Yuko Kyutoku was born in Aichi in Japan, next to mountains and rivers that still influence her work. She has always been fascinated by images and how the world is represented through the eyes of others, and was always drawn towards making art. She developed her craft during her bachelor's Degree in Fine art, painting, drawing, and printmaking at SUNY Purchase college in New York, and delved into art therapy with an MA at New York University.
Today, she works as a art therapist at a children's hospital in New York and her art can be seen in solo shows internationally.
I interviewed Yuko about working across different mediums, art therapy and her love of the colour blue.
Are you able to share a bit about your creative process? How does a piece of artwork begin for you? How did you begin creating art?
My creative process is transformative. I get inspiration from my life, people I meet, paintings I see, films I watch, books I read, and music I listen to. I always have something that I want to draw or paint from these inspirations, such as drawing a friend or a picture I drew from a song I listened to, and I started sketching my ideas onto paper.
Your work explores a whole range of mediums from painting to sculpture, drawings to digital art. What do these different mediums offer you, and how do you decide which medium is right for each creative project you embark on?
Each medium offers me a different experience. I usually have some feelings when I start working on my artwork, and the medium I choose depends on my feelings and my intuitions for the piece. My preferred medium is drawing and painting because I can control all the materials and I like to use my hands.
Crossing mediums, blue is an incredibly recurrent colour in your work. Why are you so drawn to it? Why is it a colour you keep coming back to?
Blue is my favourite colour all the time. I use the special blue colour, which is inspired by Japanese Ukiyoe paintings. I used a Japanese goache painting series for my paintings. For me, blue is the colour in which I can feel the possibility that I can express anything without any fear or hesitation. Also, blue is the colour of happiness to me.
You grew up next to the mountains and rivers of Aichi in Japan. Can you speak about the influence nature and the outdoors have on your work?
I created many artworks based on nature themes. For me, it is a pleasure to express the beauty of nature in my work.
Has this changed since you moved to New York?
I still explore the themes of nature in my works. However, I learned about different styles and works of art at colleges, so my themes ranged from still life to portraits. I still include nature in my art in many ways, such as including nature in the background or patterns to enhance the beauty of the subject I pick for my artwork.
Your work as an art therapist in a children's hospital. Can you tell us about how you use art therapy to support children with mental health issues and disabilities in your work?
Most of my patients are non-verbal, and art is a great communication tool for them. They can create different kinds of artwork, such as nature dreamcatchers and seasonal art projects, such as tie-die. Art therapy helps them to move their body, enhance self-expression, and live their lives to the fullest.
What are you working on at the moment? And where can people next look out for your work?
I have been working on a mandala painting series inspired by art therapy. I have some interviews coming up with magazines this fall, and people can check out my work in them.
Find out more about Yuko's work here.