I want to draw a picture like breathing. ~Yuno Shiota
It was this quote from Yuno Shiota's Instagram profile, once translated, that really pulled me into Shiota's art, as I feel the same about writing: I want it to be so ingrained in my life that I go to it without thinking, and in some ways it is. I'm always tucking away turns of phrase, bits of conversation, and names of blooming plants for later use. It sounds as if Shiota is doing the same in her daily life in Japan. I love the idea that we were strangers, living continents apart, speaking different languages, immersed in very different artistic endeavors, but with the same philosophy humming along beside us—and some of the same challenges. I'm grateful that Shiota took time from her busy schedule as an artist and a mother to share her beautiful art with West Trestle Review, and I'm grateful to Deborah Iwabuchi for translating the interview.
Patricia Caspers: What originally drew you to art?
Yuno Shiota: I’ve liked drawing pictures ever since I was a child. As an adult, I began doing my art after I got pregnant, had my babies, quit my job, and we moved to a new house. I finally had the time and the space, so I decided to give myself over to doing what I loved.
PC: Do you have a favorite medium or a favorite combination of media?
YS: I like oil colors, acrylics, and oil pastels, and I often use them in combination. Recently I’ve been painting intuitively, and I’ve been using acrylic paints and Holbein Duo oil colors which are water soluble. I really love Big Oil Pastels from the Kawachi Art Supplies Shop. I enjoy waiting for oil colors to slowly dry as I paint. (Recently, however, I can’t do that, as I have small children in the house, and it’s dangerous to spread out my materials.)
PC: What inspires your unique style?
YS: That is a difficult question. It’s just everything. What happens in my daily life, special things, things that move me in some way. Japan has four distinct seasons, so the changes in the seasons are beautiful, and my heart is captured by scenery, the way the sky looks—also by the words in Japanese used to describe those scenes. One of my pictures here, Usui, is named after one of the twenty-four seasonal divisions in the old lunar calendar. I’m also inspired by scenes from around the world. Just now I was watching a TV program on sperm whales, and I learned something interesting. So, now I want to paint sperm whales.
PC: In your Instagram profile you write, "息をするように絵を描きたい。" or "I want to draw a picture like breathing" (English translation). Tell us more about what it means to draw a picture like breathing.
YS: I don’t often think about breathing, like, “it’s time to breathe now!” Claude Monet once said, “I want to paint pictures the way a bird flies.” It’s like that. My art is as natural and essential to me as breathing, I want drawing and painting pictures to be a normal, natural part of my life. I hope that makes sense.
PC: Has the pandemic affected your ability to make art?
YS: I can paint anytime and anywhere, but the pandemic has had an effect on this activity. Japan has been cautious when it comes to range of activities. I can’t just go out and sketch or travel. I need to be aware of and careful about the people around me. I also feel that a picture is not complete until people can see it, and it hasn’t been easy to hold exhibits. So that has been a negative influence, too. Some good has come from the pandemic, though. In spite of and because of it, I’ve felt that the power of art is necessary and rich and abundant. At any rate, I don’t want to think only about the bad side of things.
PC: Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
YS: Thank you for reading this article and sharing your time with me. I want to thank Patricia Caspers for this wonderful opportunity and Deborah Iwabuchi for doing the translation because my English isn’t very good. The times are difficult, but I want to keep moving forward, one step at a time. I plan to continue painting—if slowly—and hope to hold an exhibit of my work. I’ll be satisfied if my art evokes feeling in the viewer or gives them positive energy. I regularly put my pictures up on Instagram, so I’d love it if readers take a look. Thank you so much!
This interview was translated by Deborah Iwabuchi and has been edited lightly for clarity and brevity.
塩田悠乃 Yuno Shiota was born in 1985 in Tokushima Prefecture and graduated from the Policy Studies Course, Faculty of Economics, Okayama University in 2008. In 2020 she began creative activities in Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture. Her work was featured in a group exhibition at the Peace Art Exhibition hosted by Nihon Bungeisha, August, 2020, in Tokyo.