“When I draw, I always try to remember the sense of innocence that children’s drawings have” – In conversation with Yujiro Koyama

Tokyo-based artist, Yujiro Koyama’s artwork is versatile, colourful and to put simply: cool. KALTBLUT caught up with Yujiro to talk about his style, his “Jonah Hillows” and why he’d like to keep his work playful.

KALTBLUT: Your work is a mixture/ combination of several different styles. If you had to, how would you “label” your art?

Yujiro: If I had to give a name and label to my art, it would be “HEPPOKO ART”. “HEPPOKO” means something like “unskilful” in Japanese. It’s cool to be skilful but I’ve always been attracted to the kind of art that is unskilfully done but is driven by fun and initial impulse. And it is also important to be charming. I label my art “HEPPOKO” because I wanted to express those feelings in my art.

“Red Blue Yellow” Freestyle Drawing; Credits: Yujiro Koyama
“This is a collage work.”

I also think my art can be divided into three categories:

The first is “MANGA”: I draw based on my imagination of the characters and the story, so the pictures I create are based on my research and materials beforehand.

The second is “CLIENT WORK”: mainly illustrations, which I draw to match the client’s image and intentions as much as possible.

The third is “FREESTYLE DRAWING”: I draw what I am influenced by at the time or what I want to draw, and post it on SNS.

The means of drawing are not separate for each of these three categories, but I change them every time according to the theme and atmosphere of each. 

For example, if I decide that it is better to draw with only paper and pen, I will complete the work with only those, and if it seems better to complete the work with only iPad, I will complete it with only digital.

“VARIETY” Freestyle Drawing; Credits: Yujiro Koyama
There was a day when Japan’s most famous comedy show brought all the Japanese comedy superstars together. It was like the Avengers. I drew a picture of the excitement of that moment.

KALTBLUT: Do you prefer sketching digitally or analogue? And how did you start out?

Yujiro: I definitely prefer to draw in analogue.

But I’ve recently started drawing digitally as well, and I think the best way is a mix of both. I’ve been drawing a lot since I was a kid, but as soon as I graduated from college, I started working as a manga artist, and that’s when I really started drawing with a mix of both.

KALTBLUT: You’re based in Tokyo. How big of an influence does the city have an influence on your work?

Yujiro: I was born and raised in Tokyo, so what I’ve seen and felt living in the city has 100% influenced my work, including my love and frustrations for the city of Tokyo.

sunsetFreestyle Drawing; Credits: Yujiro Koyama

KALTBLUT: Who and what are your main inspirations?

Yujiro: My inspiration comes from dramas and comedy shows on Japanese TV, music, sports, movies, foods, and cultures from around the world that I have watched since I was a child. I guess you could say it’s pop culture in general.

KALTBLUT: Do you usually listen to music while working? If yes, what music are you (currently) listening to?

Yujiro: Yes. The songs I was listening to today were:

“CYBORG” Freestyle Drawing; Credits: Yujiro Koyama

KALTBLUT: You’re selling your work printed on clothing items in your shop. When and how did that come about and why did you choose clothing/ accessory as the best canvas?

Yujiro: It all started when a friend asked me for stickers and T-shirts of my drawings.

Children’s drawings are technically inferior when viewed by adults, but each drawing has its own unique character and energy that cannot be imitated.

KALTBLUT: What message are you trying to bring across with your work? What would you like people to think about/ feel when they look at your art?

Yujiro: When I draw, I always try to remember the sense of innocence that children’s drawings have.

Children’s drawings are technically inferior when viewed by adults, but each drawing has its own unique character and energy that cannot be imitated.

I would like to continue to draw such childlike pictures, and I would be happy if those who see my works would have such impressions.

“Little Trip To New York”(MANGA); Credits: Yujiro Koyama
I made a MANGA about my first trip to New York with a friend.

KALTBLUT: If you could collaborate with anyone on the planet – dead or alive – who would it be?

Yujiro: Walt Disney, Stan Lee and George Lucas.

KALTBLUT: You’ve recently shared a Jonah Hill pillow on your Instagram, which is super cool! How did that come about?

Yujiro: Thank you! I was skating with my friend Shozo Ideta (graphic designer), and we were talking about how great Jonah Hill used to be, and today he is still great. So we decided to make pillows with his face and give them as a gift to our friends. That’s how we came up with the idea.

We both like to make stickers and shirts, so it was a fun project.

I’m still amazed that I didn’t expect him to know about it through Instagram at first. Even more surprisingly, he posted it on his Instagram and named it “Jonah Hillows”.

“Jonah Hillows”; Credits: Yujiro Koyama & Shozo Ideta
Pillow with Jonah Hill’s face. A collaboration with my friend Shozo.

Cover photo “Enthusiastic Bath” by Yujiro Koyama

Instagram @yujirororo
Twitter @Yujirororo

Interview by Johanna Urbancik