Can't stop drawing

What Moe Nakase Draw from Here to the Future
Photo_Kenji Nakata 
Translation_Arisa Takahashi
ENGLISH

Thanks to the modern era invention, aka social media,
it's much easier to discover creativity and talents buried in the actual world.
So, which girl is in the spotlight in the street scene?
And what kind of personal philosophy do they have in their mind?
 We shift that spotlight to the Barista Moe Nakase, also known as a model,
and an artist who drew the CD jacket of “Water lily” for ILLION,
one of the solo projects of Yojiro Noda from RADWIMPS.
We had an opportunity to have an interview with Nakase at her atelier.

Anyone could title Moe Nakase as they want - as the barista, or the model, or the artist.

May we have your brief introduction of yourself?
My name is Moe Nakase. I am a barista at a coffee shop, and at the same time, I am working as a freelance model and an artist.
When did you start each of your careers?
It all began when I left my previous model agency, so it would be about two years ago.
How are you handling each of your careers?
I would say I want to be an artist if I want to express myself, but I also need a living. That's why I'm a barista as well. Once in few months, I take days off for nearly two weeks and just focus on my art works for the exhibition at my atelier - This cycle is really perfect for me. A lot of people ask me what I am, but anyone could title Moe Nakase as they want - as the barista, or the model, or the artist.

It all started to free my stress.

What made you to draw as an artist?
It all started to free my stress. It was more like “I want to move my hands.” rather than “I want to draw.” At that moment there was a pen and paper right in front of me, and when I started to doodle, it made me relax and let me go. So I began to create line drawings and illustrations.
Did you like to draw when you were a child?
Since my parents graduated from Tokyo University of the Arts, as well as my father is an author, I think I had the best environment to be surrounded by arts. We even moved from the central Tokyo to the suburb just because my father wanted to have his own atelier! But I wasn't that interested in drawing when I was a child. I did like to touch wood materials and create some objects out from it though.
Were you good at art class in school?
Yes for sure. I did the best at art class than any other subjects. Some of my pieces were awarded on competitions, and some of it was introduced to the school pamphlet. About the other subjects, I did horrible! But my parents didn't care as long as my art class was good!
What was your first job as an artist?
I remember my first job was from an Australian customer that I met at the coffee shop I work. He was an organizer of an Australian band The Harpoons, and I drew a poster for their concert.
What did you draw for them?
It was just the beginning of my career as an artist, so I didn't have a particular style of my drawing. At that time I liked those illustrations posted on magazines, so I illustrated the band members just like it.
And how did they like it?
All of The Harpoons members really like it, and their fans adored it as well. It was so happy for me to see people loving my art pieces.

It's joyous that people sympathize with me through my art pieces without saying anything.

What art pieces are you creating now?
I'm working on my pieces with the method called “Encaustic” - you use heated beeswax to which colored pigments are added. It is like layering colors with beeswax.
Why are you using this method?
I'm using it because how the color shifts into a different color are very appealing to me. Waxes are solid, but when you burn it with a gas burner, it turns into liquid, and you can't handle it completely. You eventually can't predict what you are going to create,which is very exciting. Sometimes I feel “Oh, I should have stopped layering it!” though.
When did you start using this method?
I started out with line drawing because I wanted to focus what was going on inside me, but the more I spent the time to myself, the more I wanted to create dynamic art pieces. It is like detoxing - digesting all my feeling out and input it into my work.
How long does it take to complete one piece?
It depends on the size, but it takes about three to four days.
What are you thinking when you are drawing?
In the past, I tended to create pieces that are similar to other artists or pieces that I have seen before, so now I try not to overthink what I should draw. If I draw something familiar, then I start it all over again.
Do you get inspired from something/someone for your work?
I do get inspired, but I want to focus more on “sympathetic feelings” for creativity.
What do you mean about “sympathetic feelings”?
I do like having my own space, but at the same time, I get lonely. I thought this was only my problem, but I noticed when I moved to Tokyo that a lot of people have that same feeling and it made me secured. I realized that art could do the same thing - people can sympathize that loneliness or joy with me through my art pieces without saying anything.

I want to continue enjoying the transitions in life.

