Artist Interview with Hiriko Sakai

Artist Interview: Hiroko Saka

By Kimberly Sumerel

Note: Back in 2007, I was commissioned to write a series of online articles about aspiring and talented artists living and working in the U.S. Inspired by the talents of these artists, and being an artist myself, I wanted to see if these individuals were still active and creating beautiful works of art. I am pleased to report after almost 10 years, they have grown as respected artists not only in their community, but around the world. Truly, these individuals have followed their passion, which says to me…………….what are we waiting for? Let’s follow our dreams!

2007 Article:

I would like to welcome to our online interview, Ms. Hiroko Sakai. Ms. Sakai is a Japanese artist who currently lives and works in San Francisco. Though her talents were not recognized in America until 1998, her art and beautiful paintings have been a part of her life since she was a little girl growing up in Japan. With the support of family and friends, Ms. Sakai furthered her studies by attending school, graduating from Seinan Gakuin University with a BA degree in French and Nihon interior design school with a BA degree in design and rendering. Ms. Sakai also founded Atelier Yume-Tsumugi Ltd. where she previously worked and operated an art studio for 5 years before coming to the U.S. Ms. Sakai’s talent is not restricted to her many painting techniques but can also be seen in her creative writing of poetry. After working for many years with clients in Japan, Ms. Sakai decided to expand her work to the United States. Having to learn a second language did not deter Ms. Sakai from creating her art and when it comes to the passion of art, Ms. Sakai feels there is no language barrier.  Ms. Saika is continuously inspired by the life and culture of people who recognize the power of imagination and who can appreciate its results. Ms. Sakai’s work can be seen in galleries throughout California, and also at

*How long have you been in business? How did you get your start?

My professional art career started in the graphic arts field in Fukuoka, Japan in the early 1990s. After graduating from Seinan Gakuin University with a BA degree in French and Nihon interior design school with a BA degree in design and rendering, I founded Atelier Yume-Tsumugi Ltd. I operated that studio successfully for 5 years. I emphasized working on a variety of projects with varying requirements rather than a distinct style. Many of my works are displayed in hospital lobbies, corporate offices, and commercial building entrances in Japan.

In 1998, I broadened the scope of my endeavors to include projects in the United States. In the US, I decided to start concentrate on oil painting. I had always wanted to paint with oils in Japan, but slow drying oils were not realistic with the short deadlines of my commercial clients. Now I could do it.

*Where did you learn how to paint?

I am a self taught artist.

When I learn the new mediums and tools, I touch them first and play with them, and after I become friends with them, I start learning with books and questions to other artists.

You can lean the techniques, but heart of art is only in you, which could never be learned from other people.

*What’s the best part of having your own business?

I can live with what I was born for.

*What are your future goals for your business?

Become the one of the most well known popular artist in the world. -K*

*How important is having a web site?

It is the online portfolio for artist. It can be used as portfolio to introduce my art to far away galleries, also people can see my art there world wide through internet. Having website makes the possibilities and chances far bigger.

*Tell us about the kind of art you create today.

My art is my interpretation of life.

Lately, I like to express my sarcasm in comical way.

I love to laugh. and I feel that the more I become stronger, the more I laugh.

Around the time when I just came to San Francisco 8 years before and started my new life here, I was so naive and had had to get through so many troubles with so many dramas, but now, my life is quite easy going.

I can laugh with everything to challenge me,

I want to put those strength in the colors on my canvas and it is my art.

Generally, my creation is the continuation of challenge and deep talk with inside of myself and sometimes it makes me lost. I can not explain in English well, but for me, my art is the message to express myself outside. I am a bit shy person and especially my language is different here, so I am usually awkward with the communication with words. But on painting, I can express what I have inside of me.

San Francisco is a very competitive place for artists and generally here, people seem to like paintings that match to the color of their apartment wall paper and sofa* So I often stuck in walls for finding the places for my art exposure, I have been now getting used to hear, “your art is too strong for galleries to appeal to the art collector”. ~smile*

But once in a while, some people’s words encourage me so much who have connection with my spirit. I feel I am lucky to have those special way to connect people heart.

*Where do you get your inspiration?


*Do you have a favorite artist?

I am very much inspired with the brush touch of Royo, an Spanish artist.

There are so many things I want to say about his art, but the greatest power in his painting is wherever I see his paintings, I can immediately know it is Royo before i check his sign on his painting.

*I am sure you lead a very busy lifeノ How do you find time for yourself?

Time is not what you find. Time is what you make.

If you really need to do “it”, you should have time for that.

*Do you work out of your home? What sort of work space or studio arrangements do you have for your business?

It is funny. Many people ask me how large space they need to start painting. They are thinking about fancy spaces such as artist loft studio.. etc…

but I think if you have a space to put your easel and a small table. that is enough. Actually, my work space is just a corner of my small apartment and my bed is usually the work table when i paint.

*What challenges did you face in the beginning as a new artisan? How did you deal with them?

Moving to San Francisco from Japan 8 years before, I was totally a stranger who even do not speak language enough. First about 4 years were just for struggle to adjust to the new strange life here. But as long as I stick on my art, I feel my art leads my life.

*What do you currently enjoy most about being an artisan?

Freedom of spirit.

The privilege that I can live with what i was meant for.

*How do you determine what your next art or craft piece will be? Do you have a theme or purpose beforehand? What is your intent?

I do have some images for my new pieces. But in the process of creation, most images turn out totally different pictures in the end from which I was expecting at first* So, what I can say is, just see my new piece when it comes up*

Anyway, new images have always come up to my mind next to next. I wish I could have 72 hours in a day!

*How do you market your work and what goes into considering how to price your art?

I am still learning how to market my art. It is very competitive!

As far as the pricing, I put the price that I would buy the piece with if I were somebody who want the work.

*What would be the one most important thing you would like to say or pass on to those in the arts & crafts community that you believe would help them, or that you’d simply like to remind them about?

Art is all from what you are. What you see, what you feel.. what you learn, what you taste… what you listen, what you smell… those everything makes you and those everything makes your art.

Enjoy every moment you live and paint every moment you live.

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