GoggleWorks Summer Artist-in-Residence, Taro, is a seeker of inspiration and information, meticulously analyzing the world around him and the media he consumes for concepts he’d like to explore. He found printmaking serendipitously, and we are so glad he did! Taro’s prints are the result of a delicate balance between problem solving and the feeling of movement – in a way, they serve as a perfect harmony between the left and right brain. The process behind Taro’s work illustrates this as well as the work itself. Keep reading to learn more about Taro’s creative process and studio practice!
- Where are you from?
Japan-Michigan-Chicago-Syracuse, it has become somewhat complicated for me to answer when I get this question.
- What is your preferred medium and/or subject matter?
Print media/abstraction, geometry, multiples.
- What draws you to this medium/subject matter?
I stumbled upon printmaking in my undergrad, when my painting advisor suggested that I take a printmaking class when I was considering going for a graphic design BFA. Printmaking was, and still is, a challenging medium. The process, preps, you need to know about paper, ink, application, flipping image – everything was challenging in my introductory printmaking class. I had a moment when I got everything right (it probably was not) towards the end of the semester and that’s when I got hooked. I think print media has a big advantage once you overcome learning about the basic techniques. The nature of producing multiples, how versatile the medium is (print media can accommodate painting, drawing, photography, 3D, and digital media). I enjoy learning about the historical context, sharing knowledge among ourselves [other printmakers], and the community/collaborative aspect of printmaking.
- What’s your educational or career background like?
BFA from Central Michigan University, MFA from Syracuse University. Teaching since 2017. During the summer break I attend residency programs and/or workshops and focus on my own studio work.
- How long have you been creating art/working on your current craft?
14 years + for printmaking and general art practice. I’ve been doodling since I can remember.
- Tell me about the first creative experience you can remember. How did it impact you?
This is certainly not the first, but I remember that I was obsessed with doodling underground battle scenes. I was maybe in my 4th grade, possibly earlier, and I remember I watched Terminator 2 and became obsessed with sci-fi and post-apocalypse worlds. I was mostly interested in technologies, conflicts and human society.
- Can you describe your artistic or thematic focus?
My work is an intuitive process of making patterns by drawing, painting, carving, cutting, and printing. I am constantly mentally engaged with how I want to move when I am working on a large mural or a vinyl installation. I look for formal reactions, ideas between the contemporary and personal history, perspective, thought, Japanese heritage, and permanent memory.
Nature has been my great source of influence, especially light and bodies of water. The combination of both elements results in reflections, ripples, waves on the water that are constantly shifting and changing.
As a trained printmaker, I am also naturally inclined towards working with multiples. I enjoy thinking about how I can bring some of the principals from printmaking into conceptual development in my studio practice.
- Are you rigid or spontaneous with your creative process?
I believe I have both sides, balanced well. Printmaking forces you to think and plan ahead in order to have your color layers in the right order or execute the process in the right manner. The work I create is certainly intuitive, when I am drawing, carving, and cutting. The patterns I use have their own ways of moving and filling in the surface, and I enjoy the problem-solving aspect of it.
- Is there any place in particular you hope to go with your craft or a milestone you would like to achieve?
I’ve been adjunct-teaching for a few years now, and while there are really rewarding moments in teaching, the amount of work that’s required for what I am getting paid doesn’t seem fair. The enjoyment I got out of it seemed disproportionate regarding the time and energy I was spending on a daily basis, and I wasn’t making enough work of my own. The place I had been tirelessly working towards was getting a full-time teaching position in academia. Now, life has taken an interesting turn, and I will not be teaching the next academic year, at least not in the same place. I am hoping to spend more time doing my own work. My ultimate idea is to have a sustainable creative life so that I can keep creating.
- What is the current or next step to achieving that goal?
Be honest with my work and spend more time in the studio.
- What is your most memorable creative achievement in your artistic career so far?
