Being a Japanese Artist in San Francisco, one of the best ranking questions from people to me is;
"What brought you to San Francisco from Japan?"
Well, here is my speech which I've made for an Art event at Lindsay Unified School District, where I was invited as their guest Artist in 2008. I believe this explains all to you.
Lindsay is a city in Tulare County, California, United States.
Many people from Mexico are living in this city to work in agriculture area leaving their own country. I was asked to share my experiences with them which I got through to have ended up to be an artist in San Francisco, leaving my own country Japan.
It is a little awkward feeling to share such a goofy private story, but since I put this speech on my website, I've got so many responses from overwhelming numbers of people from all over the world telling me how they were encouraged and how they were even saved from their wander in their lives, so I decided to keep this speech on my blog here.
You know, if somebody's getting depressed in life, I would say, "Look at me'. I've got here believing in me. Sometimes, things do not go as you expected and you could feel as if you were ruining everything. But Everything can be only the path to get to the success of your dream. You can not fail until you give up. As long as you keep going, you are on the path for your success.
OK, here we go. I hope you enjoy.
Today, I would like to talk about some pieces of my black comedies how I ended up to be a Japanese Artist in San Francisco.
I was born in Fukuoka Japan. It is located in the northern Kushu island and is one of the Japanese main cities.
My father is doing karate master after retiring his bank work. He is one of the international licensed master who has his own karate organization in Japan. My mother is also enjoying her after retired life doing volunteer for blind people, and dancing etc... They are a very energetic couple.
My younger brother is a musician in Tokyo.
My professional Art career started in the graphic Arts field in Fukuoka, Japan, in the early 1990s. After graduating from University, I founded my own commercial Art studio named Atelier Yume-Tsumugi, which means Dream weaver.
In my studio in Japan, I emphasized working on a variety of projects with varying requirements, from commercial illustrations to architectural rendering, rather than a distinct style.
When I started my career, I was still in early 20's and very ambitious. So I did not want to limit my possibilities in one specialty.
In the start of my career, what I forced myself was, "Never say ' I can't'". Whatever I got, first thing I said was "OK, I can do it".
Make the contract first, and then think.
Chances never wait. There was always huge line after me in those competitive world, and I had enough learned that it was very easy to lose my spot with one second hesitation.
In the professional commercial Art field, I was required variety skills, different mediums, computer skills, knowledge of printing effections... And not only about Art techniques, but also how to compromise with budget, connection with other services, etc... And adding to those, time was always never enough. Clients were always working hard to cut their time and budget. So, if I wanted to make my life as a commercial Artist, I had to give up sleeping.
Operating my studio everydays, I had to learn how to answer my clients' requirements by myself. Especially, to lean how to use different mediums and tools, necessity was the best teacher.
Most people waste so much time for starting Art with going to schools or seeking some other's instructions. Then, a lot of people end up to be just overwhelmed with too much information in the first stage, where they are not ready yet, and get scared to run away.
I have never learned Art at any schools in my life. But I have never had any problems with my works in my studio. I did make my artworks with whatever mediums required from chalks, pastels, water colors... to air brush, tile mosaics and computer graphics. All I needed was just get the new mediums and play with them for couple of hours to get used to. The staffs at the art store were also good places to ask about the new mediums. They give you all advises you need without paying such a big money for schools.
Anyway, my 20's had passed in the sleepless life.
Everyday, mornings started with different clients deadlines.
To tell the good part, they brought me more money than doctors make here each months. In the commercial businesses, the value of art works are huge, because they are used for large markets which pay them back more.
My artworks were used for catalogs, TV commercials, posters, sings etc... and they lead the images of the products and companies to public.
Running my own art studio, I was living in a very rich life being surrounded with luxurious stuff, which the same age girls could never afford to. Also I could built great connections with celebrated people in society, calling them "my friend".
However, when you get something, you have to give up other things in return.
In those times, my life were all about my business.
All the people around me were either my staffs or clients. I had almost no friend whom I can open my heart to privately.
Also, my life there was always being pressed by overwhelming competitions and responsibilities at every minutes. My works were made based on clients' needs, not from my original creativity. Once I failed, I could be easily replaced with the next person behind me.
In those pressures, after all, I ended up to the hospital life.
One day, I suddenly got a heavy pain on my back, and I was brought to a hospital.
The doctor said that I was getting a tumor connecting from my ovary which size was as big as my fist, but since its position was hard to check clearly from outside, he could not tell if it was benign or malignant until the surgery.
If it was malignant, he said, I might not have any chance to live, even in the best case, I would lose my womb.
The hospital room where I was put in was the room for cancer patients of womb. Some ladies were already after surgery and some were waiting for getting their wombs taken out. Some were wearing scarf on their head to hide their losing hair.
It was a shocking incident in my life. And I felt it would take all the hope out from my life.
But on the other hand, I happened to get a time to stop to look around my life, in where I had kept myself running and running. It gave me some time to think about my life deeply where I was.
Fortunately, my tumor was benign.
Thanks to God, I am still here to meet you today.
After leaving hospital, I decided to reset my life.
