People | 20 QUESTIONS

Mariya Suzuki: ‘I like to draw the mundane moments that otherwise flit away’

Staff Writer

Name: Mariya Suzuki
Age: 28
Nationality: Japanese
Occupation: Illustrator
Likes: Coffee, warm window lights at night
Dislikes: Rude people

1. What first brought you to Tokyo? I met three illustrators living in Tokyo — Luis Mendo, Adrian Hogan and Andrew Joyce — who encouraged me to move by telling me how fun it is to live there.

2. Where do you go to escape Tokyo? I don’t usually feel the need to escape Tokyo, but if I want to be away from all the energy or am emotionally/mentally tired, I stay in my room and talk to my best friend in Long Beach (California) via FaceTime.

3. When you think of Japan you think of … When I first moved back to Japan, for some reason, everything looked like a stage set and everyone seemed to be acting. It was a bizarre yet fascinating feeling. This question reminds me of that time.

4. What’s your favorite Japanese word or phrase? I like the word sōzō. In kanji, it can be written 創造, which means “to create,” or 想像, which means “to imagine.” It’s nice that one word can have two different meanings, both of which are inspirational and artistic.

5. What’s your favorite phrase in any language? C’est la vie. I like how it sounds like its meaning, as well as the meaning itself.

6. Why did you decide to study illustration in Long Beach, California? I was told that it had a good art department.

7. Any memorable moments overseas? I got to meet an artist from Florida, Trey Bryan. I had found his work online, and we had started following each other on Tumblr. It was my first time being so excited about a contemporary artist’s work, so it was an amazing experience actually meeting him.

8. What song best describes your work ethic? “Kaze Wo Atsumete” by Happy End. It’s not really about work ethic at all, but I can really relate to the song and how it came about. I feel like there is similar air that runs through the world of the song and in my drawings.

9. What do you like to draw? I like to draw the mundane moments that otherwise flit away and be forgotten. I recently realized that I like repeated things, like people on the train and the buildings in the city. They are the same, but different.

10. What first inspired you to start drawing? When I was a kid, my father used work at a children’s book store. He often brought back picture books, and I remember always looking forward to the new books he would bring home.

11. You like to sketch illustrations of your surroundings on paper coffee cups, an initiative you call “Drawing to go.” Why paper coffee cups in particular? I guess it didn’t have to be paper coffee cups. It just happened to be them because I drink a lot of coffee. One day, when I was drinking coffee as usual, the cups looked as if they were waiting to be drawn on.

12. What drawing materials do you use to complete your takeaway coffee cup sketches? Black and colored Signo pens from Uniball, Karisma-colored pencils, Tombow markers and Posca.

13. From where do you draw inspiration for your illustrations? My everyday life and what surrounds me.

14. How important is color in your work? As important as black and white.

15. How much value do you place on your artwork? I capture scenes from everyday life, so in a way, my drawings are like my diary. Those “unspecial” moments are more valuable than we realize.

16. You also sketch panoramas of your surroundings. Isn’t it easy to get lost in the details of everything going on around you? I sometimes do get distracted by things going on around me while drawing. When I do, though, part of the reason is probably because I’m not that excited about the drawing I’m working on, so I’d just stop.

17. Is less more or more less? Less is more. Simple means open-ended.

18. What’s the strangest request you’ve ever been asked in your line of work? To draw a yurukyara (mascot). It was strange because, to me, it clearly wasn’t what I’d be good at.

19. What do you want to be when you grow up? Happy, fashionable and free.

20. Do you have any words of advice for young people? Look. Observe.

For more on Mariya Suzuki’s work, visit

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