Starting this new year with our second journal conversation with the incredibly talented and profound artist, poet and spiritual thinker Satsuki Shibuya. It is a big statement but I believe a fair one to say that, without my discovery of Satsuki's work I am not sure there would have been an Iya Gallery...
You see watercolour wasn't my first choice of medium, over twenty years ago I started my creative journey with oil paint, it couldn't be more different yet part of the process was very much the same: expressing my emotions and trying to find inner peace in my mind and myself. It was very heavy and dark and instead of lifting me up, it was drowning me even more, so I stopped.
I hadn't picked up a brush for over a decade when I discovered Satsuki's powerful work and everything changed! I felt moved by her incredible art and inspired by her soulful words and I had this urge inside me to create again. Yet for months, I was too scared to do anything about it not knowing where to start, not being able to let go of all these fears, until one day everything felt aligned... I remember it very clearly, it was early morning, I couldn't sleep anymore, I got up and thought "I need to do this, like now!" I picked up the brush once more and ended up painting for hours, when I finally lifted my head up from my table, a dozen of pieces were scattered around me and I felt so light and at peace for the very first time in a very long time.
So I am extremely honoured and humbled to share with you all a bit more about the wonderful human and artist Satsuki is:
Can you share with us about your journey to becoming a full-time artist and doing work that is aligned with who you are?
It was a road filled with many detours and an on-going journey, trying to find alignment as life unfolds.
My creative explorations began with music at the age of 3, learning piano, which extended into violin and cello, ultimately landing me in music school at the University of Southern California. During my studies, I began interning at Capitol Records and upon graduating, was offered a position, while pursuing a career as a singer-songwriter. Since young and even while at USC, I had an affinity for visual arts and contemplated transferring schools, but persuaded by my parents, continued down the path of music.
While at work, I would visit the art department, watching illustrators create record covers and basked in their talent. It was pure heaven seeing ideas come to life! With the advice of my boss to pursue what I truly love, I left my job in preparation for re-entry into student life, creating a portfolio for art school admission. I was 25 at the time. Fast forward 4 years, I was accepted into Otis College of Art and Design, explored digital media, fine arts, and ultimately found my place in Communications Arts, Graphic Design
Before getting to this point, I had explored various career options, trying to figure out what aligned: piano teacher, singer-songwriter, bank teller, acting, music business, music composition, music engineering, piano performance, fashion design, interior design, motion graphics, ceramics, fine artist, and upon graduating art school, decided to work for a year to build up reserves before opening my own design studio. After 6 months of opening my studio doors, I realized it was not quite for me and moved into product design, creating home goods with my own textile designs.
Simultaneously, I began Creative Consulting, was an early influencer when social media was just starting, and although quite busy, very unhappy. It felt as though I was onboard a runaway train and ultimately, crashed, my body shutting down and things coming to a halt.
For 3 years, I was unable to work and out of those years, 2 were spent exploring the depths of my inner world, trying to reconnect back to my truth. During this time, with the help of a psychologist who suggested I start reading as a way of finding my inner self once again, it opened up a completely new world of knowledge and spiritual practices that helped explain what I had been sensing and experiencing since young. Through this journey, I built a spiritual practice consisting of yoga, meditation, journaling and reading, which still is the cornerstone of my spiritual well being. As I began to connect back to the parts of myself that were hidden away in order to function “normally” in this world, messages started coming through, one of which was to paint.
Without any background knowledge or education, I hesitated for 6 months, until finally deciding to give it a try. The connection was not immediate and after trying different mediums, even watercolor, something was still off. One morning I woke up and thought, “I wonder what it would look like if I were to paint what I felt?” Upon entering the studio, I picked up my paintbrush and without any thought, allowed whatever to come through appear. I still remember it distinctly — it was as if something took over and I was just a spectator watching the painting unfold. When I was finished, I knew it was exactly what I had been wanting to paint. This was the beginning of my art journey and although it continues to evolve, is still the foundation of my practice.
Where do you get inspiration from?
It comes from the everyday moments, capturing things that may not always be seen with the naked eye. Nuances in smell, the way the sunlight colors differently in winter, the quiet loudness in the night. I am drawn to the shifts that happen when I pause.
Do you approach each piece with a consistent structure? Or do you let yourself be open and free to what is to come?
I am in the process of building a more structured, process-driven approach as it feels my work is moving in a new direction, but up until this point, yes, it has been open and free, allowing whatever to come through and following its guidance. What will never change is following my intuition and guidance from the Universe.
What do you do on days when you are not feeling motivated to create?
I’ve tried being in the studio, pushing through such feelings and have done the complete opposite where I do nothing. In my case, both help, but is dependent on what else is happening in my life and at what point I am in my creativity. If there is fuel in my creative tank, I will be able to push through and have something come out that is interesting, but if empty inside, then no amount of pushing helps. In these situations, I will take some time away to do other things: rest, align spiritually, mentally, physically and/or emotionally, and fill my internal tank. When timing aligns and feel ready, I begin once again.
Do you have any wellbeing daily routines that creates the perfect mindset to creativity?
To follow my inner happiness and ask myself: “Am I doing work that makes me feel excited?” And continue to align with this inner compass. I also am mindful of dumping out other thoughts whether in a journal or in other ways depending on what is in need of care before entering into the studio. For myself, it usually is some form of spiritual practice that helps to keep me in balance and ready to create.
How do you hope your work makes people feel or think?
It has been the same since day 1 — to help awaken the hearts of others to their truth and being a catalyst for peace, love and harmony.
Photos: Portrait and diffuser by Carmen Chan.