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Interview with Naoki Tachibana (painter)

Interview with Naoki Tachibana, a painter based in Osaka, who is expanding his activities by creating experiences for many people to come into contact with his original paintings through various techniques and themes, ranging from dynamic murals to postcard-sized works. He talks about why he became a painter, what he wants to be as a painter, and his aspirations. Let us take you on a journey to explore Naoki Tachibana! ( interview by Junko Sasanuki )


Naoki Tachibana Painter, Artist

Born in 1976. Resides in Osaka. Studied fashion design and spent 15 years in the apparel industry.
In 2016, at the age of 40, he began working as a painter and formed Art & Frame Haruki House with framer Hiroko Taki. He has held a series of exhibitions of new forms in diverse environments, and in the six years from his debut to the present, he has presented more than 2,500 works.
Through depicting mainly plants and animals, he continues to think about the connection between the individual and the whole. His works are characterized by bright and beautiful images with a positive message that celebrates each and every life. Through charity work and dedications to temples and shrines, he explores the role of the artist beyond the realm of self-expression.

Nagao Tenmangu Shrine (Kyoto), July 12, 2020, dedication of the mural "Eku no Uta" (Song of Eternity)
Painting "Rain Dragon Suitengiga" will be dedicated on August 21, 2020 at Taisei Ryujinja Shrine (Hiroshima).
Painting "Spring is Coming" was dedicated to Kitano Tenmangu Shrine (Kyoto) on December 19, 2020. Dedication

*Gokomori Tenjingu (Osaka), December 26, 2021, dedication of a large votive picture horse, "Futatora Daitenmai Mandala


OK, just do it!

You make your living as an artist.I believe that you have gained a variety of experiences up to now.How do you approach art as a career?

(Tachibana) I believe that making a living through art has a completely different meaning than other types of business. Rather than just doing business, I consider art to be the act of continually inspiring others, not only in the creation of artworks, but also in words, actions, activities, and ideas. I am also in search of "what can be achieved from the perspective of art by communicating myself and my artwork. I believe that the sale of artwork is one of the crystallizations of such activities.

I heard that you decided to become a painter when you were 40 years old. Please tell me how you came to this decision.

(Tachibana) It all started when I met my partner, Hiroko Taki. Both of us have been working for a long time, belonging somewhere as employees of a company, and have a solid foundation in life. We decided to take advantage of that experience and challenge each other to do something new, something we had never done before in our lives. Now Taki is paving the way as a framer, but at the time she was doing something completely different. So, the question was, what would the two of us do together? We decided to do what Taki had always wanted to do, which was to open an "art gallery" (laugh).

We visited various art galleries together and asked for part-time jobs. But, to begin with, we couldn't find any art galleries in Osaka that could hire staff. So we decided to do it ourselves and formed "Art & Frame Haruki House" to start our art activities.

Then, your partner, Taki, went on to become a framer, and you moved on to become a painter, didn't you?

(Tachibana) Yes. I was 40 years old at the time, and in a sense, I started this project lightly. I bought art materials and just drew and drew and drew. One day, I painted a picture of a rose, and the vice president of a famous university bought it. Later, the owner of a bar in Pontocho, Kyoto, asked me to paint a mural of a dragon inside the bar. Of course, this was my first experience with a mural. I had never painted a dragon before. And the wall was almost 4 meters wide. I don't know if I like critical situations or not, but the situation where I am not allowed to make mistakes suits me, and it was an experience that I acquired with a pleasant feeling that the mural was dramatically easier to do than painting on canvas.

First mural painted "Dragon's Nest - Black Dragon" produced in September 2016 KiBAR/KiBAR."

Five years ago, I received my first mural painting job after becoming a painter. I was given the opportunity to paint directly on the wall of the VIP room of a BAR in Pontocho, Kyoto. It was also the first job that paid over 100,000 yen, so I was very excited.

Mural painting seems to turn on a completely different switch from painting on canvas, and I love it because the bigger it is, the easier it is to compose and the faster and more fun it is to paint.

It was suddenly an unforgettable experience, wasn't it? How did the people around you react to your declaration of your painting career?

(Tachibana) I was told by people around me and by various senior artists that " paintings really don't sell in Osaka. Looking back on my own experience, I realize that many people do not have the option of buying art. I realized that although they have the opportunity to enjoy viewing art at museums, they do not have the option to buy artwork from galleries or artists. I thought, "Well, the first step is to make people have that option," and I started painting small original artworks, even at low prices, so that people could hold the original artwork in their hands and feel its energy, which is different from that of printed matter. This is one of the inspirations for Million Hearts. Offering people the special experience of buying an original painting has led to an increase in repeat customers. One of the aspects of Million Hearts is that it creates an opportunity for people to buy paintings.

Drawing a Million Hearts theme “Heart"

How the "Million Hearts Project" was born

So the idea at first was to offer original artwork at a price point that was accessible to everyone?

(Tachibana) That's right. Thankfully, some of the people who purchased the original artwork for the first time are still fans of Million Hearts and continue to purchase it every time it is exhibited. There is also another reason for the birth of Million Hearts. I was given the opportunity to hold my first private exhibition at a bar in Pontocho, where I had painted a mural, and 30 of the 100 dragon paintings I had done sold at my first exhibition. In addition to that, many of my paintings were purchased during my first year of activity. So the following year, on Valentine's Day, I gave them postcard-sized original heart paintings to thank them for purchasing my artwork, and they were very happy. I think from the beginning, it was meant to be an opportunity for people to purchase original artwork and to connect with joy.

