AYAKA FUKANO creates her own rules in her illustrations powered by love

The work of Tokyo-based artist AYAKA FUKANO is shaped by her unique worldview, proud lack of training, and an abundance of love. We caught up with her to learn more about her one-of-a-kind approach.

In a world where self-awareness and cynicism can get you very far, AYAKA FUKANO is a glittering exception. Her illustrations are a burst of warmth and friendship, depicting everything from a family meal time to dancing crocodiles and an abundance of hugs. If her adorable colourful characters don't fill you with a sense of joy, nothing will.

Originally from Tokyo, AYAKA grew up in rural Germany. And it's this contrast of urban and country life which formed the foundation of her style – or at the least her appreciation for the little things. "The scenery you see and the air you breathe is different in the city," she tells Creative Boom. "But both are beautiful and have their charms, which I was able to savour by actually living there. I believe that the more things an artist sees, touches, and feels, the more they are inspired."

Despite this confident artistic outlook, it was never something AYAKA ever dreamed of doing. "I never thought I was particularly good at drawing, and I was never immersed in it," she reveals. "However, I have always been very sensitive. As I dealt with each of these feelings, there was always something I wanted to convey, something I wanted to think about with someone else, or a question that grew out of each experience."

"I connected each of those dots into a line which led me to become an artist. And now, finally, I think I see what I should be doing, whether by painting or by expressing myself differently. I think what I want to do is to express my thoughts."

This rawness plays to AYAKA's advantage and can be seen in her stylised art. Having received no specialist art education, AYAKA's paintings look pure, singular, and free from a structure or framework that might have extinguished her creative spark.

"In Japan, I did not always get good grades in art class," she admits. "I was not very good at them. If I had studied art in the form of schooling, I am convinced I would not be as free with my ideas as I am now, especially given my personality.

"Even how I used art materials and mixed colours would have been regulated and boring. This is because I had a personality which feared going outside of the box."

Thanks to her lack of formal education, AYAKA's artistic influences take a different approach. Instead of drawing exclusively on external material, she looks inside herself and tries remembering what influenced her most as a child. "Whenever I had an idea, I would find a piece of paper and start drawing without hesitation, without any rules," she explains.

This lack of rules leads to thought-provoking questions like "Why do apples have to be red?" and "Why can't people be green?" While these might have a naivety about them, these questions reveal that AYAKA always saw the world through artistic eyes, even if she wasn't aware of it. And they go some way to explaining her use of colour today.

"When I answer these questions from my childhood, I always tell myself it's okay. In my world, everyone is different and peaceful and happy. It's as if I am replying to my younger self through my pictures."

She adds: "My style does not have a name. I can use any colour and technique I like to create my work. I try to act honestly about what I feel like doing. So maybe we can call it a freestyle?"

If there's one common element running through this freestyle, though, it's love. When explaining why love crops up in all her work, AYAKA reasons that it's because of her life-long experience of feeling loved and cared for by so many people. "And through my own son, I have also learned to love more than myself."

The basis for AYAKA's loving outlook was the relationship she had with her grandfather, who passed away from dementia. During his last days, AYAKA decided to bring love to the various times of his life as he went back and forth between different eras in his memory.

"I did this so he would not be lonely," she says. "I believe that love is wonderful no matter how much you receive. And I believe that if you flood the world with love, someone will be happy again."

As for what makes AYAKA feel loved as an artist, she relies on the warmth, kindness and acceptance of people who visit her exhibitions or send her a message online.

And when it comes to what she loves most about being an artist, AYAKA explains that she enjoys having an output for her feelings that have sprouted inside her since childhood. "It is my hope and my happiness that the output will be someone's energy, courage, hope and love," she concludes.

"I feel like my childhood me is always next to me and saying: "f we flood the world with love, surely there will be one less sad thing in the world?"