My Creative Journey in 3 Parts: Pasadena, Paris, and Los AngelesPosted January 20, 2022, 11:00 am by
Keiji Ishida: My Creative Journey
Keiji Ishida is an artist based in Los Angeles, CA and an alumnus of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. He uses text, repeated characters, and motifs that often find their way through various mediums. His process is design-oriented while revealing the imperfections and efforts of the handmade. Read on for the full story of Keiji Ishida and his artistic journey!
Part 1: Pasadena
I began making art when I was probably four years old. I was naturally drawn [no pun intended] to paper and pencil as a kid and drawing was my entertainment. But coming from an immigrant family, as English was my second language, I do remember struggling to communicate with my friends at my elementary school. The way I communicated and conveyed my feelings to my peers was through drawing. And I like to think that at such a young age, this experience subconsciously taught me that art could be more than just a hobby.
In high school, I began to take art more seriously. I attended a public arts school called Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. It was a very competitive school and the teachers and students there were serious in their creative passion. Attending this school ultimately broadened my understanding of art and shaped who I am today.
I believe I improved over time through meeting other artists, explaining my work to others, being in crit sessions, participating in group exhibitions, and working as a studio assistant. These experiences all intertwine and ultimately influence what I do. It is interesting to see how, in the four years since I graduated high school, my use of medium and style has changed, yet I am still tackling the same concepts as in the past.
In my teens, but still to this day, I have been obsessed with skateboard graphics, so a lot of artists who I looked up to were illustrators and designers like: Ed Templeton, Geoff McFetridge, Andy Jenkins, Margaret Kilgallen, etc. But in high school, since there were no majors in the visual arts department, I’ve taken a range of classes like: photography, printmaking, experimental film, animation, painting, and graphic design. Because of this, I’m very open to being influenced by artists through different mediums. For example, Shoji Ueda’sphotography taught me the importance of composition; the same goes to Jeff Wall’s unique staged photography. Or sculptors like George Nakashima and my friend, Lily Wilkins who taught me the philosophy behind the choice of material and the power of minimalism.
Entering my work to the Scholastic Awards meant more than just the award but an opportunity to engage with emerging young artists who present curiosity and passion with their artistic potentials. I remember being very excited when I was at the 2017 Scholastic Awards Maker Prom, where I met artists who I am still in touch with, like Leevi Toija and Benjamin Cruz. It was important for me to meet these artists because I got to listen to their commentary on my work and also exchanged thoughts and suggestions on their work as well.
Part 2: Paris
As a winner of the Gold Medal Portfolio Award, I have had the chance to travel to Europe and study at Paris College of Art in Paris, France. It was remarkable to live abroad as I met great artists and the experience I had there was possible through the help of the Scholastic Awards. In addition, at the time, receiving such recognition from the Awards gave me confidence in myself and my work, and therefore not only financially but emotionally gave me the confidence to move abroad.
At my high school, I was fortunate to take part in multiple visual arts group exhibitions curated by the department every year. Each show was held in a different gallery. The chance to showcase my work in real galleries was remarkable, but it was also an educational experience of what it's like to see your work presented in the space of a gallery and have an audience, apart from your classmates, view your work. You can view the work of Keiji Ishida HERE.
Currently, through friends, I get invited to participate in group exhibitions. If there’s a gallery I appreciate, I will go to their openings and get to know the people there while crossing my fingers in hopes of being invited to their show. The most important thing to do after you meet someone is to send a kind message to them via email or Instagram with your website and social media links so they can take a look at your work. That way there is a good chance they will remember you and potentially invite you to a show!
Studying abroad was a turning point in my life. After graduating high school, I went straight to France to start a new life and find new inspiration for myself. Because I moved to a foreign country, everything was new and it was emotionally challenging because of the language barriers and from experiencing culture shock which I had a difficult time overcoming. The first few months were difficult, but as I got used to living in Paris, I was able to appreciate my environment and the people more and was able to focus on my art.
Part 3: Los Angeles
After two years of studying communication design in Paris, I received a number of illustration jobs in Europe. I began gravitating toward illustration, so I decided to transfer to ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California to pursue illustration. I am currently a student at ArtCenter, and it is always wonderful to meet new people. Coming back to California and seeing my peers from high school brings me positive energy and a new appreciation of my hometown.
After graduating from college, my future career plan is to hopefully work for companies like HUF Apparel, Girl Skateboards, or Stussy, as I am passionate about streetwear and skateboarding. In the long run, I would like to be a full time artist. I think working as a studio assistant for Cleon Peterson and Jim Shaw inspired me to want to create my own studio space with multiple assistants to collaborate and produce a range of work beyond my capability.
My advice to young artists is simply to enjoy what you make. It is good to sometimes ask yourself why you are making the work you are making. Have a critique session with your peers and with your teachers. Hearing other’s opinions and thoughts could help you discover a new direction to take your work.
Click HERE learn more about Keiji Ishida and other alumni of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.