February 20, 2014

Kyoorius Knocks: Kotaro Chiba

By Payal Khandelwal

Surrealism and feminism can be considered the overpowering themes in the works of Kotaro Chiba, an illustrator based in Niigata, Japan. And this is what results in his striking portraits of women in various fantastical situations. He also does branding and graphic design and has recently worked on illustrations for an interesting initiative called ‘Let’s Read Japanese’, a series of six graded levels featuring famous and some new stories from Japan and from other parts of the world. This is targeted at people who are trying to learn the Japanese language.

Chiba shares with us many of his inspirations including music, Japanese culture, books and his future plans too. Read on.

When were you absolutely sure that this what you want to do?
I had interest in music mostly, but since I’m not very good at playing any instrument, I thought I want to have the skill to be able to “draw” something. And I think that’s when I was sure about what I want to do.

You have a very strong sense of feminism in your work. Do you agree?
Yes, I agree. My illustrations are often said to be “too feminine”, even when I draw male characters.
I seem to have a strange feeling about simple masculinity. And of course I like female but I can also draw “masculine” definitely if I want to.


What/who inspires you the most?

What kind of music do you listen to? Does it play any role in your work?
I like contemporary music (Toru Takemitsu, John Cage, Steve Reich etc.), electronica and electronic (The Books, Tricky, Flying Lotus etc.), classic ( Bach, Debussy), rock (XTC etc). I usually never listen to metal  or hard rock.

I am interested in all kind of sounds or soundscape, not only “music”  which have the form. I am currently listening to Ryuichi Sakamoto‘s music. I have devoted a lot of time to listen to his music. The purpose of listening to the music is to be able to interrupt the outside noise. However, I cannot wear earplugs because I feel itchiness in my ears when I put it on.

What do you like most about what you do?

I like that I get to do work with some people who having higher talent than me.




Would you say you have a particular style?
Yes and no. I do not wish to own “my style”.  But if someone who has glanced at my works and said, “you have your own style”,  I will be happy.


Describe your work desk in one line. If you had to keep just one single item at your desk, what would that be?
My desk is in a disorderly and chaotic state but it’s enchanting. The one item that I would like to keep will be a desktop computer.

If you had a time machine, where would you be headed?
I don’t know. May be November 5,1955?

What is your favourite book? What are you reading right now?
My favorite book is Language and Tragedy by Kojin Karatani. This is a textbook of art for me and I think It should be a textbook for all creators.

I am not reading any book right now, but I’d like to read the book that Craig Ferguson delivers.

Does your country/city have any influence on your creative process?
I have not been aware of that influence. But I might be under Japanese subculture influence (manga or anime etc) at a deeper level.A lot of snow falls in my region and that has influences on my senses. I like that very much.

However, I think that the regional individuality does not mean anything now. Everything is almost of an equal value, because of the internet.



At what time of the day do you feel most creative/productive?
I am most productive at deep night. But I’m trying to go to bed early these days. Good sleep is very important for work, right?

What would be your second dream profession?
Being an illustrator is actually my second dream. The first is to be a writer (comedy, TV, radio).

What has been your most challenging project so far? Can you tell us a bit about it.
The most challenging project for me was when I made a music video for a professional musician. That was an animation I made completely on my own and not with a team. I learnt a lot from this. The most important thing I learnt is that making something like that all alone is an idiotic idea.

What are you up to right now?
I wish to create more video works with my team. I don’t know if that would be in animation or not.

I think the video work is the best style to express that compound of sound and image. I have been interested in them since quite some time. but first of all, I must begin with finding members of a team.

Chiba’s photograph (featured image) is clicked by K.Takeuchi.

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