Following to the change, I have started yearning for making my own family, and before long from there, I got married with an American man who gave me sincere encouragement and support in my hospital life.
That was how I was brought to US.
OK, If this was a Hollywood Romance movie, the story would end here with happy ending spectacular music! ...But the reality is always a little bit different....
First of all, moving to US was a totally unexpected change of my life. When I got married with him. what he was saying first was that he would move to Japan so I would not need to change my life.
After getting married in Japan, he went back to CA saying he would need to finish some works left to prepare him to move to Japan, and I waited for his return in Japan.
But he did not come back for months, then during the time, I got to know that I was getting pregnant.
After a long story, it was me who had to move to California after all, to get to know that he was actually not doing anything for moving to Japan.
In this way, my new strange life in far away country had started with big belly, strange language, and domestic violence in the bargain.
It was a big lesson for me.
In this change, what I lost was huge.
I lost my studio, I lost my career, and also I lost all the money. To move my life to California, I had spent all my savings for paying all the moving expenses, and compensations for each of my staffs' some months salaries and equipment lease, etc..
It was too late for me to realize how I was the one of the naive Japanese girls, who do not know how to doubt other people. In Japan, people hardly miss what they once make promises and always work hard to keep their words. On the same time, I got learned why making the contract was so important in this America before starting new business.
Anyway, show must go on...
After half an year passed, I got my baby born.
By that time, the attitude of the man, whom I got married, had turned very abusive. He was always irritated and grumpy in heavy mood swings and treated me like a slave.
In his eyes, I was no more a cool successful rich woman, just an useless naive weak burden who were even struggling with making the communications in his language.
I would never forget his face when he throw an application paper on my face which he got from Macdonald, scoffing, "When can you start making money again?"
In the life, for the first time in my life, I had experienced enough what the miserable was. However, I had already had a baby there. I wanted to keep going.
But the more I tried, the worse his attitude got. I still can not believe he made me begged him to keep marring me when he threatened me saying that if I got against him, he would make me deported and I could never been able to see my baby here ever again. I was even being lost where I was.
One morning, he ordered me like a military general to stand next to him. As soon as I stand there, he grabbed my shirt's neck and start hanging me up, asking me " Do you think the baby can sleep in such twisted shirt?"
I was choked badly and it was my limit. I told him I would want to divorce.
After that, it was a big nightmare.
One calm evening, I was milking my baby in bedroom, laying on the bed.
Suddenly, I heard rough knockings at the apartment entrance door. Next minute, two big polices ran into my room and started yelling at me in fast laud English.
I was frightened and could not know what was happening there at all.
At those time, I could not understand English so well.
Then CPS came to meet me.
It seemed like I was reported to them that I might kill my baby. And ofcause who made such a crazy drama was 'him'.
He tried to get some police reports on me, taking advantage on my poor English, preparing for future court for custody issue.
He had a son in his previous marriage but when he got divorced, he could not get any custody on him. So this time he really wanted to get the baby.
After that, I was almost being put under the supervision of his family when he was not with me. I was even not allowed to be with my baby alone. But I tried to explain the situation to them by writing faxes every days.
Then CPS required me to go to counseling.
After all, it was a big luck for me that they found a Japanese counselor for me.
Finishing some sessions, the counselor told me that I was under domestic violence situation and I could eventually put the end on this nightmare by being saved by Asian Women's' Shelter in San Francisco with my baby. At that time, she was still only 4 months old.
After this, thanks to the shelter's support, I got the start of new life in San Francisco.
Through this nightmare, I had lost everything. What still left with me there were only some of my belongings, which I could barely brought with me in one suitcase, and a tiny baby.
It was a totally strange far away country for me, where I could not even make enough communication with other people in my language. Besides, I had nobody whom I know.
I wished I could go back to Japan, but I could not.
The divorce was done in the law of California and they didn't allow me to take my daughter back to Japan to live with me. They even require foreign parents to carry the agreement paper of other American citizen parents when we leave California to make short trips with our children for other place, such as our own countries. So I had no choice except staying in California until she gets 18 years old for keeping her custody.
I could never thank enough to the shelter through my life.
I had stayed in shelter for about 4 months and during the time, they arranged amazingly excellent supports for me to prepare for my new life, such as legal support, childcare, counseling, school for ESL, etc.... And the most wonderful thing was they had many volunteers who were from several different Asian countries, so the residents could talk and live without so much difficulties in communication and also felt easier in our own cultures.
Even after I left shelter, they still kept supporting my life closely, and also kept referring me some non profit organizations depend on my needs, until my legal case closed, such as my divorce, custody and child support, and my Green card status.
This year, it has passed almost 9 years since then.
"Time flies" is a really good saying.
After starting my life in San Francisco alone, first 4 years, it was very hard. In those times, I could not feel like doing anything but just letting the time go. I had no idea where my life was going to...
Still, I had this tiny strange existence with me who were totally depending on my care. Taking care of a baby was my very first experience. In my previous life in Japan, I had not had so many experiences with those tiny people, even holding them in my arms. Everyday became the continuations of new studies how to deal with this tiny existence.
