The latest in our series of creative profiles focusses on illustrator Harumi Hironaka.
We talk mean people on the internet, challenging society and Bjork.
Illustration by Harumi Hironaka
Interview by Emily Beard
Hi Harumi! Tell us a little about yourself for those who are unfamiliar.
I’m a Peruvian-Japanese painter and illustrator currently living in Sao Paulo. I lived my teenage years in Japan where I was influenced by anime and manga. Actually, I wanted to become a manga artist but I ended up studying languages. Then I became a professional translator and interpreter and started my career working as a freelance. After a year or so, I realised I didn’t really enjoy my job, so I started painting.
How did you first get into illustration? Were you always a creative person?
I’ve always loved drawing since I was very little. My parents stopped giving me toys because they soon realised I didn’t like playing with them or with other kids. I was always drawing or trying to read the newspaper. Despite that, they never encouraged me to pursue art as a career. I got into illustration not so long ago as a means of therapy, to help me deal with my emotions and crisis. I translate my anger, my pain, my dissatisfaction and my fantasies into colour.
Does living in São Paulo have an effect on your work?
Yes. I’ve been living here for almost two years and I don’t know anyone, I don’t go out. The city is huge and it scares me… I’m like a hermit. So I have plenty of time to draw and paint. I miss my friends and family though 🙁 But I’m making the most of this me-time. It’s kind of addictive.
Where do you like to find inspiration for your drawings?
Anything, really. A movie frame, a dream, a memory, a quote, a song… and there’s the internet, of course.
There is also a strong theme of sexuality within your work, could you tell us a little about why you chose to explore that?
¨My girls’¨ sexuality is not passive, nor quiet or shameful. It is a means of self-discovery and liberation. Why I choose to explore that? The same reason I choose to portrait angry, sad, dissatisfied, manic women. Society wants us unthreatening, positive and communal and I feel like challenging those imposed patterns.
How much influence does online culture have on your work?
The Internet is my portal to the public. If I had to wait around to be invited to a gallery show I’d probably have to stop doing what I do and go out and find myself another job. There’s also the kind comments and messages I get everyday from followers which motivate me to keep going. I know people can be very mean online, for some reason they get meaner and meaner; but, fortunately, I haven’t had to deal with that. Also, my online store is going strong. It’s something I would have never expected. And it’s great.
Besides yourself, who’s work do you enjoy/find inspiring?
There are so many artists I love (so, so many) and the list keeps growing. Besides, I enjoy many different forms of art and styles. There’s beauty everywhere. I was very into surrealism at first. I loved Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, Leonor Fini, etc. But right now I’m really into James Jeans’ work; also, Audrey Kawasaki, Casey Weldon, Joao Ruas, Viveros, Hayao Miyasaki, etc. (the list would go on and on).
What is your favourite song lyric?
Bjork’s Hyperballad (for nostalgic reasons).
What is your favourite emotion?
I like the feeling I get after I’ve finished a ¨good¨ piece and also when I’m drunk… it gives me this weird (false) sense of happiness and purpose.
Do you have a muse you refer to for inspiration?
There are so many muses. But to name a few: Bjork, Fiona Apple, Annais Nin, Vivienne Westwood, Amy Winehouse, Alejandra Pizarnik, Blanca Varela, Clarice Lispector, and so on.
If you could be anyone for a day, who would you be?
Even though I sometimes can’t stand myself, I can’t imagine being someone else.
And finally do you have any advice/mantra you live by?
Enjoy what you do.