NEoN Digital Arts Archive

Akinori Oishi drawing on a canvans


Michael Burns (Fired By Design) caught up with Akinori Oishi for a chat ahead of his appearance at this years NEoN Festival.

[Michael Burns] Can you give us some background information about yourself, your training and past experience, please?

[Akinori Oishi] I think I started drawing (doodling) when I was a small kid, around 3 years old. Growing up I was inspired by Japanese Manga, but at the same time also very inspired by children’s picture books from Europe and the US.

My older cousin, a university student, collected many imported books, so she showed me her collection. Of course, I didn’t understand the foreign languages, but I loved how they sparked my imagination. I think this experience brought me up to a dream about going abroad.

I studied oil painting at the Art University in Japan. After 4 years, I went to another school - IAMAS. [Here] I saw a big bright future - how I could develop myself and how my drawings could become digital, animated and interactive in the Internet universe.

What artwork won you the MILIA award and how has your work/style developed since then?

I developed my drawings as interactive artwork based on characters in my sketchbook. Whenever I draw my characters, they always are alive in my mind. So, using the interactive software, I was able to create my own universe in which my characters were really moving around. I basically work in analogue but develop my output in a digital form to add interactivity. There are a lot of possibilities with computer techniques.

Can you describe a couple of favourite examples of your commercial work, please?

One of my best experiences was creating a TV commercial for one of the drink products from Coca-Cola Japan. It was about 10 years ago when I worked in the design studio in France [TeamcHmAn]. I worked on the main part of the animation process. All our team except me were French guys, but it was just a coincidence the director chose me for the Japanese client. The product was very successful and our commercial was on air for a long time. Unfortunately, I couldn’t watch it in Japan because I was in Europe, but still many people remember it.

Another great experience has been my latest animation work, a jingle animation for the kid’s TV program “Yo Gabba Gabba” on Nickelodeon in the USA. I’m honoured that they found me because at the moment it’s one of the most popular TV shows in the US and in the world. My small son and I are big fans of the programme too!

Can you give some details about your typographic work and your wider design philosophy, please?

My typographic work involves repeating my characters. They are graphics but it’s a pictogram. People may think it is stupid given the recent fashion for digital Copy-And-Paste. So I called it “Drawaholic”. It starts from left to right and involves making lines, so is something like hand-writing letters. There’s no big achievement and special meaning to it, but I feel happy when I completely hand-draw all the space. I just want to do it.

Regarding being a ‘drawaholic’, how does this ‘addiction’ manifest itself?

Drawaholic is just me concentrating on drawing for myself. It takes quite a lot of time but provides really good meditation.

What media do you use in your work?

Basically, a pen (or marker) to draw on the paper. And of course, I use software to develop animation and interaction after scanning my images. My favourite software for this is Flash.

Where did you get the inspiration for your last few pieces of artwork?

I travel a lot for the project, and I am inspired by the experiences at each place I visit. For example, I created a Potato character at the festival in Germany [Pictoplasma]. I know they eat a lot of potatoes, and I like them too. I’ve never been to Scotland, so maybe at NEoN, I will have a lot of inspiration from life in Dundee.

Which artists and creatives do you most admire - and why?

My favourite artist is not really an artist, at all. I greatly admire the French film director, Jacques Tati. I first encountered him through his classic movie “Mon Uncle” when I was a university student. I like his movies because they are very natural, with a slow and calm atmosphere. I am greatly influenced by his work when providing humour and happiness for my creations.

Can you provide a quick overview of the nature and subject of your presentation/ involvement at NEoN?

I’ll be talking about the art of my character universe, and how I developed my drawings into various media.

What do you hope to achieve or experience here?

I don’t know so much about the UK. So, at the NEoN festival, I’d like to see how the art scene is in the UK and how British people are thinking about digital media.

What/who else are you looking forward to seeing at NEoN?

I think it will be great to see the nice people in Dundee and staff at NEoN during the festival. The most interesting thing about participating in a festival is communicating with friendly people and native audiences.

What do you see as the challenges facing the digital art scene in the UK and the rest of Europe? Does this differ from Japan?

I’ll see this soon when I arrive at Dundee City, then I can answer it at the festival!

How important is collaboration and interaction to you, both with other artists and the wider community?

When an artist is working, they are always alone. But it’s nicer to share the experience with other people, and collaboration brings us more joy in our art.