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Art & Life with Mieko Anekawa

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mieko Anekawa.

Mieko, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I’m a Japanese painter who moved to San Diego 3 years ago from New York City where I lived for 10 years. My passion has always been drawing, painting and creating art. Currently I share a studio with my partners at Spanish Village Art Center in Balboa Park. I adore San Diego’s nature, enjoy the colors from palm trees, flowers and birds and the deep blue from our ocean. I get lots of inspiration here.

When I was little, my life was always about drawing and painting. I remember my grandparents collecting all kinds of scrap paper so I could draw when I visited them. In school, my textbook was full of doodling and I was always running back home to draw more.

When I was 14, my parents separated and I stayed with my mother. She had to feed three hungry children and had to work hard all the time. Because of this, she was against me to go to a university and would not support me; she told me I had to quit my dreams and start work after high school. But I was determined to explore an art career, and decided to go off on my own. I entered Kyoto-Seika University in 1999 as a graphic design major. My life at the university was hard, always busy working to make enough money for tuition, while trying to learn and create art. But somehow it taught me a good life lesson, to rise to the next level. Also, learning the traditional Japanese arts had a huge impact on my life, and influenced my art too. To this day even though I still am paying for the student loans, I’m very happy with my decision.

After graduation, I went abroad to NYC in 2004 with little English but an ambition to be an international artist. I had my first solo show at a little salon in downtown Manhattan in 2005. NYC was full of opportunities, but was a very tough living and working environment. I felt people there either get swallowed up by the city, or learn to thrive on it. I survived, and grabbed for my chances. I worked for Time Out New York as an intern, to learn the basics. I met lots of artists too, working for them for free. Later I met an entrepreneur who recently opened up a graphic design business, and thanks to my graphic design degree I started work as a graphic designer. I worked there for 3 hard years.

Although I liked the graphic design work, my passion for painting remained. Eventually I decided to quit so I could become more serious about painting. I began to expand into pop and surreal art, using oil and acrylics. Since then, I slowly found more opportunities and I had a number of shows in New York City. And since New York is so multicultural, I was able to make international contacts and over the next several years my artwork has been in exhibitions in Amsterdam, Belgium, Canada, England, Osaka, and Tokyo.

As I grew up and I had my two daughters, I started to feel my family belonged somewhere else. I searched where that should be, from Japan to Hawaii to California. The final destination was San Diego, a warm, beautiful, colorful place. Now I can go out into nature a lot and find the beauty in it. I think my painting has become more free and flowing, focusing on what I truly desire to paint.

These days, I’m helping Torrey Pines Elementary School in La Jolla for their art events. It’s really fun guiding these free-spirited children. I love watching the kids grow, their art evolve over time, and minds blossom into young artists.

I still paint in acrylic and oils, but now I make more mixed media work based in watercolor, my brush strokes just following my free spirit. These days my studio is my sanctuary to paint in peace. I enjoy seeing where my brush strokes are going.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
The style I’ve recently been developing is mixed media three-dimensional art. I call this series “Over the edge”. In the initial process I paint watercolor on paper, carefully in very small, fine details. Then I decompose the paper into pieces, and recompose them on canvas by finding the best layout. I paint the canvas with a contrasting splatter effect. I was inspired from “Ikebana”, the art of Japanese flower arrangement. Ikebana art is flower arrangement that takes cut flowers and plants, arranged into a vase very specifically, to find the true harmony of the flowers. Each cut of the flowers is unique, so there is never an identical Ikebana piece. You never know the final arrangement is going to come out. I love the idea of being so free, and use the uniqueness and spontaneity of Ikebana as inspiration in my art.

The rest of my art collection is comprised of modern art. It is a compilation of pop art, surrealism, other mixed media, and still art. I keep some of it at my studio, rotating occasionally, and display a variety of themes at exhibitions in San Diego.

Any advice for aspiring or new artists?
So many people gave me useful advice in the past, it’s hard to identify one or two. One thing my university professor told me that I still remember to this day is: “Never stop; remain active and keep to your passion.” He taught me the road to being an artist is tough, with ups and downs, and sometimes it’s hard to see the goal. You may feel you need a break, or want to give up from time to time. But the moment you stop, it may all end there. However, if you just keep going, you’ll still have a chance to get somewhere with your passion. The words meant a lot to me. Not only does it ring true to me as an artist, but it also helped me during the rough times growing up in a divorced home. It motivates me when I find it hard to keep going. Those very words took me to where I am now. It helps me keep going forward. I’d like to say that same thing to other artists: Just keep going, don’t stop.

One other life lesson I learned is that I usually never look back. I don’t wish to do anything different than what I did. I was always a slow learner, and sometimes I detoured even there was a more direct way right in front of me. But I think it is just who I am, and I probably will always be. So I accept what I am. And I’ll try my best being what I am. By living that way, I am comfortable with who I am.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
I share a studio (Studio 32) with my partners in Spanish Village Art Center. Come visit me anytime! The studio is open 7 days a week 11am-4pm. I often paint there and you can stop by to see some works in progress (Email me to find out when I’m in the studio). The Spanish Village Art Center also holds Open Studios from time to time.

I also have a few videographies of collaborative work with modern dance as well. The videos are body painting on Dancers. I am grateful to these beautiful women for the chance to create live art and celebrate the beauty of the female figure. Please be aware as the female dancers are body painted adults (links are age-restricted).

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Images belong to Mieko Anekawa

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