Artist Spotlight! Warakami

Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up and how did you find yourself interested in design? Was there a pivotal moment that you can remember?
I grew up and currently live in Ohio suburbs. I've always been driven by the desire to create and pretty much spent my entire childhood drawing my own comic books and characters. Later, I got into video games, PC gaming and digital art which led me into making mods for games. Eventually I ended up in the games industry until health issues forced me to stop.
Somewhere around that time I had been running a small vaporwave blog where I reblogged art and made my own art edits and gifs. I liked doing it but needed more of a creative outlet. I started a new blog with 2 rules; post new art every day, and only post 100% original art (this means no edits of existing art or photos). I ended up really enjoying it and kept doing it, although I don't post daily anymore.
Why do you believe nostalgia this is such a powerful force for so many people? How do you translate that feeling into your art?
Nostalgia, or a longing for 'the good old days' is a form of warm, comfy escapism and can be a useful coping mechanism. It usually says a lot more about the present than how the past actually was.
I learned a long time ago that my nostalgia is rarely ever for any specific thing but rather it’s for the feeling I had at that time. When I am making something nostalgic I don't care how accurate it was to how things actually were, instead I care if it's accurate to how I felt it was. The hardest part is making something that feels nostalgic but also feels new at the same time.
What inspires you the most about creating your artwork and what kind of image or idea are you ultimately trying to convey to your audience?
The idea of improvement and learning new things is what drives me with art. I have a few series that I love working on, but I only go back to them when I feel that I can significantly improve the idea so I'm always trying to learn more.
I don't conciously try to convey artistic ideas, although the closest I have is something that I try 'not' to convey. I purposefully try to stay away from darker and depressing themes even though I'm probably at my best when I make the bleakest, most grim dark subject matter possible. I don't do it since I don't think that it's healthy for me to make, nor do I feel that the world needs more of it.
Sometimes I make an exception, such as with the 84 series, although I try to soften it with humor and more appealing visuals. While it is darker than the rest of my work, overall it’s pretty tame.
How do you feel like the cultural and philosophical themes of Vaporwave have influenced your artwork?
I don't follow the music side of Vaporwave much, but in terms of the art I've always loved the irreverent, subversive Dada-esque Pop Art side of Vaporwave. It's critical of hyper consumerism but also kind of embraces it. It mashes up a ton of influences into something that often doesn't make much sense, but somehow it still works.
Do you have a work ritual? Take us through the process of creating your art.
Most of my art starts from a simple idea. Usually it's a short phrase, sentence or question that I'll write down. Sometimes it'll start with an image in my head, but even then I'll write it down before making it.
If something sticks with me I'll end up making it in Photoshop and if I really like the result I'll go back to that idea and try to reverse engineer what made it work and try to turn it into a series. At that point I'll usually put a lot more time into research (such as a deep dive on Memphis Milano or recordable VHS packaging boxes) or learn a new skill that I might need for the series (such as learning to semi-accurately paint Edomoji characters).
Who are some of your favorite artists, business people, creatives or intellectuals?
As for my overall favorites who've influenced me the most, I'd say it's; Takashi Murakami, Andy Warhol and Nigo. The first 2 are my favorite Pop Artists and Nigo is for fashion and business (Bape, Human Made, Kenzo, etc). His backlog is basically a how-to guide on how to convert pop culture rooted ideas into product design.
I could list hundreds of others but at that point it depends on what series I'm working on at the time. For example the 84 series takes my main influences but also mixes in others such as; William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, and many other cyberpunk authors alongside text-heavy artists like Barbra Kruger and Basquiat.
What has been the highlight of your artistic career so far?
I pretty much only care about what I'm making next, so this is hard for me to answer. I'd guess that objectively, recently hitting 100,000 followers on tumblr is a pretty big highlight. Personally? My own highlights are whenever I get a breakthrough and find a new series of art to explore.
Please tell us something about yourself that we may not know that influences your work.
There are probably a lot of things I could list since the entire WK account is basically just a fairly focused project based around a few specific influences. I'm interested in a lot of other things, for example; I have a decently sized Japanese streetwear blog that I've run for a while and it has very little overlap with most of the art I make.
In terms of workflow, my game development experience influences it heavily. I treat my art series the same way as if I was still Art Directing small indie games.
What are your plans for the future and direction of your work? How do you see yourself growing as an artist?
I've already made most of the art I'll be posting in 2024. My life can be unstable so I always keep a stockpile, but this year I made more art than usual in order to focus on a few more elaborate projects. I can't talk about most, but the one I'm working on right now is a huge series based on recordable VHS tape packaging.
Longer term, I want to keep pushing my art into real life more. This means more fashion, product design and eventually fine art (I have a sculpture series I'd love to do eventually).
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
The best advice I can give is to make art as often as you can and constantly try to improve. It's generic but it works.
Other than that, AI is rapidly changing a LOT of things. I don't believe it'll render artists obsolete, but it has and will continue to change most production-level jobs in art. With this in mind I'd highly suggest anyone creating art right now to make sure that your type of art can be done in traditional mediums (drawing, painting, sculpting, etc) and try to develop as unique a personal style as possible.
Final Thoughts?
Thanks for the questions, these were fun to answer! Plus, it gave me an excuse to read the older interviews here. It's flattering and kind of imposter syndrome-y to realize mine would be posted up next to a bunch of artists I've been a fan of for years.


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