Both Haruka and Gabe are artists who recently published graphic novel, “Bokura ” together. Gabe wrote story and draw illustration, and Haruka colored on it. This couple used to live in Hong Kong and now resides in Portland, Oregon with two little boys. Haruka is painter and performer, Gabe is artist and writer.
Where did you grow up and how did it shape who you are today?
Haruka: I grew up across 5 different continents. I was born in Japan, then our family moved to Spain. Shortly after we moved back to Japan, then when I was two, we moved to Brazil and spent the next 4 years there. At the age of 6, we moved back to Japan until I was 15. When I was 15, we moved to Mexico for two and half years, and I finished my last two years of high school in Brazil. It was always because of my dad’s work, and it was not an option for us to live separately. It’s such a surreal childhood when I think of it now. I am sure that is why I am so easily adjustable to any environment. My passion for wanting to visit more places and to get to know more cultures came naturally. I am always up for a new change whether it is small or big thing because regardless there is always something new to learn. Therefore, I enjoy living a simple life with simple possessions. As long as I am together with my family, I can go and live anywhere and I can call that my home. Gabe:
I grew up in the Midwest of America. I lived in a small town, and my family and neighbors instilled a lot of good qualities in me. I think the ideas of “being nice” and “working hard” were ideals I always knew I had to strive for.
What kind of work do you do?
Haruka: My work varies depending on the nature of the project. Painting, drawing, designing, dancing, creating a performance etc. I always ask myself… What is the best way to communicate this idea? What does this space or people need? Why did this work find me? And I respond to these questions the best way I know how. I have been painting murals a lot recently but that’s because the opportunity came my way. It is my new passion, and I am enjoying it a lot. For my last project, together with a passionate childhood educator, I designed a children’s discovery space in Hong Kong. Currently I am working on a mural for the Juvenile Detention Center in Seattle. This project is full of more new learning experiences. I take commission work that moves my heart by hearing their stories. Gabe:
I’m primarily a cartoonist. I love drawing comic books and creating characters and worlds with other writers and artists. My work with an international school in Hong Kong expanded my art worlds, and I continue to create large scale sculptures and paintings. Since moving to Portland four years ago, I’ve done a lot of commercial illustration and graphic design work as well. Also, don’t forget to check out our latest book “Bokura” at Haruka and I collaborated on making this graphic novel last year. It is our original adventure story, inspired by Oregon sceneries. It won a grant from Portland Regional Arts and Culture Council.
Why did you decide to go art school?
Haruka: I wanted to study what I enjoy doing the most and what others saw as my talent. I went to Savannah College of Art and Design. It was not an easy ride though. At one point I hated painting. My painting was laughed at by my class once because my teacher said, “Your painting is nice and sweet on top of your grandma’s fire place.” As if that is a bad thing. It really scared me at that time. Looking back at it now, I learned a lot from what was said. After my graduation, I packed up my life and went for an audition for a Japanese Opera Company in New York. I got in! I then took some evening classes at Stella Adler Studio of Acting. There, I truly learned a lot about myself, and what I care about and love. I got engaged with my husband who I met at art school, so my decision was a good one. J Gabe:
What drove me to art school was to seek professional help and advice. I wanted to learn from the best artists I could. I wanted to know art history. I wanted to be exposed to a diversity of artists and art forms. I wanted to go somewhere that would force me to grow and evolve. After all, one can only teach themselves so much on their lonesome. Going to art school was one of the best decisions in my life. It taught me how to become a life-long learner. Plus I met my wife there! She also teaches me how to be a good learner.
What do you like the most about being an artist?
Haruka: For good or bad, I am living my life to the fullest at all times. An artist’s work does not end at the office or where the money ends. I do what I care about deeply. Also, this job leads me to meet a lot of passionate people along the way. Ok, I could not choose one thing… I like many things about being an artist. Gabe:
I think it’s a way of seeing. Being an artist helps one to become a keen observer. I feel like a fisherman sometimes, my net is always out, always looking for ideas, always looking for inspiration. I love to imagine that work I create will affect someone in some profound way one day. Or even if it makes someone laugh, or just smile. I think art is so important, and the journeys we can go on through art are essential to living a meaningful life. I love to be part of that process.
