LAB ART SHOW Q&A ARTIST FEATURE
By: Julia Wong
Lab Art Show would like to present Yuki Goodman as our Featured Artist of the Month. Originally from Japan, Yuki’s pursuit of art and language has brought her to Montreal, New York, and finally to Vancouver. Though not always a painter, Yuki now exhibits her work at local art shows, and fosters the creativity of her students with private art lessons. Her dreamy feminine paintings are defined by elaborate patterns, free-flowing lines, and the striking use of colour. We join Yuki in her North Vancouver studio to learn more about her practice, what inspires her to create art, and how she manages her Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Your pieces have an Art Nouveau aesthetic with the details and patterns you incorporate. Can you speak a little bit about how the movement has influenced your work? Why were you drawn to that style?
Art Nouveau is the biggest influence to me. When I was 13, I read Mucha’s art book and I was in stunned. Since then I’ve loved organic flow and Art Nouveau. Most Art Nouveau artists painted women very elegantly and beautifully. The women are always portrayed in a classy manner, as if they didn’t have to go out of their way to be noticed and admired. The scenes are also very dynamic and dramatic. That totally drew me in.
What is your process in creating a piece?
In creating a subject, I search for a facial expression that speaks to me and go from there. The backgrounds themselves just come out naturally. Sometimes I pick a particular subject matter like Geisha or Oiran to incorporate as an overall theme. Right now I’m concentrating on one specific theme, which is painting strong and beautiful women. I have been trying to express women as elegant and vigorous, and sometimes, generous and kind. I adore the unrelenting strength that women possess, it drives us to work extremely hard even in difficult environments.
My passion is not solely on inspiring women. I will try to paint men in the near future, and I have been studying how to express masculine features. It is my wish to, one day, be as confident and courageous as the women I paint. It is my goal to instill the same passion with the people who see my art. I merely want to support anyone who took up the challenge, and fought back against all odds.
What are some struggles you face as an artist?
I have been suffering from severe exhaustion since I was 15, but my health took a turn for the worse when I was 27. I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) in 2013, I don’t think many people are familiar with this disease. With CFS, I can't escape the exhaustion even after a good night's sleep. My immune system is also very sensitive. Almost every day, I suffer from insomnia, fevers, migraines, extreme nausea, and issues with digestion.
Until recently, I had no idea that CFS existed and I was unable to understand why I was so tired all the time. Due to my limited ability to perform activities, I was often depressed seeing young people being active and doing whatever they wanted, while I was cooped up at home. I kept pushing myself more and more because I didn't know the true reason as to why I was so exhausted. I thought I had to keep up with other young adults, or people would think I was lazy or weak. I always put pressure on myself to be tough and tried and catch up.
One of the hardest parts of living with CFS is that I look perfectly healthy and youthful to observers, but inside I suffer from many symptoms. It was difficult to find a doctor who recognized the illness and who would provide me with treatment. It is still being actively researched, and not a lot is known, so we don’t know how to cure it.
I realize now that it is my duty is to maintain my health, and become as consistent as I can. I began to function much better at the end of 2014. I have been working on reducing my CFS symptoms by taking a lot of supplements, participating in counselling, pacing myself, managing my eating habits, and by taking prescribed medication for over 5 years. Recently, I have been able to manage my health well, so I decided to take my art public.
How does CFS affect your artistic practice?
My art is a reflection of my health and thoughts. I use almost all of my energy for painting, and sometimes I feel that it is ridiculous to put so many minute details into one piece. It takes a lot of focus, but I don't want to give up on what I want to express just because of CFS.
When people tell me that my paintings are beautiful, I am so glad to hear it because they are appreciating my aesthetic and my message. When someone is very sick and is really suffering, they might not care about the content of a painting. But paintings have a soothing effect that aid in recovery, and continually ease the pain. I hung my paintings on my walls at home, and it seems to be working for me.
In my works I try not to express beauty alone. If you look at some of my paintings very carefully, some have an underlying sadness, and portray a dark theme. When you dive into a piece that seemingly portrays a strong and confident woman, you may sense that she is fighting hard against unfortunate circumstances—a struggle I know all too well.
