Get to Know: Edwin Ushiro

We sat down with artist Edwin Ushiro to discuss not only his release with us this week but also his early memories, days in the studio and more:

What are your first memories as a child, growing up in Hawaii?

My earliest memory as a child was at the Wailuku Hongwanji Nursery School. I remember having to choose one tiny toy bear. The colors were red, blue, green, and yellow. I remember having difficulty deciding between red and blue. I ended up with blue because it made me feel better than the red. But I then remember thinking if I had made the right decision. I remember walking to my grandma's car after my Japanese school class was over and having two older kids teasing me from the second floor. I never looked up. I tried to ignore them. But I heard every word. I have a clear memory of my first day of elementary school. My mother dropped me off at the gate, I walked down the steps where a teacher guided me. Inside my classroom were all my friends from nursery school. I was so thrilled. My friend Clinton had just completed claiming his cubby hole with Ultraman stickers. He said I could have one, but I would have to peel them off his cubby hole since he used up all his stickers. I tried to peel one off, but it was destroying the sticker so I stopped. About 20 years later I purchased one of those stickers.

What are your first artistic memories?

I remember as a nursery school child, drawing on the wall of my grandparents dining room. I remember how cool I thought it was but my mom got upset. The drawing depicted everyone in my family driving in their car. I drew them in succession of car length.

What was your time like at Art Center College of Design?

Art Center was definitely challenging. I visited before school began to get a understanding of the campus layout. I ended up playing basketball with a 4th term student. He asked me my age. I was 18. He then told me that I was going to have a difficult time here because many of the students were in their late 20's and early 30's. This information scared me. Throughout my time at Art Center I made sure to avoid anything that would derail me from my studies and began my homework immediately after class. I was not going to fall behind the heavy workload.

When did you start developing your layered paintings, a style that you're so well known for, and could you tell us a bit about the process?

A lot of what I do came from my work in the entertainment industry working primarily in Photoshop and with it the layers necessary to create my imagery. However, I was not satisfied with the digital look and wanted to get back into traditional drawing and painting. All assets of the paintings are done separately on several pieces of paper. They are arranged together in Photoshop and more color is added. As my attempt to apply the Photoshop layered idea into physical surfaces, I experimented with the possibilities of printing my images on film transparencies. These transparencies were then painted on with glazes of acrylic paint and UV varnish. They are then mounted onto Plexiglas or Lucite giving the art that dreamy quality. This somehow made sense to me. As I got more confident with my subject matter, so did the process. It evolved into just a single layer and getting the most out of it.

Could you tell us a bit about your release with us, "A Commemorative Reset Button?"

Since cats are not native to Hawaii, there is almost no reference to them in their mythology. However it is mentioned in Japanese literature that once a cat reaches 10 years old, it would have the ability to speak. And although Rusty (1994-2009), never spoke English words, I absorbed a great deal from him. He often occurs in my artwork as a symbol of friendship.

What's a typical day like in the studio for you?

At 8am I like to start my morning drawing routine in my sketchbook. Sometimes it's a notation from a dream I woke up with. Other times it's just to capture an idea that I thought of. Then I try to see what's going on in the world and catch up with my emails prior to 9am. Afterwards, I hop onto the drawing pad either drawing on vellum or watercolor paper. I'm either drawing assets or a background for a painting. Sprinkled in with receiving and sending emails and phone call throughout the day. It's only after 10:30am with a cup of coffee by my side that I am able to get serious progress on my art. Normally, with the comfort of ghost story podcasts.

What do you enjoy more, the artistic process or the completed work?

I like to admire the completed body of work. It fills me in on what I can do for the next series.

When you're not creating, what do you find yourself doing?

Catching up with my virtual friends, traveling, playing basketball, gardening, going to flea markets and loading up at the farmers market.

What's the best bit of advice you've ever received?

Remember where you came from. Mr. Richard Hashi, a very successful businessman from Wailuku once told me. I didn't understand it then. Years, later this became the pool from which many of my ideas came from.

"A Commemorative Reset Button" is a 11" x 14" edition of only 30 copies.  It will be released on Thursday, October 25th, 2018 at 1PM PST.