Artist Profile: Araki Koman - London
Hi Araki! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am Araki Koman, a Designer & Illustrator from Paris, currently working from my home studio in Hackney (East London). I do commissions for private clients as well as editorial, fashion, and branding illustration for small businesses. I also recently launched my own line of illustrated goods (stationery, art prints…) and will start blogging soon. Everything can be find on my website!
How did you begin illustration and graphic design?
From my early childhood, I developed a strong interest for drawing and the world’s cultures and diversity. The need to travel was so strong that I ended up choosing to pursue my graduate studies in an international Business School for the prestige that it has in France and also for the safe job opportunities it would offer me. It’s only after I graduated from my Masters degree in Marketing and got a job at Microsoft France that I realized I wasn’t happy.
I needed to express myself creatively, so few months later, I was moving to London to start a year course in Graphic Design. Since my graduation in 2012, I have had the opportunity to explore different aspects of my creativity: from graphic design in a small London studio, I started selling vintage & second hand clothes in East London, then ended up as a textile design intern for an Icelandic label in Reykjavik, got admitted in a fashion design school in Denmark to finally come back to Paris to focus on OUM x YUKI, an anthropological project in which I interviewed people with multicultural identities in their space for about a year while drawing occasionally on the side.
After a burn out, I decided to focus on illustration. Drawing is what I’ve been doing naturally for the longest.
You got your degree in marketing and worked a corporate job; what was it that made you take the leap to pursue your creative passions as a career? Was there anything you wish you knew beforehand?
Coming from an immigrant and working class background it felt completely unrealistic to pursue art after high school, especially in France. Moreover, I didn’t have anyone around me doing a creative job as a career. I thought people like me were meant to do it as a hobby and only the elite could have thriving careers as creatives. Luckily, traveling broadened my perspective; it took couple of trips to New York, where I was dating a Graphic Designer who owned his own flat in Brooklyn, to help me realize that it was completely possible to make a decent living with creative skills. It changed my life!
You grew up in Paris, but you've lived in so many places! Could you walk us through a timeline of your travels and different homes?
Sure! As I was saying earlier, discovering the world and moving abroad have been in my mind since a young age. Growing up, I managed to find a way to combine my studies and then work with traveling.
2006 : At 19, I studied 3 months in Bristol (UK) the first year of my Business School. It was my first time living abroad.
2007 : For the second year of my Business School I specialized in Chinese Business studies and moved to Beijing (China) for 6 months as part of an exchange program.
2009 : I did my Marketing Master’s degree graduate internship in Montreal (Canada). I was there for 8 months and then finished my North American journey with a month stay in New York (USA).
2011 : After meeting so many creatives in Montreal and New York, I decided to move to London (UK) to study Graphic Design for a year and got a job as a Graphic Designer right after graduating. I stayed in London for 2 years.
2013 : Few days before leaving London, I met an Icelandic guy who became my (ex) boyfriend. I moved to Reykjavik (Iceland) a few months later for 6 months, where I interned in a Fashion Design studio for 3 months.
2014 : While working for the studio in Iceland, I felt the need to explore fashion further and applied for a Fashion Design program in Denmark. I got admitted and moved there in September 2014. I was supposed to stay 3 years but ended up coming back to France after 3 months.
2016 : After almost two years in France, I felt the urge to move again. However, this time I wanted to move to a country for which I was passionate about, to keep me inspired long enough to settle down and become my home. My life long love for Japan, led me to Tokyo (Japan) where I spent 3 months assessing the feasability of my project.
2017 : I am now currently based in London, which is more comfortable and flexible than being in Paris while slowly, but surely preparing for my move to Japan in 2018.
I have also travelled to Guinea, Holland, Portugal, Spain, USA, Puerto Rico, Morocco, Belgium, and Germany.
Can you go a bit into your design process?
