Japanese illustrator Ushiki Masanori’s process sounds very disciplined, but also pretty fun: he says that every day he spends “roughly 30 minutes to an hour sketching impromptu, an anime character or superhero that inspired me as a kid”. He then digitises his sketches, aiming to further the “convey the spontaneous energy that went into them”.
Masanori was born in Niigata Prefecture in 1981, and having studied at Musashino Art University drawing school, he’s now based in Meguro-ku, Tokyo. His work is largely portrait-based, with surreal and sci-fi led takes on otherwise conventional faces that appear both traditional – little boys with slicked back, 1950s schoolboy haircuts – and bizarre, as features morph into spaceship-like contraptions. These influences draw mainly from Manga, anime and tokusatsu (a Japanese term for live-action film or television drama that makes heavy use of special effects).
Working as a freelance illustrator and artist across digital and analogue formats, Masanori’s clients have ranged from stationery brands to web production companies, Converse, Red Bull Music and fashion brands.
Next month, communication consultancy and illustration agency Pocko, which represents the artist, is putting on a show of Masanori’s work entitled Visitors. “Each visual expression, ranging from the humorous to the fashion-inclined, is tailored to the times and media of today,” says Pocko.
Visitors is a portrait series of images that were created as a diary-like, daily project; and went on to be sold in stores across Prague on a number of goods, and later, across Japan.
“Ushiki Masanori is regarded as a cult figure in the art world of Japan and much like his predecessors, Yoshitomo Nara and Takashi Murakami, Ushiki’s aesthetic centres around diverse themes of childhood and contemporary media,” says Pocko.
Visitors started life on Ushiki’s Instagram timeline on August 13, 2016 and he then posted a new image every day, ranging from sci-fi monsters, faces that owe more than a little to the Transformers, alien girls that are somehow quite beautiful, and more classic monster-type beasts. “Ushiki’s Visitors pay tribute to the many expressions and characters the artist met throughout his youth, familiar hallmarks from popular culture that resonate with our collective consciousness,” says Pocko.
The fantasy worlds that Masanori weaves feel somehow both eerie and familiar, rendered in simple but sophisticated black line-work that brings a sense of craft and refinement to the strangeness of it all.
The show at Pocko is Masanori’s debut European exhibition, and alongside exhibiting the work the space will also be selling copies of his book, also entitled Visitors.
Masanori’s exhibition will be on show from 5 July – 2 September at Pocko Gallery in London; pocko.com