“actually, i have colourful personality”

colour pencils on paper, 11 x 14″, 2011.

drawn at the kitchen table while koyuki kept coming back to me with a piece of mini orange to peel it for her even though she didn’t eat it.  i guess she just wanted to see inside or see me peel it.  that’s okay with me.  her curiosity inspires me.

this drawings will be for sale at Winter Wonder Handmade Market (flock and gather event) next weekend.  if you’re around in saskatoon, come check it out.  there will be tons of talented artists and crafters, who will be selling amazing works.

verb newspaper interview :: Yuka’s indoor playground

verb review

a few days after i arrived in japan, i was contacted by a writer, jenn sharp from verb newspaper in saskatoon.  she wanted to interview me to write about my solo show, ‘indoor playground’  at the stall gallery.

i had only one day to answer — she emailed me question on may 5th –> i returned my anwers on may 6th.  the paper was published on may 8th!  she only had one day to summarize my answer and write about the show…  it’s amazing how quickly things happen in the newspaper world.

i like the way she incorporated my answers in her article, especially the inclusion of my quote, ‘i never let myself worry about what other people will think‘.  it’s my mantra.  this mantra is amazing.  repeat it several times and bam!  you no longer worry about what other people think.  it is more effective if you shout this mantra as you run down the shore at dusk.

you can read the paper on their website www.verbnews.com .  search for issue 38, local arts page 6.

Yuka Yamaguchi’s Indoor Playgound

Jenn Sharp

Saskatoon , SK — Yuka Yamaguchi’s artwork is cute, colourful and often startling. In Taste of Mama a cute child peels what appears to be an apple but is actually a female breast, nipple intact. Others feature children missing limbs or scissors cutting a frog, who sits on a crumpled piece of paper in a twist on the classic game.

Yamaguchi hails from Kobe, Japan but now resides in Saskatoon. A self-taught, full-time artist since 2006, her show Indoor Playground is on display at the new Stall Gallery in The Farmer’s Market Square until May 24th. A self professed “child at heart”, she hopes people “will have fun looking at the drawings [and] find the show interesting and worth a look without giving a second thought to what it means.

The most powerful part of the exhibit is a wall dedicated to nursing and oppai (breasts in Japanese). The drawings express many of the emotions she felt when nursing her first child. “My drawings mostly end up as unintentional self-portraits…  but that’s often an accident. I don’t intend my drawings to be an autobiography, ” Yamaguchi told Verb. Yamaguchi says pregnancy and motherhood changed her artwork as she started drawing in vivid colours and noticed images of her baby appearing in her work.

Yamaguchi explains that she does not believe in the idea of influence: “Some people  from Canada think my weird ideas must be from Japanese culture but most Japanese people think my art is weird too…my art comes out of me.” Endearingly honest, she says “I never let myself worry about what other people will think about my drawing. What I’m doing is not based on other people’s ideas… I’m drawing for myself.” Each creation in the 20 piece collection combines elements of fun and peculiarity. There is even a space set aside for drawing in case you feel inspired. She also shows her art online, giving people freedom in viewing and making it a “part of their everyday life.”

and here are the interview questions in full:

Verb newspaper interview May 6, 2009

1. How long have you been creating artwork? How has your style changed and evolved over the years?

I’ve been drawing to amuse myself for years but only full-time since 2006.  In 2004 I showed some work at a women’s art festival in Kingston, Ontario and got a really nice response.  There were photos I’d taken of plastic doctor and nurse dolls I found at the dollar store, homemade toys for adult-children, and some simple drawings I did in markers.

I was drawing off and on for the next couple years but not taking it seriously.  I moved to Saskatoon and started showing my artwork on Flickr and on my blog, plastiquemonkey.com.  I was offered a show of drawings at Royal Red gallery (in the Phonographique music shop).  I realized I didn’t have much to show so I did most of the drawings for that show in 2 weeks.  Then AKA Gallery invited me to participate in a book fair.  I accepted but then realized I didn’t have a book to show.  So I made up a children’s story about an amigurumi (knit) dog called Spencer The Ennui Dog and took photos of him and my other characters around my apartment and around the city.  People thought the book was funny so I ended up making postcards of it.

