Kentaro Yoshida was born in a little fishing village in Japan, but has been lovingly adopted by the sunburnt country since moving here to learn English as a spritely lad of just 18. He grew up doodling in his textbooks and hanging out at his mum’s glassing studio and is now a name that is often dropped in the Sydney art scene.
He’s a skilled graphic designer by trade, but his true passion lies in illustrating by hand… anywhere and everywhere. Kenny-san don’t discriminate against no damn surfaces, man. He’ll bomb walls, canvases, skateboards or surfboards, never hesitating to grab a quiver of poscas and start fashioning his trademark skull, surf and hangover-inspired oeuvres.
We caught up with the paint-splattered surfer for a chat.
You work on a lot of different surfaces with paint and poscas. Tell us about your art.
I like black, bold and detailed illustration, perhaps influenced by Japanese manga style. I started painting on surfboards eight years ago, when one of my friends, a professional Japanese surfer, asked me to paint his board. Since then I have been using poscas, but now I am more into painting with brush and acrylic on any surfaces.
I’d describe your art as “urban contemporary bone thug, meets bikie tattoo line work”. How would you describe it?
Hahaha that’s good one! I’d say it is ‘routine of hangover and hair of the dog’ at the moment. As I have tried to communicate juxtaposition of human nature, beauty of life to destruction we are doing to ourselves. But I am trying to dig more to grow it to more than drinking habit focus now.
You’re well known for your love of skull artwork, what’s the fascination?
Well, I always liked the detailed, super cool skull artwork from guys like Ben Brown, Jeremy Fish, Broken Fingers Crew, and I’ve always liked drawing skulls myself. I eventually did some designs for Hurley, Billabong etc. I think I’ve drawn enough skulls and now am trying to draw other stuff too. Lets see what I can come up with for next 12 months…
You were doing live painting at the Australian Open of Surfing at Manly Beach – what was that like? What other live painting have you done?
It’s always good to do some live art in my hometown, Manly (I have been living here since I came to Australia 12 years ago). It had good vibes and there were lots of local friends hanging out, so it was fun! I have done a few more, but the biggest one was at 30 Years of the Screaming Hand exhibition at aMBUSH Gallery. I painted on massive Vans shoe – it was great experience.
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Just done painting for @ausopenofsurf under the super hot sun? This is part of art wall with bunch of friends @camwall @mentalben @yeetheeast @andysfrnds @georgiahillbth @goyatorres? Thanks again to having me on board and stoked to paint for my second home town Manly??✨ now bowling & ??? hahaha ? @baiwatts thanks for all day support
Do you feel the pressure with people watching you paint?
When I start to actually paint, I will put myself in my own zone with music and energy drinks so I don’t feel any pressure at all. But I feel bit of pressure while I am preparing ideas or sketches a few days before.
What does the future hold for you art direction?
I would love to be a full-time artist/illustrator, working with everyone, from big brands to cool individuals. Then manage my time myself so that I can go surf whenever I want haha… Still have a long, long way to go.
I know you’re a big fan of Sydney legend, Ben Brown, what other Aussie artists inspire you?
There are so many great artists in Sydney with a variety of styles and approaches. I am a big fan of Kindred Studio’s work; their combination of illustration/texture/choice of colours is just too good. I really like Stellar Leuna’s work and Jamie Browne’s work too. Their concept and message of art is completely different, but I like their simple clean black and white illustration and use of negative space in their work too.
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Pleasure painted on @mikeywright1 board for "BROKEN DREAMS" art show presented by @take3forthesea & @la_division sponsored by @coastalwatch @patagonia at @wildthingsgallery✍?⚡️ Its one night only event on tomorrow night from 5:30 so come and check out all works done by rad crew! I'm sure I will be partying tomorrow so have beer with me if you are around??
Looking at artists like Hitotzuki, Riusuke Fukahori, Jun Inoue, TWOONE, Shohei Otomo, Haroshi and especially Usugrow, it seems there’s a strong presence of young contemporary artists in Japan. Do you keep track of the art scene back home?
Yes for sure, they are all well-known internationally too so I would like to keep on doing what I am doing right now, then eventually I would like to link up with them. That’s my other motivation for the next five years.
Any other famous and/or international artists tickling your fancy?
I am big fun of Indonesian artist Ryan Adyputra, Spanish illustrator Pedro Oyarbide and British illustrator Mega Munden. They all have different style and concept for their work but I like all of them a lot. And I can pick more!
Who would you rather sit down with at the Hotel Steyne for eight beers and a chat – John John Florence, Nujabes or Andy Warhol?
I would pick up Nujabes, because I am not good at speaking English when I am pissed haha.
words by niall roeder.
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