On average, how long does it take for you to complete a piece?
It depends on the size and how much detail I add. A small format painting takes about 20 hours. Medium paintings take about 30 or more hours.
How has your time living in different places informed your work?
Since I left Japan, I felt a special need to stay connected with Japanese culture. I am more into Japanese art than I ever was when I lived there. The artists I love from Japan tend to be more on the industrial side. Their art always finds a way to connect design, dynamics and drama with people. I have been studying their work and learning how to balance art and design.
The purpose of design is to act as an interface that allows the viewer to interact more with the object. The designer must take the user into account when creating a piece. But in my art, I try to tame emotions that are hard to convey, and endeavor to express them more clearly. To me, art is a personal thing that brings your emotions and passion to the surface.
I am inspired by old era artists such as Mucha, Klimt, Renoir and Japanese designers Oogata Kourin and Kamisaka Sekka. I love Japanese art styles like Yamato-e and Ukiyo-e as well.
Each place has its own character. You feel a difference whenever you go to another country, or even a different state or prefecture. Europe and Japan has a definite influence on my style of painting. Each area has its own unique style of art which makes me feel like there is no limitation on how I can express myself through art.
What are some of your favourite materials to work with? Are there any other mediums that you would like to try?
I like to work with watercolor, acrylic ink and liquid medium on watercolor paper or canvas. As long as a medium can connect an image from my head with an image on a surface, I will try to use it. I’ve even tried using scrapbooking materials just to see what kinds of effects I can achieve.
I also do a fair bit of paper crafts such as Origami. It’s artistic and helps me calm down. Taking your focus away from just painting is sometimes very important to get your creative juices flowing. When doing paper crafts, I know exactly what the piece will look like before I even start, which is very reassuring. Taking my mind off of painting has a positive effect on my painting process. I put so many details into my paintings that sometimes I get confused about what I should do or where I should go next; whereas origami is about following specific instructions step by step to reach a goal.
I would love to try 3D printing. I own one but I have yet to try it, and it’s been a year.
Are there any contemporary artists whose work you have been enjoying recently?
I really enjoy the works of Dale Chihuly. I recently went to the Chihuly Gardens in Seattle, which was amazing. I also like the wire art of Manabu Masuda. When it comes to artists that work in a similar medium, I am a big fan of the watercolor art of Yuko Nagayama and the Japanese art of Akira Yamaguchi. Locally, I enjoy the works of artists Marney–Rose Edge and Alexine Law.
Do you have any favourite websites, publications, or galleries (art-related or not)?
When it comes to the web and apps, I enjoy using Instagram. For books, I would recommend “The Path of Least Resistance” by Robert Fritz. I'm a big fan of the North Vancouver Community Arts Council’s CityScape Community Art Space, Gallery Gachet and Roam Gallery, all of which are fantastic at supporting local artists.
What is your advice for people who are thinking of pursuing a career in art?
My early life was really tough. Because of my health condition, I was not able to finish school. But I never gave up on learning art and finding a way that I could embrace my strength. It doesn’t matter who you are if you have the will to learn, there is a door. I suggest raising your antenna to pick up on any opportunities. If you don’t have enough confidence, please don’t let yourself down, and get some help from someone else to empower you.
For artists, doing a quick sketch once a day will help sharpen up your skill. Even doing a small daily exercise will help in the long run. If you feel tired of creating something in your medium, simply take a break from it for a little while and experiment in the field of creation. This will help boost your creativity. Thinking about your life, in the big picture, a small break is nothing to be afraid of.
The most important thing is for you to find your rhythm. It doesn’t have to be everyday, as long as you feel like you’re making progress, you will feel satisfied. I am still getting set up as an artist, so this advice is something I constantly repeat to myself. I feel like I take a little step forward every day, and that leads me to my next stage.
Yuki Goodman's passion and drive have helped her overcome many obstacles, and she continues to inspire others with her dedication to art.
Yuki will be participating in Lab Art Show VII,
where you can view her incredibly detailed paintings.
More of Yuki's work can be viewed on her website: yukigoodman.com