. I loved drawing, as I felt that I was quickly taking a command in the medium. I was naturally quite good at capturing the right proportion of human bodies and objects, and my skill developing fairly fast, compared to other students that I met in private art schools. I always noticed if lines and contours are disproportionate and inaccurate, and I felt extremely embarrassed if that’s the case. Other students, on the contrary, seemed ok with that. For me, that kind of embarrassment was intolerable. In private art school that I went to when I was in my late teens, we had some reviewing or reflection time. We typically spend all day drawing Greek statues or some still life that our teachers assembled randomly. At the end of the day, we have all our drawings on the wall and our teachers give us some feedbacks. They often reconfigured the order in which our drawings are placed on the wall, indicating which drawing is better than the other. So if one’s work is bad, it is obvious, because bad drawings could only be found on the lowest row of the wall. Usually good drawings are placed on the top row, and ok drawings were placed on the middle row, and the worst one at the bottom right hand corner. Whether or not a drawing is good was judged based on accuracy of the proportion, control of the tone and gradient, and more importantly composition. Perspective, and one’s unique point of view were also taken into account. So if I ever find my drawing on the middle row, I felt not only infuriated, but humiliated, because I felt that I could always capture proportions accurately without being guided by anyone. I felt that I was endowed with some auto-correcting system. And finding my drawing on the middle row meant that I did not live up to my potential.

 

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