Have you ever had an exhibition of yours?
Yes, I had it three times. The first time was my solo exhibition at my uncle's gallery located in Nasu, the second one was a group exhibition at a gallery in Nishi-Koyama, and the third one was in New York with the same member as the second one.
How did your first solo exhibition go?
It was the time I started to work as an artist, so the exhibition was with line drawings. The title was called “Haihaku (Grayish White)” - my family, my friends, my customers from my coffee shops, and even people that saw me on Instagram came there even though it was far away from the middle of Tokyo. I think I cried five times during the exhibition season!
What was your family's reaction?
My father criticized about my art pieces, and we had our first fight over it. I think he captured me not as his child but as an artist. I put so much effort into my works, but that exhibition made me look back and think more about my works.
And how was your second and third group exhibition?
The exhibitions came true by one of my clients from modeling asked me to join in. Good thing the gallery in Nishi-Koyama has a partnership with a gallery in New York, so we were able to exhibit it in New York as well.
That's amazing! How long was it presented in New York?
It lasted for three weeks. I went there for a week too.
Was it your first time visiting New York?
It was actually my third time. I went there once when I was a student, and once as a model. This time I went to New York as an artist, so being able to visit this creative city every time as a different title is great.
Did you enjoy your stay?
Of course, I did! Some of my artist friends in New York and people I met on Instagram came to see me and my work, and it was amazing to get comments and reviews directly from them.
Did you go to other galleries in New York?
Yes, I did. I think I visited around thirty galleries. I really like to go to galleries whenever I am in New York, but this time I was able to look at it differently.
What do you mean that “you were able to look at it differently”?
The first and second time I visit New York, I thought like “what is expression anyway?”. But as I am an artist now, I could see it as an artist as well. Of course, you can't understand fully what the artist wants to express, but now I could learn from it rather than “I don't get it at all!” like I was in the past.
What do you think about your work now?
Although I feel incomplete and still struggle with whether I should present my pieces to the public or not, I love creativity, and I love my works as well. I'm always up to my future, but it does make me worry what I should create next. I want to continue enjoying the transitions in life.
Are there any memorable moments about your work besides the exhibitions?
When I drew the CD jacket of “Water lily” for ILLION, one of the solo projects of Yojiro Noda from RADWIMPS, I was literally thrilled! I listened to their music since I was in middle school and they always were my icons. I immediately called my family when I got the job!
How did that offer came true?
It happened by Mr. Noda finding my art pieces on Instagram. He texted me that he wants me to draw his new CD jacket. We had a same acquaintance in the middle, so we got to know each other through him. He appreciated my work, and he even bought the drawing that I created for the CD jacket - how awesome is that!

For me, to draw is the same as for people to work.

What does drawing means to you?
For me, to draw is the same as for people to work in a company. It's not a tool or a method - it's a regular task for me. Art is not that common in Japan, so it might be an unusual thing to say, but my life and my job is all into the drawing.
Do you have any thoughts on art?
I think there are always experts in every industry, but I would say there are no specialists in the art world.
Can you describe it more?
For example, a scribble made by a three-year-old kid can also be an art piece. No matter what technique you use, how you draw it, it appears to be an art when we think it is art. I believe that this thought can spread your mind and create more freedom in your heart.
What do want to express through your work?
I was asked the same question from several people when I was in New York. It seems that every artist in New York has their own idea of their art, but I couldn’t come up with anything. I think it is because I'm too busy with myself and my life. So that's one big mission for me now - to be able to respond a concept about my art works.
Do you have anything that you want to do in the future?
I want to focus more on my creativity. I want to have another solo exhibition, too! It would be nice to travel to a city where there are no single Japanese as well.
How come you want to travel to such a place?
Last year I followed my father to India because he wanted inspiration for his work. We went to this small village that is far away from the center of Himalaya. The people there welcomed us and even offered foods and accommodations, but we also needed to provide something to the village. What I did was, I created art pieces and made art pieces together with the people living there. Obviously, we had a language barrier, but we used body language and gestures, which was really fun. I want to do it again someday.
Do you still want to work as a barista, a model, and an artist?
If I'm only allowed to work just for one title, I think I will go crazy! It's obvious - if I'm working alone in the atelier as an artist, I will miss opportunities to talk with people. But one thing for sure is that I want to stay in Tokyo. This city is very dense, and sometimes it makes you uncomfortable, but it also encourages you to turn on your engine. Being as a model also gives me good effects - it makes me brave and be proud of myself to express who you are. I would like to keep the balance of the three titles that I have now.