Since 2006 I’ve been drawing whenever I have enough time.  I draw with color pencils on paper.  My style has changed as I have learned new techniques for combining colors and shading.  But the ideas in my drawings haven’t changed too much over this time.  Images come to me from somewhere and I start drawing. Sometimes the drawing changes halfway through and I surprise myself.  I don’t sketch or erase or re-draw anything.  I get really excited and can’t stop myself from drawing whatever image has popped up in my mind.

2. Have you noticed your artistic style adapting to changes in your personal life? Has the birth of your son and having him in your life influenced your creativity?

Before I got pregnant I used pastel colors most of the time.  When I got pregnant, even before I found out, I started drawing in vivid colors, too.  My drawings mostly end up as unintentional self-portraits, one way or another.   Looking back I can see things have been happening to my body in pregnancy and with breastfeeding and I can find my baby appearing.  But that’s often an accident — I don’t intend my drawings to be an autobiography or anything.

Having my son has changed the way I work.  I draw at home and Elijah is home with me.  I used to draw whenever I felt like it and would keep drawing until the piece was finished.  I would stay up all night, draw for 14 hours almost non-stop, that kind of thing.  Now I can only draw when Elijah is sleeping, and that only lasts for a few hours, at best.  I have to motivate myself to draw when I have time, even if I’m tired or don’t feel like it.  That’s been a big change, and I’m only just getting used to it now.

3. Do you think your life imitates your art or your art expresses your own life?

I’m not sure.  Both my life and my art depend on me.  There’s a loop between them, but it’s twisted.  I don’t know which one comes first.

4. I enjoyed the description of your artwork as “useless toys and art for adult children”. Do you consider yourself an adult child?

I’m a child at heart.  That’s one of my favorite things about motherhood, I get to play with my son and share his mentality sometimes.

5. How often do you visit Japan and what influences from that culture play a part in your artwork?

I was born and raised in Japan and my parents still live there.  Some people from Canada think my weird ideas must be from Japanese culture but most Japanese people think my art is weird, too.   I don’t like the idea of influence: I never went to art school, I don’t know much about art history, I rarely go to art galleries, and I don’t have time to pay attention to popular culture in Canada or Japan. My work comes out of me, but I don’t know where it comes from.

6. What reactions would you like to see from people that view your current exhibit at the Stall Gallery?

I want them to have fun looking at my drawings. I show my art online so that people can see it at home or at work, as part of their everyday life. The Stall Gallery is in the same building as the farmer’s market at the River Landing.  I like the idea that people who are walking around buying everyday food will stumble across my art.  I like to think of myself as an art farmer, growing images and showing them to people.  I hope they find the show interesting and worth a look without giving a second thought to what it means.  I left a children’s table with some paper in the gallery so people visiting the show can draw something if they feel inspired.

7. Do you have a favorite piece at the exhibit?

You’re not supposed to pick a favorite of your children!  I like the variety.  I’m showing lots of brand new drawings and some from the past few years.  There are some big poster-style pieces in markers and a set of small alphabet drawings on colorful paper about “oppai” (breastfeeding) that I did for Elijah.  I like putting an exhibit like this together because I find new things in my drawings when I hang them next to each other in groups.

8. Your art seems to push boundaries and norms. Do you enjoy that controversial aspect?

I don’t think my work is controversial.  I never let myself worry about what other people will think about my drawing.  What I’m doing is not based on other people’s ideas or expectations or boundaries.  I’m drawing for myself.

indoor playground :: solo show at the stall gallery

indoor playground show poster

i’m doing a solo show at the stall gallery, a new gallery in the farmer’s market building at the river landing site in saskatoon. the opening is tonight (april 24th). the show is titled ‘indoor playground’. i’m showing more than 20 color pencil drawings, as well as 3 larger posters done in markers and a series of small drawings done in markers called ‘oppai ABCs’ (‘ABC’s of breastfeeding’).

i hope the opening will be fun for kids and kids-at-heart. DJ Charley Hustle will be performing. there will be some sweet treats for children of all ages. we’ll put out some blank paper so everyone can do some drawing together. my son elijah will be there and he’ll be doing some drawing too.

on saturday april 25th i’m doing an artist talk from 1pm-2pm in the stall gallery. you can come and ask me easy questions and i’ll try to answer. the show runs until may 24th. hope you can make it!

