Interview with Artist Carl Yoshihara

Every community needs an art scene. And in almost every community there’s a wealth of creativity just waiting to be discovered and nurtured. Carl Yoshihara seems to me like one of those great seeds of culture and art in the Cupertino community and South Bay area. His passion for creativity, portfolio of diverse work, and sheer enthusiasm for art is infectious.

Carl on Mount Sill in the Sierra Nevada

I first met Carl while searching for an artist to give a demo at the Cupertino Fine Arts League, a local club of aspiring artists that’s been active for over 50 years. Upon finding Carl’s name in a local arts newsletter I googled his name and found his website, appropriately subtitled, “Life is Art.”

As an aspiring abstract artist myself, I was drawn to seek out his abstract paintings. What immediately drew me to his work is his sense of an impactful image and design, the time to get it right, and the breadth of work across not just oil paintings but photography, digital design, pastel drawings, and physical creations. Carl is someone who lives and breathes art. Creativity has become a habit for him, over 50 years of practice and interest.

It’s always interesting to find out what inspires a creative artist. I asked Carl out for coffee one morning and learned a little bit about his life. As a young child, Carl felt his life career might be either in Astrophysics or Art. There were a couple books in his home that seemed to have ignited these early passions. One was about the universe and another about Art history. He was the tinkering sort of child – the one who breaks things open to see how they work, and trying to put them back together. Making things like plastic car models was fun. These hands on activities fueled the drive to eventually choose art and design as a career.

Like many artists, the middle and high school years were used to develop technical art skills like realistic drawing, perspective, and color theory. Carl remembers he was asked to create a magazine cover and then was asked to be the art director for his high school yearbook. These opportunities also helped nurture a competitive passion. But now he says he’s competitive to art in general and to his own previous work. He has a drive to get better, and a drive to continue to do different things. “For me, I don’t think I could paint the same style dozens or hundreds of times over. Too much contemporary art is stuff I’ve seen before it’s boring. Show me something that will inspire me. There’s a lot of great technically executed art but it feels like I’ve seen it before.”

What’s great about Carl’s art, besides the aesthetic values he creates, is that every piece of art typically has a story. He has delved into social and cultural issues, like the Vietnam War, oil spills, and nuclear holocaust. But much of his art sales have come specifically around a series of atmospheric paintings he calls “The Horizon Series.” Similar to paintings by Mark Rothko, he puts two colors side by side and then works diligently to create the right blending and luminescence which, when complete, often reminds you of that exact lighting, breeze, and smell of a beach. Under the right house lighting these paintings are stunning.

“Moon Rising”, 2013, from the Horizon Series

Another notable aspect of Carl’s portfolio are his digital images. The work is nothing short of wonderful. An expert in various digital software tools, he works the medium like a skilled potter works his clay. The images form a wonderful collection of glowing wavy lines that are sometimes like flapping wings. Other images are like glowing sunsets or swirling fluids from another planet. If you just have time to check out one aspect of Carl’s art, make it the digital images.

“Birds of a Feather”, 2014, digital

In Carl’s own words, he says inspiration comes from anywhere, even clouds on a rainy day. “I was walking the other day and saw the sun shining a certain way through the clouds. I’m fascinated by the ephemeral aspect of the clouds and the sky. It’s these everyday occurrences that I look for beauty in. I’m constantly taking in the senses — sight, smell, touch. And sometimes you realize a certain set of facts you observe are likely to produce a certain interesting result, like foretelling the future. But finding the art is really just a matter of being observant. Art can imply in its design and image something that might happen. It can imply a story or present a mystery. I find that so interesting.”

As for where Carl is headed with his artistic endeavors, one short-term goal, for 2016, is to create and post one piece of artwork every day of the year. That sounds daunting to me but Carl says “I don’t find that hard at all. In a sense everybody is creating every day. Anyone can be creative. It enriches your life. That’s why I say Life is Art.” Check out these daily postings on his Instagram account (@carl_yoshihara)

Longer term, Carl defines his art as a journey. “I want to be creative every day… a way of life rather than a goal in itself.”  Indeed, Life is Art, and Art is Life.

If you’d like to see Carl’s art and talk with him, he will be showing work this fall at Anne and Mark’s Art Party in San Jose (google it for details). If there are earlier showings he’ll post them on his website.

Todd Kruse

Todd Kruse is a Product Manager at Hewlett Packard and also a practicing artist in Santa Clara, California.He is the demo coordinator for the Fine Arts Club of Cupertino (FALC), and a new member of the abstract7 collective.

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