Who is your favorite artist?
Haruka: At this moment, I am interested in those Japanese artists from the Edo period. Their use of composition and negative space is breathtaking. They are from the 19th Century, yet their design and choices feel very modern. My favorite artist changes from time to time. There are too many great ones! Gabe:
I have so many favorite artists. I think Marcel Duchamp is near the top. He was the first person I remember coming across in art school who really questioned the idea of “What is art?” He also asked, “What is an artist?” I think most of my favorite artists play with these ideas in some way. Experimental and edgy work really grabs me. Work that has a unique voice will always call to me. I think the best drawing is almost like hand writing. By drinking in an artists’ lines we communicate with the artist in a very personal way.
What do you like to do for recreation?
Haruka: I like to go hiking and going on road trips with my family. Seeing nature keeps me humble and at peace.
I love hiking with my family. I also enjoy swimming, and running. I’m a huge film fanatic and music of all kinds interests me. I’m an obsessive reader, and I’m always juggling at least three books at any given time.
What is your favorite season?
Haruka: My favorite season is the beginning of every season. I like the transformation of nature and weather, the sense of anticipation that something new and fresh is about to happen.
What is your favorite cultural festival in Japan?
New Year. It’s a special time for family gatherings, and eating a lot of food.
How many countries have you visited and which one did you enjoy the most?
I have no idea how many…. more than 15…. And who know however many before I have memories of them. I enjoyed different places for different reasons, so it’s hard to pick one. I did enjoy living in Hong Kong for seven years before we moved to Portland. The city is full of layers… layers of food, culture, history, unique landscapes, etc. I always discover somewhere new to visit and new things to do there. Gabe:
Spring or fall are my favorite seasons. The transition is always more interesting than the actual thing.
What countries do you like to visit next?
My husband and I often talk about India. We have a great friend who has his family there, and also both my husband and I love Indian food. I love their food, colors, designs, I would like to find out more.
What is your favorite cultural festival of Japan?
Gabe: The New Year’s festival is the most fun and interesting.
How many countries have you visited and which one do you enjoy the most?
I have visited so many countries, and I hope to visit more. It is impossible to say which one I enjoyed the most. I do have to mention that Munich, Germany was a surprise. Surprising in the sense that I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. The people were extremely friendly, the city was very bright and clean and lively, and of course the beer was amazing. And I will just add, how can you not be in love with Japan once you visit it?
What country to visit next?
I cheated and saw my wife’s answer, but I absolutely agree: India. We have some great friends from there and hope they will show us around one day.
What does "live your color" mean to you?
Live your color means embracing who you are and being honest with what makes you happy. Since I moved so many times growing up, I instinctually tried to adjust to a new place and I tried to “fit in” so that I could make more friends. Therefore, sometimes I felt that I am not being myself and “acting” like a person who I wanted to be. I am not sure since when, but I have grown to love being different. I do not have to do what others are doing. I do not have to compare myself with what is accepted or liked by the majority. I simply learn to choose what I like and being honest with what makes my heart beats. I hope to continue changing my color by following my heart. Gabe:
Live Your Color. Be yourself. Do not pretend to be something you are not. Be and bring your own unique style to the world. Live what you believe.
Please enjoy Haruka and Gabe’s live your color including featuring our Rain Boots Socks , Ninja Socks Basic Solid Tabi Socks , Tabbisocks Dots in Veil Sheer Socks, My Name Socks and Ninja Socks Hokusai Tabi Socks .
For more info about this couple, please check out:
All images by Mamiko of Kumasaka Photography, follow her on instagram
Shop Haruka and Gabe’s look at NARASOCKS.com!