But living one day to another, something had started coming into my view. Even how scary and standoffish the outside world was, I anyhow had to force myself to get out my apartment door everydays, for court issues, baby's needs and other life errands.
Getting so desperate, huge anxiety was killing my stomach, but on the same time, I had started rather being determined to do anything to keep going. No matter how hard, I could not change this situation. Then, why not to change myself making this a new opportunity to rebuild my new life.
After I changed my viewpoint to accept where I was, the things became much easier. I had timidly started exploring this new world.
Looking around, my apartment was very empty. Except some dishes and clothes and a few stuff which shelter gave me when I moved in there, my main possession was only my laptop. How different the surroundings were from where I was!
It opened my eyes and made me realized how much excessive stuff I had lived my life with, being berried in and sticking on those material things.
Looking around my empty room, I thought that, in this world, we were actually not possessing anything except our own body and spirit. How easily the material things could be lost according to the change of life!
Luxurious antique furniture from Europe, thousands dollars clothes, Rolex watches, name brands bags.... they had easily gone from my life...
But now, what I have inside of my spirit, they could never be lost. I will never lose my wisdom which I have learned in my history of experiences, and I have never lose my strength and knowledge which I learned through my life path. Wherever I go, and whatever my life condition changes, they will make my life.
After realizing these points, I became very free, and I have started appreciating my simple life.
We often tend to look our frustration and complaints first. And it seems our natural habit to concentrate on what we do not have rather than what we have.
But if you look around yourself deeper, you would be surprised how much you are actually being blessed with what you have to live your life with.
Anyway, now, I can humbly appreciate that my goofy life path was worth to pay my precious life lessons. And somehow, I also can feel as if I were lead to here by the power of the existence above me.
Needless to say, for the Artists all over the world, San Francisco is the one of the dream Art cities in the world. And whatever happened in my path, I happened to have ended up here to start my new life.
While it had taken my 5 years away from my Art life to adjust my basic life here, I have eventually restarted my Art here.
First, after a long blanc, I have started drawing like sweeping out my stuck emotions which had piled up in my inside. There was no colors on my paper at those times.
Then red came back... and blue came next. One by one, colors slowly came back on my paper.
Seeing those path, I may be able to say that this was my Art healing.
I had not thought about such stuff so specially before, but getting through them, I can now see that Art has some power to heal and lead to get our twisted mental state straight back.
Creating something out brings the healthy good feelings of achievement. Also expressing own originality out into the actual visible figures can be the reverifying own existence. It is like communicating with outside world using what I have inside deep naturally.
Getting back colors in my drawings, one day, I decided to start Oil paintings.
To be honest, I had never touched Oils until then.
Oil dries very slow and through my previous commercial Artist life in Japan, Oil was not the medium I could use for my works there where I was always pressed with heavy daily deadlines.
But as an Artist, since I was in Japan, I had always wanted to paint Oil because I have believed that Oil was the basic of the Paintings.
What I have loved in Oil is, in its slow dry process, Oil gives me plenty of time to communicate with my canvas. It gives me time to think as much as I need.
I feel Oil is very flexible medium.
Also, unlike acrylics, which turns plastic as soon as they dry, each color layers of Oil change their face in the process to dry. Depend on how you produce and how you maintain, they get delicate influence from there. Getting ages, they can be more beautiful or they can get cracked. It makes me feel as if they were alive and they were holding the breaths of Artists between their color layers.
Life as an Artist is something of a struggle between the faith to our real Artistic calling and the need to create the money to pay the next month rent.
Different from the commercial Artists which I used to be, the market changed to the individual people, and the rewards are 5 to 10 times lower, since the money come from people's pocket, not the big companies' business budgets.
However, here, I can eventually work for my own creation.
Good or bad, now I have plenty of time to face to my own inspirations without worrying about next morning deadlines.
After getting this life, I would never want to get back to the life where I had to create the Artworks like a machine, only for clients' needs.
I got realized that to modify my Art to suit the market is no longer my original creation. It makes me one of a crafts people, but not an Artist.
But here, what I paint... They are my own creations. I could live forever in my Artworks.
Well, this is my story.
I hope there were something you feel connection with.
As you are, I am also a survivor who has still been struggling on the pass to keep working toward my dream and future.
But how hard to get by the life for now, I believe that my life is the one of the most blessed lives in the world. It is because I have found what I am meant to do on this Earth and what I want to do from now on.
As long as I am an Artist, I can never fail my life.
Whatever your dreams are, as long as you keep working toward them, you can not fail until you give up. There would be a lot of traps waiting for you in the way, which give you disappointments and doubts. But as long as you keep going, all of them would tune just the paths of the process to reach your dream eventually.
Time is always going. You have tomorrow and you have the day in next year.
Even when you get something to get stuck in, as long as you keep going, time will solve your problem.
Once I had lost everything and restarted my life with nothing in far away strange country totally alone, being a beginner single mom in the bargain.
10 years after, here I am.
Every each years, I feel my life has been getting better and better.
I can do it,
then why can't you?
You can do it.
Finally, I want to share my most favorite word with you.
"Today is the first day of the rest of your life"
Thank you for listening.