NAGA is an illustrator and graphic designer residing in Tokyo. He loves skateboarding very much as well.
As he stared working in “sento” (public onsen in local town in Japan) when he was at 25 age, he got into Edo culture eventually and stared to draw his original illustration and artwork mixing street culture and ukiyo-e.
Recently, NAGA worked on the poster for the release of Nike SB x Medicom Toy BE@RBRICK, and the graphic went viral on social media — everyone loved it!
We’re very honored to have NAGA joining the Q&A, and talked about some stories behind his creations.
Hi NAGA, did you know the “So Big” poster you created for Nike SB and Medicom Toy has been so viral on social media? There were so many skate shops, skaters, sneakerheads, and art fans reposting it. I live in Europe, but I still hear many people around me praised it “So dope!”.
You’re good at creating ukiyo-e illustrations. Ukiyo-e is Japanese traditional art that everybody in the country knows, however, I assume that not many people, especially the young generation, are able to create ukiyo-e type of arts. I read your biography that you started ukiyo-e arts when you were 25 years old, and it all started from a sento (Japanese traditional public bath). Could you tell us more about the sento, how did it inspire your artworks?
The senior who owns the sento once asked me to draw a picture, and the content was to pay homage to Katsushika Hokusai’s famous work “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”.
Although I started ukiyo-e illustrations because of this request, actually, the experience of living and working at this sento already had influence on me.
There was a dancing classroom next to the sento, where you can hear traditional music and dance steps every day. And the senior’s mom liked to play the shamisen, so I could hear these traditional sounds very often.
I have always been fond of foreign cultures such as American, this experience is actually my first time feeling so close to Japanese traditional culture. After that, I started paying more attention to the traditional culture in my country, and I wanted to make more ukiyo-e illustrations.
In your daily life, how do you find the details from the Edo period for you work? So you have some Edo period lifestyle? (1603 to 1868)
I go to vintage bookshops, I buy ukiyo-e books, and I visit ukiyo-e exhibitions. Doing so, I have collected a lot of useful information through the years.
I don’t have Edo lifestyle at all, but at my work place, there’re some furnitures from the late Edo period, Meiji (1868 to 1912) and Taisho era (1812 to 1926) from an antique specialty store.
You like hiding interesting details in your artworks, are there any easter eggs in this poster?
This was a commercial work, so I didn’t include easter eggs on purpose, but you can see my favorite skater Eric Koston and some fixed-gear bikes. In my other personal works, there are many interesting easter eggs, please check out my works and find them! (naga-uraedo.com)
How long did you spend in making the poster? The result of this work is very successful, when you look back to this experience, was there any moment very difficult to you?
This work lasted 1 to 2 months. I started by sketching lots of drafts, it took 2 weeks to finally get the idea and composition confirmed.
The difficult parts are that I need a lot of time to make this illustrations, but I still need to do other work to cover the family’s expenses. So I work in an office during the day, and I paint at night and on my days off. I was frustrated because I didn’t have any time for my skateboard and bike during that time. But I’m glad the final work is liked by so many people.
Thank you very much for the interview!
It’s my first interview from overseas, I’m really happy about it.
And thanks everyone for your continued supports.