Whether for personal projects or commissions, I like diving deep into the topic through collecting and watching as much visuals and stories as possible to inspire me. It usually helps me create spontaneously without creating roughs beforehand. Because of the minimalist nature of my B&W work, I don’t use sketches but refine the illustration until the client and I are happy. When I use colours, the process is the same but I only add colours with Photoshop at the very end using colours palettes I save in my Pinterest account.
How has your drawing style evolved over the years?
Younger, I had no particular style. I used all sorts of mediums and colours. Between 15 and 25, I stopped making art altogether and focused on traveling and my business studies. When I started creating again, the first thing that came to me was meditative drawing. I made my first series of abstract characters and used a lot of folk art and symbols. When I felt a bit more confident, I started making a bit more realistic characters still using the same pen and colour and I gradually added more and more details to each of them, slowly but surely over the past years.
Today, my style is very much rooted in minimalism and wabi sabi philosophy with constant multicultural touches. My base is B&W with fine lines, organic shapes and patterns and I recently started adding more earthy and pastel colours as well as my imperfect handwriting (laughs).
You capture women so beautifully; have they always been a prominent focus in your designs?
Thank you! Yes, I would even say that drawing women is therapeutic. How they dress, move and express themselves no matter the cultures and era is so inspiring to me. Growing up I had a poor level of self-love and confidence and only embraced my feminine energy recently. The women I draw are my muses. They embody what I aspire to be and the qualities I’d like to develop (confidence, softness…)
Why do you think it’s important to shop small and support local makers?
I think it’s a good way to support other free spirited souls who took the leap to create their own business and live truthfully. It’s encouraging for them but also gives hope to all those around who are willing to fulfill their dream.
Was there any particular person who helped shape your career in formative way?
Not one person in particular but the sum of all the inspiring videos, podcasts and blogs I’ve been consuming for the past 7 years or so : The Good Life Project by Jonathan Fields, Creative Pep Talk by Andy J. Miller, Fly Girls by Andrea Pippins, Marie TV by Marie Forleo, so many TED Talks, books and beautiful encounters.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
It definitely makes my life much more meaningful! I met so many great people thanks to my career. I love that an illustration, whether on a screen, paper or textile can create an immediate connection with other beautiful humans from all over the world. I love helping them decorate their space, adding to their style or bringing a unique touch to their business. At the same time, I find it very difficult to be creative when I am not in tune with myself so self-care practices are now a must, which I think isn’t too bad.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you have faced in regards to your work?
FOMO, the fear of missing out. It’s definitely my biggest struggle as it gives me doubts. I have questioned my style, the topics I cover, my business model and so much more because of that. It’s hard to focus on specific goals and be confident as a creative, hence the importance of having a network of creative friends to connect with and help staying motivated.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
I feel like when women are honest and compassionate with each other, it transcends everything. Women to women compliments, encouragements, confessions and advice are so helpful and necessary because they also deeply inspire as we relate a lot with each other. The same coming from a man wouldn’t have the same impact as our experiences are different and there’s often an underlying desire to get validated by them, which changes everything.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
Björk, Solange, Yayoi Kusama, Viviane Sassen, Oumou Sangaré, Isabel Marant, and many more I am following on Instagram : Andrea Pippins, Alex Elle, Harriet Lee Merrion, Johanna Tagada, Manjit Thapp, Lea Maupetit, Kenesha Sneed, Inès Longevial…
What are you looking forward to in the coming months?
Experimenting with new techniques to develop my product selection and grow my brand and of course, moving to Japan!
How do you manage a work/life balance?
I am still struggling with it. I feel like I cannot stop myself from working because what I do is very much linked to my lifestyle and I mostly draw what inspires me. I am trying to find balance though, but it’s a work in process…
What are some of your favorite places in London?
Hackney and most specifically the London Fields area where I live. It has a nice creative and community vibe with lots of nicely curated local shops, coffee shops, restaurants and markets. I love Momosan Shop, Tiosk, Café Oto, all the markets in the area (Broadway Market, Netil Market, Columbia Flower Market…). I also love spending time at the Tate Modern, the Barbican conservatory and in the cute Kyoto Garden when I am in the West to soothe my Japan nostalgia.