Indoor Playground
opening :: april 24th friday
chit-chat with me :: april 25th saturday 1~ 2pm

the Stall Gallery
105-120 Sonnenschein Way
Saskatoon, SK Canada
Phone: (306)653-0800

frog, paper, scissors


believe or not, i’m getting ready for a solo show at the stall gallery here in saskatoon.  the show opens on april 24th, friday.  this is one of the drawings in the show.

the show is titled ‘indoor playground’.  i’m hoping that this show will be a nice mix of fun atmosphere and eclectic drawings.

Indoor Playground
opening :: april 24th friday
chit-chat with me :: april 25th saturday

the Stall Gallery
105-120 Sonnenschein Way
Saskatoon, SK Canada
Phone: (306)653-0800

CFCR art auction fundraiser

‘snail’s journey’ (8 x 10″)

i’m offering this drawing for the CFCR art auction fundraiser.  CFCR is saskatoon’s community radio station and this art auction is an important way people can support them.  other local artists are also taking part, so if you’re around in saskatoon today, please come out and show your support for CFCR.


“Artist for Alternative Radio”
community radio’s 6th annual art auction
CFCR Art Auction Fundraiser

7:00pm – viewing, silent auction, and reception
8:30pm – live auction

tickets: $25 per person ($15 tax receipt)

November 15, Saturday at Riverside Golf and Country Club
3180 Grasswood Road West
Saskatoon SK

city park artists showcase

elijah and i are taking part in city park artists showcase tomorrow night. i’ll be selling prints, postcards and maybe small originals. if you’re around in saskatoon, please come and have a good time. there will be music, poetry reading, some sample food from local restaurants, and of course art work from local saskatoon artists.

this will be my first art fair since the birth of elijah. i’m really looking forward to this.

city park artists showcase
hosted by city park community association

Featured City Park Artists are: Chris Savage— Ivor Jones— Judith Bensen— David Geary— Lia Sunshine— Celine Schmidt— City Park Cycle — Wendy Waters — Kathyrn Trembach — Lynn McGinnis (Musician) — Shannon Brunner — Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan — CFCR — Taylor Leedahl — Mike Magnussen — Kris Engstrom — Priscella Settee — Yuka Yamaguchi — City Park Preschool —CPCA — Milton Taylor (Photographer) — City Park Collegiate Art department — Tannis Pratt — Craig Nelson — Tammy Boehmer — Pete Burgess

Music by:

Sean Hogan David Hutton Paul Tobin

Poetry performance by:

Taylor Leedahl

Friday, April 18, 2008
7:00pm – 10:00pm
City Park Collegiate– Gymnasium
820 9th Ave North
Saskatoon, SK

$10 admission ( also includes coffee/tea/punch and samples of food)
Kids under 12 free

the beauty of grotesque (planet S review)


there is a review of my show at the mendel art gallery in this week’s edition of planet S, saskatoon’s city magazine. i’m happy to find that the reviewer understands what i’m doing, with the review titled “the beauty of grotesque”. the reviewer says “[my drawings] are seeming to be part of a larger whole that Yamaguchi is pointing toward”. i think my drawings make sense when they are seen all together, as part of one experience. that’s why i like to hang as many drawings on one wall as possible, maybe not even using frames so they can all be close together. that way, nothing is separating my drawings from each other, and also, i don’t have to buy frames.

i also like the ending part: “This juxtaposition, creating a place where we can neither be only horrified or simply think happy, cutesy thoughts makes Yamaguchi’s work both enjoyable and memorable.” i can’t separate those feelings in my mind. they are not opposites to me, they are all living in my head at the same time. i guess my art work is kind of like “yami-nabe style”. everything is all mixed together, and you never know what you’re going to get.

here is the review:

The Beauty Of Grotesque

by Bart Gazzola


Yuka Yamaguchi is currently exhibiting at the Mendel Art Gallery, through an ongoing gallery project titled “Artists by Artists.” The project pairs an experienced artist (in this case, Yuka is paired with noted Saskatoon artist and frequent Planet S contributor extraordinaire Dave Geary) with a more emerging one, with the resulting work exhibited in the lower space at the Mendel.

