Artist describes how creativity helps him survive tough times: ‘It means something’

In The Know got to interview two winners of the Yahoo Creators Contest. The contest was a call to action for creators on Instagram and TikTok to post what they’ve been working on while at home and share how it’s been helping them get through this time. Yahoo gifted 200 creators with a $500 gift card ($100,000 total) to help support the creative community.

Kentaro Masatoshi hadn’t picked up a pencil in 15 years and assumed there was no way he’d be able to draw like he could when he was 18 and trying to pursue art.

“I forgot all about art,” Masatoshi told In The Know. “I followed my parents, so I took up nursing and forgot all about it.”

For years, Masatoshi did what he thought his parents wanted him to do and worked as a nurse. He thought of the career as a way to make money to buy art supplies, but his drive seemed to stop. A year ago he quit nursing to become a teacher in China, following his instinct that he wanted to travel and try something new. Then, the pandemic hit.

“I went back to my old house, I’m actually at my parents’ house right now. So I picked up my old colored pencils and then started drawing and I’ve been doing this for almost 170 days now, because that is the quarantine period,” he explained.

Masatoshi felt defeated when he had to leave China. He loved teaching kids and considered the job more than just a means to an end, like he sometimes felt nursing was. But he was amazed to discover that he still could draw.

“It was like a realization that if you learn something, you won’t forget it,” he said. “Your body won’t forget it.”

Masatoshi dove back into his 15-year passion and it became a daily solace for him as he rode out the pandemic. Bad news seemed to be prevalent on every website and TV station, but when Masatoshi was drawing, he was creating his own beautiful world.

“Now for me, making beautiful things in this horrible time … is the best way to forget about your problems. And I think art is the most important thing that I could share,” he said. “As this pandemic goes on, my inspiration is art, because it keeps me alive.”

Masatoshi’s TikTok and Instagram pages are filled with his illustrations. He gravitates toward subjects in pop culture because he loves characters and old Hollywood. One of the first pieces he drew when he returned from China was of Audrey Hepburn.

“I love this woman,” he said affectionately.

Masatoshi’s favorite piece is of his rendition of Johannes Vermeer’s iconic painting “The Girl with the Pearl Earring.” Masatoshi admires Vermeer’s style, but he added his own personal touch to the portrait.

Drawing portraits and pencil pieces aren’t Masatoshi’s only talents. He told In The Know that he could draw anything, with anything.

“I can even draw with charcoal or with soil or coffee. I can do everything,” he said. “You know, whatever I find in the kitchen, I can make something out of it — ketchup, let it be, I’ll draw it. I’ll draw with it, rather.”

He said he grew up feeling different from his family because he craved creative outlets so much that he would draw pictures on foggy car windows or in the dirt in his backyard — anything he could get his hands on. Despite his family not understanding much about art, they appreciate Masatoshi’s pieces and the ability to create his own positivity during a pandemic.

“Creativity pushes a lot of people to make beautiful things out of nothing,” he concluded. “I think art is dynamic. It’s ever-changing. And there is nothing wrong with really doing art. You know, every stroke, every line that you make, it means something.”

Enjoy reading this article? Check out In The Know’s profile on Francis Lola and find out how she comes up with her creative content.

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