Jun Suzuki, who moved to Tokyo in his twenties and became a self-taught artist, draws his original characters straight from within himself and emphasizes the communication that occurs between the “artist and the viewer” through appreciation. We talked to him about his unique worldview, which he describes as “I want people to look inside my head,” and how he became an artist.
You use mainly ballpoint pens and draw in a very detailed style, don’t you? Can you tell us a little bit about your work?
I draw my work as if I’m letting the characters inside me out. No matter how much I draw, more and more characters come to me.
ballpoint pen on paper, 51.5 x 36.4cm
You started your career as an artist in your early twenties. How did you get started?
Actually, I came to Tokyo from Sendai in 2014, but I didn’t really have a plan. I had been working in a restaurant for a long time and just spent my days vaguely, but gradually I became clear that I wanted to do what I love. Then I asked myself, “What is it that I like? I thought, “Well, what do I like to do?” and I realized that it was drawing, so I decided to really try my hand at drawing.
Did you start your career immediately after coming to Tokyo?
No, at first I joined a design institute. I went to a course at night, about three times a week. But I didn’t have a specific reason as to why I chose to go there. It was just a vague feeling.
In the end, it was boring and I quit after six months. At that time, there was an art competition in Gentosha’s magazine, and I entered it. It was a ballpoint pen work, but it won a prize, and I thought, “Oh, it’s okay. It gave me confidence that even a ballpoint pen drawing would be accepted. That’s when I started my activities.
ballpoint pen on paper, 29.7 x 21cm
What was the reason for using ballpoint pen?
It’s my favorite stationery, simple as that. I like the ease with which I can draw anywhere with just a pen and paper, and the fact that I can draw in detail.
Have you been drawing characters since you were a child?
Yes, I’ve been drawing original characters since I was in elementary school. It’s more like my own fantasy world, or characters from that kind of place.
I have models for people and things that appear on TV and in magazines, and I think I’ve probably reduced those things to my imagination.
You like Otomo-san, don’t you? Are there any other cultural influences?
I admire the French artist Mobius, who draws really cool things with just a pen. I also like the artists of Bandes dessinées.
Paper and ballpoint pen, 42 x 29.7cm
What about painters?
The best is Sato Makoto, and the other is Tsuguharu Fujita. I read his biography and was shocked. The way he lives, the way he thinks, everything about him is amazing.
Going back a little, you said that what you wanted to do was to draw. Why did you choose “drawing”?
I don’t think there is a clear reason, I’ve been drawing for a long time. Ever since I was a child, drawing has been a normal, everyday thing for me. I used to draw on the back of calendars, on the back of test papers, and so on. I feel like I’m still doing it now.
Face of a skull
Acrylic on canvas, 53 x 45.5cm
Do you have the same motivation to continue working as an artist?
I don’t think it’s changed. I draw what I like, and when I show my work to my friends, they are happy, and that makes me happy.
I think I want people to see what I like. I draw what I like, and let people see it. I want people to look inside my head.
I do it with a really simple feeling, like I want to be praised or I want people to enjoy it as much as I do.
Is there anything that has changed since you’ve been active?
For my works, I’ve been using more colors lately. I’ve always been a monotone artist, but I’ve been told by people around me that I should try using colors. Recently, I started using acrylic.
acrylic on canvas, 41 x 38cm
Last question, is there anything that you think might change in the future, or anything that you don’t want to change?
I hope that the fact that painting is fun will not change. On the contrary, I think that’s about it. I’m sorry to say that my thoughts on drawing are really only at the level of a junior high school student (lol).
But I’ve been drawing for a long time, and I’m still drawing now, and I don’t think the root of my work will change. I draw what I like and let people see it. It’s fun, and as long as people enjoy it, I think that’s all that matters. I want to be beautiful and have fun. That’s all.
Born in Miyagi Prefecture in 1991, Suzuki moved to Tokyo at the age of 23 and enrolled in Kuwasawa Design School. After dropping out of school, he applied for and was selected as a runner-up in the PONTOON “Costume Painting” Competition vol. 13, and started painting with a ballpoint pen, which had been his hobby, in earnest. He currently lives and works in Tokyo. Major exhibitions include “How Low?” (THE blank GALLERY, Tokyo, 2020) and “100 people 10” (Bakurocho Logs Building, Tokyo, 2020).