Over the past few years, the concept has been interpreted in different ways by the different participants: sometimes the result features solely the work of the junior artist, and other times a collaborative installation takes place. In regards to the current installation, Yamaguchi explains on her website that the pair made the decision to collaborate on Personal : Political because Geary’s work, with its propaganda motifs and socialist imagery is the latter, whereas Yamaguchi’s work seems to be very much biographical—a personal narrative that is being shared with the viewer.

Yamaguchi was also one of a number of artists who exhibited at the now-defunct Royal Red Gallery: her small, delicate drawings immediately pulled the viewer in, even in that massive space—and they’re as well-executed as they are disturbing. Her bio describes her as a self-taught artist, from Kobe, Japan, stating that “her drawings are inward-looking, reaching both extremes of cute and grotesque.” Very simply done, with coloured pencil or ballpoint pen—and always seeming to be part of a larger whole that Yamaguchi is pointing towards—her works are indicators that sometimes art school can be the worst thing for a potential artist. Her unique, bizarre vision could easily have been lost there, or subjected to the usual problem of instructors wanting to create younger versions of themselves.

Works such as “New Heartbeat”, where a young girl holds her very anatomically correct heart to her ear in a gesture of love or listening, or “After All…”, where a boy is partly flayed by what looks like a common kitchen utensil, easily fit within the grotesque. But “Chicken Fight”, or “Self Portrait, Age 17”, are both . . . well, cute. Not a word I use often, but it applies here.

Some works incorporate both of these seemingly disparate concepts, such as “Inseparable”, where a cute, pre-teen couple are tying themselves together by their respective hanging tendons and muscles, which hang in ribbons from their severed calves. Both are smiling, and seem pleased with the arrangement, and I am reminded of the Japanese horror film Audition, which was really a love story, with the classic admonition that “you must love only me.” “All I Can See” is both creepy and very, very funny, and will make some men reconsider before they carry on a conversation with a woman’s breasts instead of her face.

On her website (www.plastiquemonkey.com) she explains that her latest endeavour is the “turn everything around you cute and fun” project, and her sense of humour is clear in her work, although sometimes that humour at play is somewhat black. This juxtaposition, creating a place where we can neither be only horrified or simply think happy, cutesy thoughts makes Yamaguchi’s work both enjoyable and memorable.

also, it looks like i am on Bravo!News this week. i was interviewed by them back in april. i don’t have a cable connection at the moment (we’re moving this week), so i don’t know. i was also interviewed by the local Shaw TV channel. the interview aired in mid-april. again, i didn’t watch tv enough to catch it. if you are watching tv sometime tomorrow in canada, you might see me actually talking.

roleplay (local gender magazine)


i was contacted by the editor of a brand new local gender magazine called “roleplay” and asked to contribute a drawing. a lot of my drawings might have gender themes, but i don’t plan that.

one of my drawings does have a deliberate gender theme: called “all i can see“. i drew it for the cover of the kyoto journal’s gender in asia issue, but they didn’t use it. this drawing keeps getting linked from different blogs, and lots of people come from stumbleupon to see it (my gallery pages with this drawing now have over 20,000 views). people seem to react strongly to it. a lot of people think the drawing is making fun of how much boys like breasts. i actually never thought of it that way when i was drawing it.


the editor asked me to write a blurb about this drawing. i sent him something i wrote earlier, from my website:

in my drawing, a boy is having breasts sewn over his eyes. he’s happy about it. he is being made more feminine. usually, that means taking something away (castration). but this is an addition, not a subtraction. i think femininity, including traditional parts like motherhood, is a positive thing. men and women are both better off if they can be feminine. not instead of other things, but in addition to them.

this magazine is available at a local bookstore, turning the tide, and USSU women’s and LGBTA centers.

because it’s so popular, i made a print of this drawing. you can buy it from my online shop.