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When her surrounding is filled by techno, house and electronic music sounds, Yuko Rai can completely let go of her creativity. Via drawings and paintings she finds a way to connect with the world and to create a parallel between reality and fantasy. Working from an unconscious inner instinct, her art expresses emotion in the mundane.
At what age did you realise you have a talent for drawing? 
I often won prices with my paintings in primary school, during exhibitions from art class. However, I never thought about drawing as an actual job. Many years went by after primary school that I hadn’t been drawing at all, not a picture. After graduating from the Kuwasawa Design School in Tokyo I got a job as a designer, but it was only at the age of 27 that I decided to become an illustrator. You could say that I had a bit of a slow start.
Which art-style would you say your work belongs to most? 
If I had to express my art-style I would say that it belongs to pop art. I love this art direction, so about a year ago I consciously decided to adjust my handwriting, to draw more like that. Although, in my work I’m trying to express more emotional or internal pop art style rather than the traditional ones.
How has your style developed over the years? 
It has changed and developed a lot. At the very beginning I didn’t know my style, so I tried out various things in order to find something that suited me. It wasn’t unusual for me to change from one style into a complete other direction in just a few months. As a result of this, of all the trial and error, I believe that my drawing has definitely improved. However, even now, my style is still not ‘finished’. I would probably get bored with my work if it would all fit within one style. I think it’s important to be careful to not ‘freeze’ the way in which I draw, I would like to keep on challenging myself —to express my style in a fresh and creative way over and over again.

Is there something you’re trying to communicate with your illustrations? 
Nothing specific, but for me, illustration is a means to connect with the world. It is also a love expression. 
Your illustrations have soft colours and you seem to be thinking about every detail. What techniques do you mainly use to create your work like that?
Colours are a very important element. Before I start drawing, I decide what kind of colour scheme I am going to use. Recently, I often refer to the colour of Gucci’s collection. As for the details, I look at a picture and use my instinct sense of balance to draw, without looking at images beforehand. It’s therefore difficult to explain a technique that I use, because I work naturally or unconsciously. I do always try to draw with a single stroke, so that the paintbrush touch will remain, especially when I draw human hairs or plants.
What are your sources of inspiration? 
Instagram offers very good visual inspiration, but music is what activates me most to create. It’s important for me to be in a certain mood, therefore I like to play and be surrounded by house, techno and electronic sounds. Another thing that inspires me is reading a science fiction novel, preferably in the bright park during a beautiful sunny day —day trips like that provide me with new energy and creativity.

Do you also draw scenes out of your daily life? 
I don’t draw my everyday life specifically, but my work is also not completely fantasy. I would like to draw a parallel world that includes the reality, which is slightly out of place. 
Is there a series of works, or one work in particular, that you are most proud of? 
I have two main forms of working: one is drawing and another is painting. There is the series of my drawing; my favourite of this series is Chain, which was inspired by a photo of Ren Hang. And in the painting series, I paint scattered people in the streets. They are not living there, but existing and passing by. I am constantly expressing these scattered people as floating beings.
How long does it take you to finish a painting or drawing? 
If you skip the sketching time, during which I decide the motif to draw, it will be around six hours for a painting and two hours for a drawing, depending on the size. I do my best to not take too much time to finish a drawing.

ZINE magazine summarised the work that you painted in your solo exhibition last June. Could you tell a bit more about this?
The title of my exhibition was unknown things, and then I used the same title for ZINE. Its subtitle was They do not know anything. They are not able to do anything. But, they are enjoying that fact. That is the theme, too. The content of this expression is the parallel world of people who continue to travel for a long time, seeking for the encounter of the unknown. 
Is there a brand, museum or person that you would like to collaborate with? 
As a brand, there is H.P.France in Japan, a select shop for mainly fashion clothing with interiors and arts. I have been thinking about working with them for a long time already. Also, I’m interested in the opportunity to make my artwork a bit more commercial, to get out of this picture frame. Other than that, I’m interested in working together with various other professionals. I believe such collaborations will allow new possibilities and will open up my own way of expressing.
If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be doing? 
I have done a lot of detours before I became an illustrator, so I don’t really have anything else special besides what I do now. If your question means going into a complete different profession field, then I would probably be working in relation to oriental medicine, like Ayurveda or Chinese medicine.

Sanne Nooitgedagt

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