Cover Illustrator Adrian Hogan (Photo: Yulia Skogoreva at yuliasko.com)

His colourful and witty illustrations of daily life in Tokyo merged with Olympic sporting events made the rounds on social media. Tatler Hong Kong chats with the person behind the creative illustrations

If you’ve been keeping up with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, you might have spotted some of the colourful illustrations, taking a fun spin on the Games making rounds on Instagram. The drawings of daily life in Tokyo merged with Olympic sports events kindred the heart of those missing Japan and those who want to watch the Games, in person if there was no pandemic.

Some of these illustrations include a shop clerk opening his store shutters, commuters doing gymnastics on the train or how the plastic barriers in shops look like a game of volleyball. The person behind these fun and witty illustrations is Tokyo-based artist, Adrian Hogan, who has been working as a freelance illustrator in Japan for almost a decade.

Hogan has no shortage of beautiful works, working with the likes of Apple, Hermès, Cartier, Gucci, Starbucks and Aesop but his Daily Olympics in Tokyo series was shared virally on social media, which showcased perfectly-timed daily life and routines in the city amidst all the anxiety of the Olympics. Tatler Hong Kong chats with Hogan about his work, the inspiration for the series and life in Japan.

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Tell us more about yourself.

I’m an Australian from Melbourne [and] I work in Tokyo as a full-time freelance illustrator. I love living and working in Tokyo, which has been my home for the past eight years. I really like the way illustration is used in a lot of daily life in Japan such as in character designs, illustrations for public advertising among many others and wanted to be a part of it.

I moved to Japan as I wanted an overseas experience and the more I have lived and worked in Japan, the more I wanted to create a life for myself here. My own country, Australia, is in the Asia-Pacific Region, I think it’s really important that we get to know and understand our neighbours.

How did you start drawing?

I have always drawn since I was a child—first my father, who’s an architect, taught me some of the basics and then I went on to keep doing it at university and then a lot of daily practice on the train and at home.

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Are there any specific materials that you use?

I use everything! When I am outside I tend to use pens, pencils and sketchbooks but I have also been using an iPad a lot since the beginning of the pandemic last year.

Where did you get the idea for your Daily Olympics in Tokyo series?

It often appears to me that the gestures I see in everyday life here in Tokyo are like those of athletes. And while none of us will get to watch the Olympics this year, if you pay close attention, I think you can see great feats of athleticism everywhere.

This is apparent when a salaryman leaps through closing subway doors or when shop keepers throw open their shutters like weightlifters. It’s a lot of fun to look for these moments and use my imagination. I hope that after viewing these pictures, people from all over the world will also feel encouraged to find something positive in their day to day lives too.

See also: Tokyo Olympics 2020: The Best Moments From The Games

Which of your Daily Olympics in Tokyo illustrations is your favourite?

I always look forward to making the next one, though the weightlifting picture is particularly special because it was the first one I made that succinctly captured the idea of the project.

Can you take us through the creative process of each illustration?

Often I’ll make a quick sketch on my iPad on in my sketchbook. I’ll take photos of any reference I think is necessary and then use that while I make my drawing. I’ll also look at photos of athletes to make sure that the poses correctly reference the sport I am trying to depict.

Sometimes, my friends will pose for me so that I can correctly draw the anatomy and clothing folds. Each piece takes between 3–10 hours to make.

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Besides the Olympics illustrations, what are some of your other favourite things to draw?

I often enjoy drawing people on the train or friends. It’s nice to be able to keep a visual record of my day to day activities or just to give myself a chance to look and draw. I try to keep my illustration work informed by my direct observations and experiences.

As an outsider, I try not to illustrate any preconceived ideas about Japan—and this hopefully means that a certain kind of authenticity comes across in my work.

What does drawing mean to you?

Drawing is simply a way to encourage yourself to look at your surroundings closely. And hopefully, by looking closely you’ll learn something not only about your surroundings but also about yourself at the same time.

Drawing is not just about making a pretty picture, it’s about the act of looking and being present in the moment. Through drawing, I have come to learn a lot about Japan, and I try and share these things through my professional work as well as my Instagram posts.

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How has your experience when you first moved to Japan and now changed? Have your illustrations also changed with your experience?

Certainly being more established and experienced now has meant that some projects and day to day experiences are easier to navigate. Every project is a learning opportunity and all experiences are different. I am thankful that the more established relationships I have with clients allow me to draw and interpret articles freely.

What do you find most appealing about Japan that you want to illustrate more in the future?

I wouldn’t say my work is especially Japan-focused, however, once the State of Emergency is lifted in Tokyo, I'm looking forward to travelling around the country again to illustrate various places, local cultures and sharing it online.

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