I fell in love with the beauty of watercolors, and since then I have been trying to create colors that only I can create.
Hiroki Takeda is an up-and-coming watercolor artist from Japan who has established his own unique style of painting realistic portraits of animals by combining vivid colors and botanical motifs. In this interview, we talked to him about the origin of his work, how he established his unique style, and the appeal of watercolors. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
A Fusion of Watercolors, Plants and Animals
…My art is unique in that I combine animals, flowers, and plants to create realistic yet appealing depictions.
Please explain the concept behind your work. What kind of world are you trying to express?
Ever since I fell in love with the beauty of watercolors and set out to create colors that only I could create, three things have unified my work: watercolors, plant motifs, and animals.
Discovering the beauty of watercolor
I first became interested in watercolor when I took a class with illustrator Goro Sasaki while I was still in college. Up until then, all I knew about watercolors was that they were created by layering soft colors, but I was shocked when I learned about Sasaki’s style of painting. Up until then, I had only known watercolor as layering soft colors, but I was shocked by Sasaki’s strong and vivid color painting style.
Love of Plants
What inspired me to draw art with flowers and plants as motifs was seeing a woman in a flowery dress at my part-time caricature job as a university student. Another reason may be that I grew up surrounded by plants, as my mother has always loved to grow them.
Expressing my vision through animals
After graduation, I experimented with various art styles, including the trendy “cool” art style, but my family told me that this style did not fit my personality. I spent a lot of time searching for my own art style. One day, I had a moment in my mind when I saw a painting of an animal and its fur looked like a plant.
The idea of combining watercolor with plants and animals felt very natural to me. Of course, other artists paint animals for the simple purpose of being cute, but I think my art is unique in that I combine animals, flowers, and plants in a way that is both realistic and attractive.
Are there any artists or works that have deeply influenced you in your artistic journey?
As I mentioned earlier, it was Goro Sasaki who first got me interested in watercolors, but the artist who influenced me the most was Takeshi Ohgushi, whom I met through a project called “Terakoya” right after I settled into my current art style. Ohgushi’s acceptance of me and my art style gave me a lot of confidence. I have great respect for Ohgushi and see him as my mentor. He has been a big influence on me, partly because of the way he uses the technique of leaving the outline unpainted.
Finding my way as an artist
Since meeting Goro Sasaki, I have dedicated my life to being an artist, using watercolors.
How did you start your art career?
As a child, I loved the Japanese manga series Dragon Ball. I was astonished by the way the illustrations were drawn. I loved tracing the panels of the manga over and over, but I had never used thin tracing paper to apply colors. When I reached junior high school, I tried my hand at creating my own original manga and even considered becoming a manga artist.
It didn’t take me long to realize how hard it was to be a manga artist, and although my academic performance was not good, I knew I had a talent for drawing. This led me to take design classes in high school and then to art school, where I met Goro Sasaki and have been painting watercolors ever since and have made a life for myself as an artist.
What are some of your influences outside of art?
I like Japanese manga and comics such as Dragon Ball and One Piece. I like the way they portray the characters’ movements and atmosphere, and it makes me want to make my work more vivid, so that I can “smell” the atmosphere of the place. I also like watching movies, so I came to want to create works that would move people’s hearts in the same way that movies do.
Your works seem to have a warmth and friendliness to them, are you trying to convey a message? Are you trying to convey some kind of message to the viewer?
I don’t have a general message that I put into my work, but I want my art to relax the viewer. I want my work to be something that people can casually enjoy without thinking about it.
A fusion of vibrant colors
In the process, I try to include fun motifs such as plants and butterflies as I can think of them, so that the viewer can enjoy discovering them.
Why are watercolors so special to you?
I am interested in the unknowns of what the colors look like after the paint dries and how they blend seamlessly into each other. Much of the canvas in my work is blank, so I try to find a balance between the details I want to depict.
The work is very detailed, but the first draft is just a rough outline in pencil. How do you decide on the motifs for your works?
I start by drawing a rough outline. I take my time to compose it by looking at reference images of motifs, and then work out the details in my head. I tell myself to draw patiently, and when I have an idea, I finish it before the paint is completely dry. In the process, I try to include fun motifs such as plants and butterflies as appropriate, so that the viewer can enjoy the discovery.
What is the most difficult part of your creation?
Adjusting the amount of water I add to thin the paint. This is just based on my experience and feeling. The most difficult part is finding the best balance of water and paint. Also, when I am painting, I sometimes get distracted by the details and end up painting too many pictures. Sometimes I take a break from my work and come back to it after a while to look at it with a fresh perspective.
I also try to keep adding new elements to my art by studying different plants and creating playful natural landscapes within the silhouettes of animals.
Do you have a watercolor movement that aligns with your style?
I don’t really follow artistic trends or traditions because I want to perfect my own style. I like to use a strong blend of vibrant colors to make my work stand out.
How do you see your style evolving in the future?
I would like to create art with a mix of Japanese elements. For example, I am working on a bonsai art piece with a coral reef motif. I would like to continue to create colorful art that is not only about animals, but also soothes the hearts of those who see it.
Where to buy Hiroki Takeda’s art
TRiCERA features many of Hiroki Takeda’s colorful watercolor animal portraits among his other Japanese artworks. Be sure to visit TRiCERA to see more of Hiroki Takeda’s work and fill your life with contemporary Japanese art.