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MITSUME’s “LIKES”: A Japanese Artist Explores the Age of Social Media

Posted by Patrick Macias on

Artist Hiroyuki-Mitsume Takahashi (aka MITSUME) has a new poster called LIKES? available for sale at the TokyoScope store. It’s a startling illustration filled with eye-popping color and insane detail that seems to make a strong statement on how SNS shapes our perceptions of ourselves and others. Having recently returned from a visit to the USA, now seems like a good time to ask MITSUME himself to say a few words about it.

TokyoScope: Your LIKES? poster seems to be done in a slightly different style than some of your other artwork. Do you think that’s true?

MITSUME: In the present age when expression is overflowing on the Internet, I have a strong desire to challenge myself to express something new. I feel there is great potential in fusing together anime, manga, illustration, and technology. Hopefully, as I challenge myself, a new style can be born, and my style of artwork will inevitably change along the way.

Nowadays, most people use SNS and it’s easy to be swayed by the number of likes and followers. But it’s easy to lose sight of intrinsic value along the way. Is liking something on the web the same as liking something in real life? Is my picture bad because the number of likes is small? Is an artist worthless if they don’t have many followers? Why am I alive and why do I make at?

This work was born from these ideas.

Many of your works are drawn by hand and then finished in Adobe Illustrator. Is that the same for this image?

Yes, it was done the same way. I like to express myself using the path function in Illustrator. Using a mouse to draw delicate lines is my weapon and helps to give my work a strong personality.

How long did it take you to create LIKES? from start to finish?

I think that sometimes people who work hard forget how much time is passing. Sometimes when I am really absorbed, I’m surprised at how much time has gone by. But if you ask me how long this illustration took to make, maybe 40 hours? I’m not sure. What matters isn’t so much the length of time, but the amount of energy you put into something. If I can forget about time and create at a high level of concentration, then that’s good.

Color is always a big part of your work. Can you talk how you make decisions involving color in your work?

Rhythm is important when choosing colors. Colors and shapes have their own feelings. For example, what do you think about when looking at red and blue? Often, red feels warm and blue feels cool. It can also be the same for shapes like squares and circles. Many artists use these techniques in their work, even in abstract impressionism. But the point is not to merely make intense color combinations. It’s more about creating a balance using colors that complement and contrast with each other. It can be like doing a puzzle game to create the right atmosphere and effects. Everything that exists has a rhythm, and the color scheme should be an instantaneous part of it. So these are my ideas when it comes to color.

How do you feel about how SNS is changing peoples relationships to themselves and others?

The Internet has dramatically shortened distances around the world. As more artists from different countries discover each other and collaborate, I feel like the world is changing. Art has overcome many social issues at once, giving people a chance to think and to take action. The important thing is to try and understand the differences between yourself and others. From that, a new kind of expression can be born. How does it make you feel?

What would you like the future of social media to look like?

Social media using smartphones and PCs has already been accomplished. They evolved like tree branches out of the same trunk. If a new social media were to be born, I think a glasses-type or contact lens-type devices would lead to interesting changes in everyday life.

How did you decide on the title LIKES?

To be honest, I don’t really pay much attention to titles. I don’t think of them while I am drawing. I come up with them only when they are needed. But in this case, since the subject of the picture was a reflection on SNS, LIKES? seemed like a natural title. What’s important to me is not the title of things so much as the feeling of discovering an unforgettable image. There are some pictures on CD covers that I saw during my school days that I still can’t get out of my mind. In many cases, I don’t know the title or even who made the image, but the visuals stay with me.

What have you been enjoying recently or doing for fun?

I like walking in unknown places. Last month, when I was in Los Angeles, I walked around for about 5 hours. I had no destination, I just chose a direction and went that way, looking at the city and the people who live there. I really enjoyed it.

Other than taking walks, I often enjoy films and games when I have free time. I recently bought the remake of Resident Evil 2. I’m not good at horror games, I tend to get scared easily. But I’m interested in the relationship between fear, tension, and happiness. Being scared can sometimes lead to laughter. There is madness and tension in my artwork, but there’s also happiness right around the corner.

Do you have any message for your fans?

I really want to say thank you to anyone who likes my artwork. If I can be a positive force for people who appreciate my work, then that would make me happy.


Patrick Macias

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