We had the good fortune of connecting with Yuko Royston and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Yuko, how do you think about risk?
An interesting question. Taking risks to me means taking opportunities to grow, usually uncomfortable at first. There are two types of risks; the one requires to make a big decision, such as changing a major in senior year in college, starting a job which has nothing to with your M.F.A, or moving to another country to seek a better path toward your goal, which I did at age 24. The other type happens at more subtle, daily living situations, such as making the decision to prioritize your art practice to my role as a mother or wife. Making the decision to ignore marketing advice and spend 8 hours for the fifth time just to re-do the “finished” piece while you could do something Facebook picture worthy instead. Taking risks guides me to a process of exploring and unfolding myself. During this process or journey, I cannot help asking the same questions to myself over and over, “What are the things that really matter to you?” “ Why do you do this without even getting appreciated by the majority of the world and what does art mean to you?” With an overwhelming volume of arts flowing into my day through the media, it is hard not to feel the pressure and anxieties. My mind can spin into a thousand directions very easily. So I have to remind myself constantly that these are all inevitable process to grow as an artist as well as a human being. I can only see the fruit on hind sight, but my soul knows it is worth it. One of the risks I took was leaving the job as an art instructor at local schools in order to focus on my own art learning and practice. It was a difficult decision for a people-pleaser like me. After years of being a full time mother, this job was perfect. It gave me the sense of approval from the society while I felt I was giving something valuable to these little natural artists. Meanwhile, this experience made me realize how much I want to improve and to expand the horizon for own art.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
What keeps me busy and taking up lots of time is organizing ideas and materials to build a specific image for the piece. My works are my visual life log. Instead of using words in journals and dialogue in a journal, I use images to connect to the world. The goal is to record ordinary human experiences and the different emotions that emerge with. I get easily excited about pretty much anything that tells me a story. But translating what I see and feel from the object into a visual work is not an easy. I began this journey as an artist (I still feel a bit awkward calling myself this way) without particular creative skills, knowledge, or a formal education in fine art. All I had was a long, deep affair with things please my eyes along with a strong desire to create something with my hands since I was little. I get easily excited about pretty much anything that tells me a story. But translating what I see and feel from the object into a visual work is not an easy. I began this journey as an artist (I still feel a bit awkward calling myself this way) without particular creative skills, knowledge, or a formal education in fine art. All I had was a long, deep affair with things please my eyes along with a strong desire to create something with my hands since I was little. As long as I remember, my father always had me watch the process of his DIY projects. He had me sit next to him to show how to connect wires, plant flowers, saw a big curtain looked like a camping tent, build a wall shelf which drove my mother crazy, and so on. Often the session was not fun, but it nurtured my inquisitive mind. Also, they taught me the necessity of daily practice to keep the creative mind open. All these life experiences, including happy ones, unexpected ones, and painful ones guided me to where I am today as an artist. I believe everyone has emotional wounds. Moving ten fingers do help to heal emotionally. So to answer the question, I am constantly in search for materials for inspirations while making my best effort to create something to keep the flow on a daily basis. Also, I cannot ignore the trial and error part. Back in 2012 when I opened my Etsy shop, I sold my paper products online to “test the market”. Ten hours a day of designing, cutting and gluing tons of papers, packaging and shipping products with daily trips to the post office, hanging onto a few dollar profit in good days. I did that for a couple of years until I was completely burned out. It took me for a while to get back to the inner peace to be able to pick up a paint brush again. The self-doubt has been a constant challenge for me. One way to get out of this chaotic place is getting back to a principle. Practice after practice. Whether doodling random shapes, studying the favorite artist, or just trimming plants and arrange them on board…just something simple. One of my artist friend says, “Just make something for the sake of making it”. It is the essence for the creatives.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
-Walking or sitting by the beach during the day.
-Breezy trails around Point Vicente area in Palos Verdes. Sitting on the rustic bench looking over the ocean and meditate for three minutes can give you a good energy shot.
-South Bay Botanical Garden.
-Long Beach or Rose Bowl Flea market -LACMA
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I definitely was raised to become who I am today as an artist by the community of kind and open minded people. The physical supports from my husband and children, such as managing house works and running errands were tremendous. Not only the physical supports but also the mental supports that trying to understand the artist’s unique mind set and living with all the strange demands, I am not able to do what I do today. I also need to give big credits to the artists I have met through art classes and workshops. In particular, I have a group of creative woman to check in every week. The inspirations and encouragement these women gave kept myself accountable to create the works that are raw and honest. I also get my soul nourishments from books. “No more secondhand art. Awakening the artist within” by Peter London is one of my favorites.