Made by You.

Words by

Veronica Stanford

We don’t need to tell you that Converse loves championing creative expression. The brand has been working with artists for a while now, as part of its Made by You campaign.

This month, Converse teamed up with Japanese artist Kentaro Yoshida, for the creation of a huge mural inside the Converse Melbourne Central Flagship Store. We sat down with Kentaro to chat his inspiration and art.

What was the inspiration behind your piece for Converse?

My inspiration comes from the never-ending dance between the positive and negative forces in life. Originally, it’s based on the contrast of a night out and the morning after. Having too much fun at night is the positive side and struggling the day after is the negative side. This is just the starting point of the concept, as it’s intended to be interpreted in many different ways and represent any negative/positive juxtaposition in life.

Did you have a look at what other artists had created for Made by You? And did that influence your work?

I had a look at the installation piece done by Melbourne-based artist Callum Preston. It was so sick! I’m definitely a fan, his style is not like anything I can do. That’s actually why I focused on the idea of Made by You. I had to do what I do best. I spoke to the Converse team about what I wanted to do for it and they were super cool and supportive, giving me creative reign over the piece. I can’t appreciate their support more.

When did you first get interested art?

I have been drawing since I was a kid – always doodling on my school textbooks. My mum is a glass artist and I used to hang out at her studio, drawing and making Pokémon out of clay. Because of these influences, I learned the fun of creating something from scratch. After high school, I moved to Australia to study English then studied a Bachelor of Visual Communication at the University of Technology Sydney. During university, I chose illustration as my major and honed my drawing skills, both digitally and by hand. I’ve been illustrating and creating ever since and still love it.

A lot of your work features skeletons, is there a story behind that?

I’ve just liked them since I was a teenager, reading motorcycle gang manga. Skeletons were always on back of the riders’ jackets, as a symbol of their gang. I think it’s a very popular motif in art general, to symbolise death or danger. I’ve also loved Sydney-based artist, Ben Brown’s, work since I was in university. His skull is powerful and beautifully detailed as well. His work has given me lots of inspiration too. With skulls and skeletons being so popular though, I always make sure whatever I create is my own style and [reflects] my own ideas. I try to use popular motifs in my own unique way.

Do you think your move to Australia has influenced the way you create art and your inspirations?

Definitely. Although I was born [in] and grew up in Japan, I have spent nearly one third of my life in Australia. Lifestyle choices are inspired heavily by this beautiful country, which has influenced my art and creativity. Everything from concepts, messages, motifs, style and choice of medium comes from a mix of my life experiences in both Japan and Australia.  

Who is your favourite artist and why?

Jeremy Fish. The way he paints with his hands is just amazing. All fine lines and colours are perfectly drawn and his compositions are well thought out and so fun to look at. His paintings are sometimes like optical-art too: as you look more carefully, you can often find hidden messages and meaning in them. To me, there is so much to explore within 2D painting, which I want to keep experimenting with in the future. 

What do you look for in a good pair of shoes?

I like simple design, so I always look for simple, classic shapes. They are classy looking and never look old to me, so I can wear them over and over. I also mostly pick black, white or beige coloured shoes as they’re usually the neatest and simplest.

When did you get your first pair of converse? And what was the occasion?

When I was at high school, I watched a film Trainspotting and it became one of my favourite movies. I had tried to mimic the outfit of one of the main characters, Renton, who was wearing Chuck Taylor High Tops [sic] with skinny damage denim. They were the first Chucks Taylors I bought myself, from a vintage secondhand clothing shop in my home town in countryside Japan.

What’s coming up for you later this year? Any shows or collaborations planned?

I’m having solo show again this year in Sydney, in September. I’m brainstorming ideas for that at the moment. It will be one night only show but I want to put a lot of work in for it and hope people will be keen to check it out. Other than that, not many big projects are planned yet but work often comes up week-by-week, so I’m sure I’ll be kept busy.


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