One of my recent memorable moments was when I was commissioned for a mural project last year by Salt City Market in Syracuse, New York, where I live. Two large walls, 16 feet high; I believe that was the biggest project I’ve taken on. There was a lot of support from the management side, the construction team, and from my friends. I am really happy with the result and what seemed almost unimaginable to tackle and achieve at the beginning of the planning. It means a lot to have left a rather large mark in Syracuse where I spent a decent amount of my life now.
- Outside of your current artistic medium, what are your favorite hobbies or interests?
Cycling. Now that I have a car, and having mostly worked from home during Covid and the winter, I haven’t ridden as much as I want, and I am out of shape. I brought my bike with me and I am hoping to do some miles while I am in Reading. Ceramics. Although this can be part of my practice, it is more like an exercise for me where I get to use a different part of my brain, work with different materials and processes, and sometimes it feels like a hobby to me since I am solely focused on form and function and not so much of developing ideas and concepts. I also try to read books, mostly audiobooks. In the studio, there is a lot of brainless work and I get tired of listening to music. After I discovered audiobooks, and a set of bluetooth earbuds, I tend to listen to books or podcasts in the studio. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is one of my recent favorites. And, yes, I do enjoy picking up and reading a physical book, too!
- What do you do in times of lack of inspiration/motivation?
I will keep myself busy with work in the studio. I generate ideas by doing stuff. When I find something interesting, I will latch on it. And while I am working on one thing, I will harvest more ideas. It’s like a chain reaction, and it will gradually become better and better. Because of this, I like Chuck Close’s famous quote about inspiration.
“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.”
I create a lot of bad works, but they are part of my practice of finding the right moment, the hint of something that makes me stop and think. It’s intoxicating.
- What does a day in your studio look like? From the moment you park in the parking lot to when you walk out the door… outline a typical studio day!
Coffee, usually I bring mine. Ideally, I would bike my commute to the studio. I haven’t done this for a while during Covid, but the 7-minute bike ride to the studio really helps my mind to transition to a studio mode. During the academic year, my studio day is typically 1-2 days in the week, whenever I am not teaching. A studio day could look drastically different depending on what project and what stage I am in. I could be drawing, carving, cutting, processing the image all day, I could be doing mostly prep work for the following printing day, for example, cut/tear printing paper, or adding finishing touches on the plate. Printing day is where everything comes together as a piece of work, or rather, multiple prints as an edition and a lot of proofs, test prints, and bad prints. Clean up follows every single studio day.
- What one piece of advice would you give yourself 5-10 years ago?
Read more books!
- What would you tell someone who has never picked up your material/medium and wanted to start today?
It’s loads of fun. It’s a bit challenging when you learn the process and have to think differently compared to more direct approaches like painting and drawing. It’s a magical medium with the ability to accompany other mediums. An overwhelming number of resources are available online. Get obsessed, and don’t stop making.
- How do you hope to grow during your time in the Artist Residency at GoggleWorks?
I’d like to take risks, try new things and learn from them. Being in a different environment automatically challenges me, sometimes in a subtle way. I want to get inspired from the surroundings, and also get to know more people.
- What is one thing you are looking forward to experiencing in Reading/Berks County while you are here?
I didn’t have much of a chance to research the area. I’ve already gone to H Mart outside of Philadelphia (my first time) and I will go back. I am looking for good hikes, but I am mostly looking forward to the studio time and meeting people.
Taro’s advice, “Get obsessed, and don’t stop making” is exactly the way we feel about art! His passion for printmaking and his dedication to art is evident in the way that he speaks about his craft. Art can be a fantastic way to challenge oneself, and this can lead to great personal discoveries and growth; from Taro’s answers we yield that art informs everything in his life, and everything in his life informs his art. For an artist like Taro, this can be one of the most valuable aspects of the practice of art! He and his work are constantly moving and evolving, and this shows through his process of working through a lack of inspiration as well. Practice, and the act of creating, can produce some wonderfully unexpected results. We can not wait to see what Taro has in store during his residency! Next time you visit, make sure to check out Taro’s work that is displayed now in GoggleWorks’ entry way, by the entrance to Berks Launch Box!