I see. So communication is also connected through the heart. Can you tell us about the current "million hearts" that have changed from there?

(Tachibana) It's a bit long. My first and second years as a painter were subpar. I sold more than I thought I would, and I thought I might be able to do this. I thought I might be able to do well. Then, in my third year, I thought again, "What does it mean to sell paintings? I thought about it again. I thought that a painting would sell only when it became a good source of information, including the artist and the background of the work, rather than just the painting itself. And how can we increase our own visibility while contributing to society? That was all I could think about.

It was Taki-san who helped Million Hearts sublimate itself into a charity project. She was from Hiroshima Prefecture, which gave me an opportunity to think about peace close to home. I wanted to do social activities through art, and we both came up with the idea of naming the heart painting "Million Hearts" as an activity to "flood the world with hearts," which was also a gateway experience for me to create original paintings. In my third year as a painter, I did not hold any exhibitions, but only did Million Hearts activities.

What is the Million Hearts Project?

The project started by Hiroko Taki, a framer, and Naoki Tachibana, a painter, as a gift to special people, expressing blessings, gratitude, and prayers for peace in a heart painting. From July 2018 to the present, nearly 600 Million Hearts have been sold, reaching many people in Japan and abroad. The total amount donated amounts to 1.8 million yen.

In August 2021, "Million Hearts Exhibition" will be held at Chignitta Space (it has already ended). In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., the 911 Million Hearts painted by Naoki Tachibana were exhibited and sold, and over 400,000 yen was donated to Doctors Without Borders.

Some people may come into contact with your work or learn about your activities for the first time through this project, right?

(Tachibana) Yes. For those who are genuinely supporting me, they look forward to each exhibition, and for those who buy an original work of art for the first time as My First Art, the experience is connected to the charity. I believe that a relationship cannot continue if "fans only support artists. That is why I will continue to express my appreciation to customers. My relationship with customers does not end with the purchase of a work of art; I want to continue communication with them. Million Hearts is an important communication tool for me to play this role.

When you have the choice of whether or not you can do something, you only think you can do it.

Even though you began your painting career with a light heart, it was a turning point in your life. Also, your recognition of the project and as a painter is expanding its base. Looking back, how do you feel?

(Tachibana) I don't think it was as big a turnaround as others might think. I was a beginner in painting, but I have been able to make great use of my past work experience in creating relationships with people and how to go out into the world.

I only think "I can do it" when I have a choice between "I can do it" and "I can't do it. For example, when I was a company employee, my job was to negotiate production with Chinese people. At first I had to use an interpreter because I could not speak Chinese, but I always lost the negotiations. Then I decided to negotiate in my own language, so I studied Chinese and became able to win negotiations with Chinese people (laughs).

I also felt anxious about my life and thought, "I'll figure it out. If you are worried about that, you shouldn't do art activities. The fact is that most of your works are not treated in the first place, right? I think it is important to have the spirit to rise above that. I am good at drawing, and I will compete in what I am good at and enjoy, and if that doesn't work out, then I have no choice. I will think about that at the time. Rather than that, I am much more conscious of just entertaining people, both in my social networking and in my artwork.

The large ema "Souin Tiger Grand Rim Dance Mandala" dedicated to the Mikomori Tenjingu Shrine in Ikuno Ward at the end of last year.

Although it depicts a tiger, the zodiac sign for the year 2022, I did not depict its sharp claws and bared fangs, nor did I depict its intimidating expression, which is typical of a ferocious animal, and did not express the strength and ferocity that are generally associated with tigers.

We are tired and fed up with it," he thinks. We want to live our lives using our talents to respect, entertain, and make others happy, with a clear rejection of harming, threatening, or abusing others. This is especially true if you are an artist or entertainer.

We want to discover, train, and release the beauty that is in our bodies, minds, and lives. Focusing only on this, I strive to enhance the quality of the work that emerges. I hope to create a beautiful and colorful world by being such a person and working hard with such friends.

Dedicated to Gokomori Tenjingu Shrine (Ikuno Ward, Osaka City) on December 26, 2021.

Searching for things that go beyond the realm of expression

Please tell me about your future goals.

(Tachibana) I just want to draw a lot of pictures and improve the quality of my work. As long as I can do that, the results should follow. I also want to take a positive social approach, such as the Million Hearts Project. I am exploring the role of an artist that goes beyond self-expression.

My goal as a level of painter is Hasegawa Tohaku's national treasure "Pine Trees". I often go to see national treasure level works to check my own quality. I want to learn firsthand the impression of these works and return home to be able to feel them in my own paintings.



Million Hearts Project NEWS:.

The Million Hearts Project is currently challenging the [AED Installation Project].

Since last year, we have been challenging to purchase an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) with the proceeds from the sales of Million Hearts painted by Naoki Tachibana and present them to towns and facilities in need.

And now, you can see Million Hearts at "Paint Lounge" in Sorabori, Osaka.

The new art space was created as "a place where anyone can enjoy painting just as much as singing karaoke. (until May 15).

Million Hearts can be purchased for 3,000 yen per piece (tax included). 90% of the proceeds will be donated to various charities.

You can also see our work on Instagram.

A view of the exhibition and some of the works on display in the "Paint Lounge" of the Million Hearts Project, which runs through May 15.

A cute entrance of Paint Lounge.


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