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Lightning-Bolt Moments

Since 2013, the Adobe Remix project has been asking artists to reimagine the classic Adobe “A” logo. The most recent remix is by Japanese designer and artist Hiroyuki-Mitsume Takahashi. His vividly colored illustrations have garnered him much attention, leading to collaborations with apparel brands and musicians from around the world. 

Click to watch Hiroyuki-Mitsume Takahashi appear in his own Adobe Remix video as a Salaryman.

In the remix video, Mitsume is an average Salaryman working in Tokyo. What people don’t know is that he has a brilliant, creative mind that takes flight in front of the computer screen. Using an array of materials, such as paint, markers, and spray cans, Mitsume lays his delicate illustrations onto enormous acrylic panels. The panels are then lit from behind to accentuate the “A” logo.

Create: Tell us about your concept behind remixing the Adobe “A” logo.

Hiroyuki-Mitsume Takahashi: I wanted to make a piece that respects both the digital and analog world. My first flash of inspiration came from thinking, “One picture might not make sense on its own, but four of them layered will create a silhouette”. When I thought of creating acrylic layers, I decided to draw illustrations by hand that I first made with Adobe Illustrator.

Create: Out of the many Adobe Remix projects, yours is unique in that it has a story.
Mitsume:
I always work with Illustrator, so I pitched the idea of me going into the monitor and doing live painting within this digital space. The director then suggested that I go back and forth between the digital and analog worlds; that’s how we came up with the narrative aspect of the video. We thought it would be fun to portray me as both a loser Salaryman and a designer. These ideas came to us all in one sitting.

Create: Why do you use Illustrator as your main tool?

Mitsume: When drawing pictures, my favorite part was drawing curves. I’ve always just wanted to draw beautiful curves. It made me so happy that you can produce beautiful curves so easily with the Bézier curves. When I’m working on grotesque motifs like entrails and I use Bézier curves, the lines have a colder look and the image looks less raw. I really like that balance.

Create: So, Illustrator isn’t an alternative tool to drawing.

Mitsume: It’s a completely different thing. To me, digital and analog methods each trigger different parts of my brain. Digital tools let me express my ideas to extreme ends. Analog methods often don’t work the way I want them to, which ends up helping me stretch my imagination. Both methods are really fun in their own way.

Create: I feel like digital tools are better at helping artists translate the ideas in their head onto paper.

Mitsume: That’s true. Digital tools let you experiment with ideas easily because you can undo things. Being able to make small adjustments is an advantage as well. My project mixes digital and analog elements. I feel like the two worlds that I thought of as separate collided.

Create: How did you get into drawing?

Mitsume: I’ve always liked to draw. A lot of it comes from my sister; she was a huge Otaku and an amazing illustrator. I started drawing characters from the manga my sister collected. Her influence led to me attending design school. That’s where I learned about live painting, which left an impact on me as well.

Create: Live painting is a large part of your background.

Mitsume: The most important part about live painting isn’t the completed artwork, but the live process. In order to suck the audience in, I always pursued the performative aspect of painting. I got into live painting because I was a big hip hop fan at the time and I was fascinated with graffiti art. As a culture, hip hop is about respecting yourself and your own style. Graffiti started by taking painting–something that only wealthy people participated in–to the streets. This culture inspired me to think about how to make art in ways no one else can.

Create: Hip hop seems an unlikely influence.

Mitsume: I draw characters and I do graffiti. The reason why I started producing work overseas was because someone in the fashion industry came up to me during one of my live painting performances and asked if I wanted to submit some textile patterns. I presented an ordinary textile pattern and a pattern with characters, and everybody loved the one with characters on it. That’s when I decided to focus more on characters than graphic design; I thought that was going to be my own style.

Create: That’s how you combined different cultures and styles.

Mitsume: I really like not belonging anywhere. There’s never an umbrella term to characterize someone when they’re the first person to do something. I hope to make work that inspires people to use new words.

Create: When do you feel like drawing?

Mitsume: When I get commissioned to produce art, I never want to follow the requests and restrictions clients lay out. I want to skate on the edge of what’s appropriate. When I’m thinking of those boundaries, I’m usually struck with an idea.

Create: What do you mean by “boundaries”?

Mitsume: Interesting ideas always come from the border between two genres. For example, a breakthrough idea might come from the grey area between fashion and music. I always try to figure out that delicate balance. When I think I have it, I can keep pushing forward from there. When it doesn’t work, it doesn’t. It’s kind of strange how ideas come to me; it’s not a gradual process, it just hits me like lightening. I think you can do really interesting things with that inspiration as long as you seize it and not let it run away.

Koichi Sugiyama apparently came up with the main theme song for Dragon Quest in five minutes. He says that’s always the case when it comes to his best work. If you spend too much time on something, it often becomes heady and a little too contrived. His quote has really stuck with me. He said, “It might have taken me five minutes to create the song, but the time that went into the song is fifty-four years of life experience, plus five minutes.”

I think that I’ve increased the chances of having lightning bolt moments by going out and experiencing new things instead of sitting at my desk. It’s important to make sure that you never let those moments slip away and you just take your time making art.

Mitsume’s Adobe Remix project is on display at the Adobe Japan office in Osaki, Tokyo. For more on the project, including additional behind-the-scenes photos, see the Behance page.