Hikari Shimoda’s children float in a confetti candy universe that, on the surface, looks like a sweet wonderland. After a deeper look, however, a viewer will notice that the fluorescent painted tones highlight the solemn tight-lipped mouths and glazed cataract-like eyes of Hikari’s characters. These may be the Kauai visions inspired by so many Manga stories, but they are watching as the world burns. There is more here than meets the eye. Hikari was kind enough to give Beautiful Bizarre Magazine some of her time, and to enlighten us on her incredible process, for Issue 018.
What was your childhood like, and what experiences did you have that you think directly influenced you to become the artist you are?
I had spent a childhood surrounded by many picture books and friends who loved drawing. In addition, I loved watching cartoons on TV. Therefore, it was really natural that I came to be in love with drawing, but at that time I had many friends who could draw much better than I, and I was overwhelmed by coming across paintings and drawings which I couldn’t make. Those experiences made me look at myself as “less talented” or “no ability to create” as a five years old girl. No one had said good things about my drawings and I had been feeling an inferiority complex all the time.
At the age of ten, I shifted my passions to making manga. In manga, pictures are not as important as the stories, and that had been my scapegoat from facing to a fact that “I have no talent to create attractive drawings.” When I was 16 years old, I came across modern art, which taught me freedom of expression, and I had made up my mind to face up to my inferiority, and decided to be an illustrator when I was twenty. I was not good at being illustrator because what I want to do was not follow clients’ orders, but convey things in my mind to the world. Thinking back to those days I made manga and was attracted strongly to modern art, I had always chosen things that I could express my thoughts through. However, my experience as an illustrator was not a waste of time at all, because from those experiences I had learned that my illustrations could make people satisfied and that made me settled as an artist of modern art, which taught me the pleasure of expressing myself.
Can you remember the first time you ever created something? What were the first influences or inspirations you were drawn to and what inspires you now?
I am not sure when was the first time, but around five years old I used to imitate manga girls with sparkling eyes that my friends drew. I think that this memory of drawing those sparkling eye characters is one source of my art now. At that time, I didn’t find what I wanted to draw, so I had always just followed what my friends created. I had been feeling that I had no idea how to create my original work for a long time in my teen ages.
I had been thinking that creating things was an expression of one’s imagination and inner worlds. I loved creating, but I hadn’t had any imagination worlds inside of me, except for opinions to the world, that had suffered me for a long time. For me, the act of creating is not telling of the fantasy in me, but shows what the world is through my eyes. This idea helped me to be free to create. So I can say “the world” is my inspiration.
The “About” page on your website talks a lot about how your work is illustrating important ecological, psychological and other issues facing the planet right now. Can you describe more about your process of moving from a philosophical concept to a visual embodiment of this concept?
I don’t think I create logically, as I can’t tell what my process is, but I always try not to ignore little things that I feel are strange or different, from world news to small daily things around me. When a cause expands under the name of justice, there are little and silent voices hidden and pushed by the dignity. An exaggerated justice always loses balances of the world. I always try to feel and catch small signs as themes of my art to expose the nature of the world through my artworks.
You state that the children in your paintings could actually be anyone. Why do you feel that children are the most authentic form for illustrating human life? Do you ever consider them self-portraits?
Children belong to less social categories, which are derived from sex, gender, and age. The more people age, the more social categories are added to their personalities and identities such as “being a student”, or “working for XXX.” What I would like to express in my art is not a particular person, but a concept or object as “human beings.” For that, I need a kind of vacancy in motif for my art, and the form of children is available for my purpose.
My artworks are what the world look like from my mind. So even if it’s a portrait that is not me, but someone who is not me. I think my art exists for someone who is not me.
What is your life philosophy and how does this come through in your work? What is your daily life like, and how do you keep track of ideas or inspirations?
I don’t think I have some philosophy in my everyday life, but I dare say that I try to keep a stable condition, or I think I have to live my life better than before when I had spent time on impulses. For now, I start my day with a cup of coffee and brunch before noon and work until dinner. After dinner, I sometimes walk with my dog and then it’s back to work until after midnight.
I don’t take notes of ideas or inspirations that come up in my mind, but I keep them floating and moving in my brain like doodling in my brain. This habit sometimes makes me come face to face with a canvas without any detailed sketches.
Have you ever thought of getting into animation or doing any films with your artwork? What other ways do you express yourself besides painting?
I am interested in and love cartoons as a style of expression. In fact, I used to create animation works or film works in college. So making animation or films are one of my dreams if I have any opportunities. I think words are my tool to express myself as well as my artworks. Answering interviews is one of my expressions.
How do you deal with artist block or disappointment and what advice do you have for emerging artists trying to keep up motivation in this day and age?
I see myself as an artist who gets into a slump every three months. My brain is exhausted and starved periodically. That condition seems to be brought out by lack of inputs, so I always let myself look, hear, and touch anything around me. At the same time, it is important to make myself keep doing what I can do in hand, and keep waiting for new ideas and inspirations that spontaneously come to me.
What projects do you have coming up that you are excited about, and are there any shows, collaborations or events you would like to share with our readers?
Some projects like products and figures are now proceeding. I have been dreaming about making my artworks into sculptures; I can’t wait to see their perfections! Solo and groups shows are on ways as well; please come check at my website!