From the archives: my studio visit with visual artist Manami Fukuda

(From March 2015, some details updated)

Manami Fukuda is a visual artist based out of Rothesay, NB, originally from Japan. Manami has a flawless, realistic style that radiates light and colour, working most often with still life arrangements. She enjoys the challenge of working hard to get those tiny details just right. She occasionally at Buckland Merrifield Gallery and also offers art classes out of her home where she also has her personal studio. Her creativity spills out beyond just painting and find many other expressions, like in her origami earrings and handmade memory game for her daughter. Manami is a gentle, generous soul, ready to share of herself and her art.

I finally visited Manami on a cold day in February after numerous attempts to get together only to be rescheduled due to snowstorms. I ended up bringing the girls with me, although I’m not sure if I’ll do that again. Although Sophie and Fiona had a great time eating cookies and playing with paint, having two small children around made it a bit difficult to have a real conversation. Manami was so gracious, she got them snacks and toys, played ball and even made some beautiful origami birds and balls for them to take home. She assured me that she’s used to kids and didn’t mind the mess, and I guess studios are usually messy… but it was a little cray-cray!

Her studio is in the dining room of her home, and is a bright open space with art supplies and works in progress spread out on the tables, not to mention the whole wall dedicated to her daughter Sarah’s artwork - “her gallery” says Manami. There are many reminders of her Japanese roots throughout her home like the Japanese dolls, origami decorations and artwork. Art and beauty are as natural to Manami as breathing, and you can tell by looking at her work and her space that it will be a part of her life no matter what she does or where she goes.

How did you become an artist?

I graduated with a fine art degree from university in Japan. At first I worked in interior design and then managed an art gallery. A chance to apprentice on a major oil painting project led me to pursue painting more seriously. I took up studio space in Saint John in 2010 where I had talented mentors helping me develop my technique and style. Several galleries in Saint John as well as art shows and the Saint John Art center gave visibility to my work. Commissions and distinctive pieces for events, publications and fund raisers created a range of opportunities to expose and sell my work as an artist.

What does a regular day look like for you?

I normally paint in the morning, It’s the time I feel most creative. The light is bright, my mind is clear; sometimes I paint for hours without taking a break and the time just flies by. It can be very hard to keep the flow going if there are distractions so I listen to music while painting which helps me to paint quickly. I prefer to let my mind escape, concentrate myself on the painting. Mornings are my time to be alone, my creative time. In the afternoon I give my classes and connect with other people. That part of my career keeps me going, shifting my point of view by sharing techniques and helping other people with their projects.

What does your studio space mean to you?

My studio is part of my home, in the dining room, which means I always feel close to my creativity as an artist. I also use my studio as a teaching space and a creative space for my students. Being so close by, my home studio allows me to jump in any time, when I feel inspired to work. And once a project starts, I feel like it is continuous because I can easily keep it going. Although it means there are usually messes, so many materials, tools, colours, brushes, canvases and work at various stages of completion, although I enjoy the mess. It’s productive.

Who has been influential to you in your life as an artist?

My mother has been a major influence on me. She is a creative person, an interior designer who has great confidence in her style and is an independent entrepreneur. She always focused on function in daily life and making connections for people, what something means to them, how they respond to a design and an aesthetic. Her commitment and consideration of the customer rubbed off on me, and my approach to my art, which means it is important to me to have a finished product.

What is your favourite part about living in Canada?

I love that it’s a huge country with so much cultural diversity, and the diversity in the arts prompts me to think of who I am and to express myself through my own style, my own colour and character. I grew up and lived in Japan until my mid-20's, but now having been in Canada for more than a decade I've come to appreciate the individuality of the people here. There are many opportunities to express who I am and still connect with other cultures. It’s challenging but the rewards are huge. Living here is great for exploring my own art and character within the Canadian arts scene.

What are your hopes for the future?

I’m hoping to renovate and set up a larger home studio which will allow me to display my work at home and continue giving art classes. Also I want to show my paintings more broadly in Canada and internationally. I'm hoping to paint larger works and keep building my reputation and style so that people recognize my work. I've created a distinctive colour in my painting that I'm getting comfortable with and I intend to keep building on the look and tone of my work.

Thanks for the visit Manami!

*Find out more about Manami through the CH directory