Digital pop artist Enfu (Ken Taya) will be at KOBO at Higo Saturday November 22, 1:00-4:00pm to sign his new book, Cute Grit. This 240+ page book features full color illustrations documenting ten years of work that ranges from bilingual comics to smartphone apps to screenprints to Uwajimaya bags.
“I started making art for my daughter when I had her,” Enfu explained in an interview at New York Comic Con. “Before, my art was about me. It was about my Asian American identity. It was gritty. And then it became more about cute stuff for my daughter, to make her laugh…So that’s the reason [the book is] titled Cute Grit. It covers the ten year transition.”
Here, in his own words, are more thoughts from Enfu.
Looking through the book, you can’t help notice how incredibly prolific you are! With a day job and a family, how do you make the time?
I have a day job which respects a healthy work-life balance, a super supportive family that gives me time to create, and I have a drive and stubborn persistence to create. The way I make time is I maintain what others may observe as a fairly boring social life, but that is by design. I wake up at 4:00am to spend the first part of my day drawing. I used to draw at night, but that was when I was the most tired, and I didn’t have a hard deadline. In the morning, you stop working when the family wakes up, so that means you have to hurry. At night you go and drift off until you are sleepy, humans work faster under self imposed deadlines. You can set up your own environment to trick yourself into producing more simply by setting your own schedule.
You are a bilingual, second generation Japanese American who’s lived in the States and Japan. How does your cross-cultural identity influence your work?
Having a bicultural/bilingual background really just lets you embody one who becomes comfortable switching modes. Living a dichotomous life is like being a secret agent, you just have to mode switch constantly. From English/Japanese, extrovert/introvert, craftsman/salesman, cute/grit, the list is endless.
I grew up more influenced by manga and [Japanese animation studio] Ghibli over American comics and Disney, so you can see that my content is more similar to Japanese manga artists versus many Disney artists.
You have had a long relationship with KOBO (solo shows in 2008, 2009; trunk show in 2013). Can you tell us a little about what it’s meant to partner with KOBO?
KOBO carries pretty much all my work, so I consider it my Enfu HQ. They appeal to my audience which ranges from the high end patron to the little kid. [Co-owners] Binko and John have been incredibly supportive of all my efforts; they’re like family. What’s awesome is they like to have a connection with all the things they are selling, they have relationships with the creators and invest in all of them, empowering them to do more. You’ll never walk into a shop with more character than what lies behind the doors of KOBO.