My dream is to present myself to the world with my Japanese paintings! If someone around you said that, what would you think?
Nice to meet you. My name is Nobuyo Sakakibara and I am a Japanese-style painter. This is what I always say. Those who hear it for the first time give me a cold shoulder and think,
“What kind of adult says such childish things?” But after hearing it for the 2nd or 3rd time, their attitude becomes, “It’s amazing how you can say that.” And after a few more times, it ultimately leads to, “Yes. You can do it!”
Before I knew it, they were cheering me on. It appears as though dreams move towards coming true when it is said out loud. I have loved drawing ever since I was little, for as long as I can remember.
I was born and raised surrounded by nature, and my oldest memory was when I was drawing pink flowers in the middle of a flower garden. Crouching down on the ground and drawing on a piece of paper with crayon, I remember thinking “oh, I’m definitely not going to forget this day.” Before entering preschool, my daily routine was to paint pictures at my secret hiding place, which was inside a clay pipe right outside my house.
The endless field of flowers and the swarming cabbage butterflies. At night, I spent peaceful moments, cradled by a sky full of shining stars and the milky way. Looking back at it now, my refined and colorful artworks may have formed at this time. There was a time, when I used my mother’s lipstick and a crayon to paint pictures on the closet wall, inside a dresser, and on the house walls. But thankfully, I was not scolded by my parents and I was raised without much restraints.
Growing up loving art, I planned to enter an art university, where I was introduced to Japanese-style paintings. Natural paper and natural glue. Mineral pigments created by crushed rocks and shells. The materials for Japanese paintings are all natural and when I saw the paintings I was “able to breath.”
As a person who loved stars, mineral pigments were a part of the earth, a piece of a star. The shining mineral pigments were beautiful, and I drew with the constant mindset that I was connected to space. However, as a student, a feeling of inferiority was always trailing behind me.
I entered this path with just a simple love for art, but the people around me were significantly better. I continued drawing while struggling to deal with my lack of skills.
I was once invited to an artist’s reception party by my professor. This artist told me that it was important to continue drawing. There are plenty of people who stopped drawing even though they are skilled. Those people are not painters. Painters are those who continue drawing, even if they are not skilled in it. It was an eye-opening experience. It has been 30 years, but I still create with the support of those words.
What are the paths to become an artist? Graduate from an art university, enter an exhibition and win an award, gain a reputation and get my artwork sold… Without knowledge and information, I was only able to think of that path.
During the day, I worked and earned money for art materials, and during the night, I kept myself busy with creating instead of sleeping. I would enter a public exhibition twice a year and other solo or group exhibitions throughout the year to showcase my artwork. The artworks I entered in these exhibitions were more than 100 inches in size. Japanese paintings are drawn with the panel on the ground, so my room was fully occupied and I struggled to get to the other side. Carrying the heavy framed pieces, I realized that drawing was a manual labor.
Yet, even during my whole pregnancy and child-rearing period, I never stopped drawing. It was as if drawing was my calling. When I graduated from my art university, my professor said to the whole class, “I will be happy if even 1 of you continued to draw, even after 10 years.”
Of course everyone will be drawing. What is he saying? I wondered at the time. However, in reality, many of my skilled classmates stopped from drawing. They have the skills that I have always wanted! Then why could I not help but draw?
While I struggled to create something new, I questioned myself and the only answer I got was “because I love it,” or “because I was born under a star of art.” I was satisfied with my answer, Especially because it was a time when my art activities were limited to Japan.
mineral pigments, brass foils,japanese washi paper, natural liquid glue
17.91 × 20.87 inch
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“My dream is to present myself to the world with my Japanese paintings!” Longing to take my work abroad, I started saying this out loud. And when I came across JCAT (Japanese Contemporary Artist Team), my dream started shifting towards reality. I was able to have an exciting and valuable experience at my first exhibition in New York.
At a Japanese exhibition, I was often asked, “how do you paint this?” and questioned the technical aspect of my artwork. However, in New York I was asked, “Why did you paint this?”or “What is your spirit?” and questioned the spiritual aspect of my artwork.
“Because I love flowers,” or “Beautiful things are beautiful, so I want to paint it.” These answers were not enough. When I explained how I drew the Japanese seasons through the changing seasonal flowers, their eyes sparkled as they said, “You drew the flow of time! That’s wonderful!” When someone said, “I love your artwork!” it made me very happy. I understood the importance of communicating my artwork. Creating art used to be for “me”, but this experience changed creating art to be “with you.” I realized that art was about sharing creativity.
When you send an artwork to an overseas exhibition, your artwork does not come back with new knowledge. I believe it is important for you to go abroad with your artwork, and learn from the experience.
I portray my bright, generous and big energy into my art. I would like to apply what I gained and continue conveying its richness. I believe that it is my mission as an artist to illustrate that. Thank you and I hope to continue to receive your kind support.