RoamCouch Interview

We are thrilled to announce our exclusive interview with Japanese street artist RoamCouch. The interview contains information about the three topics below.

The first topic is POW! WOW! HAWAII, which has taken place in Oahu, Hawaii every year since 2011. The festival is so well known that artists from around the world get together to paint murals for 7 days. In February 2019, RoamCouch participated in the event and created a Hawaiian version of his painting “When You Wish Upon A Star – Hawaii” on the streets of Kakaako.

The second topic is Hirono Art Camp, which is an art experience event that took place in Hirono-machi, Fukushima in September, 2019. RoamCouch participated by painting a mural called “Stardust” with the local kids on the side of a windmill, which is the symbol of Hirono-machi.

The third topic is Neo Ukiyo-e. RoamCouch challenged himself to create a new style of art using Hon-minoshi (Japanese handmade paper ), which is inscribed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. His goal was to create a style that is a mixture between Japanese culture and graffiti art.Neo Ukiyo-e is what he calls this style, which embodies the ideal of his art to create a bridge between new and old.

Reading this interview will help you learn more about RoamCouch’s creations and hopefully appreciate them on a deeper level.


— What was your aim when creating the mural to look like a postcard?

I wanted to use a new subject in my work so I decided to paint a postage stamp to create an interactive style of mural. I imagined that if someone took a selfie while standing in front of the mural, it would look like they were part of a postcard with a commemorative stamp. A lot of people ended up taking pictures with the mural.

— Did you encounter any difficulties while working on the mural in Hawaii?

Although I was lucky that my production site was half indoors, the weather was still a problem. The weather in Hawaii wasn’t stable during my stay. Logan Hicks and Shepard Fairy who also used stencils to create their art looked to be having the same problem.

— You got the opportunity to observe other artists working on a mural there. Were there artists that inspired you?

Logan Hicks and Shepard Fairy. Logan Hicks’ artwork inspired me to start my career as a full-time artist, and it was the first time for me to see his creation process and one of his murals with my own eyes. His mural was, without a doubt, amazing. What impressed me most of all is that he was packing up his stencils properly after using them. Shepard Fairy had a well organized creation process as well and I could feel his overwhelming energy and beliefs emanating from the art.

— It was your first time painting a mural outside of Japan. What do you remember most about Hawaii?

Although many locals came to see my mural, the thing I remember the most is Japanese-Hawaiians’ positive reactions and strong interest in my art. I realized how many Japanese-Hawaiians actually live in Hawaii, and they took an interest in my works of art. I feel I understand the reason why some Japanese call Hawaii their second home.


— Please tell us the theme of the new mural “Stardust” that you completed in Hirono-machi, Fukushima.

The theme of this mural is that children will bear the future and it is they who are capable of cheering up the community, not adults. Kids and animals look up at the mural in the same direction and what they see before themselves is the future. The kids in the mural are painting shooting stars using their favourite colours so that they can make a wish. At the same time, they are vulnerable. In other words, making a move can’t proceed without pain but they have to move forward. I want people in Fukushima to feel deeply and be inspired to move forward and look to the future after seeing my mural.

— Since the windmill is the symbol of Hiromo-machi, painting a mural on side of it is special. Did you feel any pressure while doing it?

I was worried if I would be able to complete the mural on schedule because a typhoon was coming to Fukushima. Every time I paint a mural, I am worried about the weather.

— Local kids were encouraged to join in and put their own mark on the mural. How were their reactions?

This is the first time I challenged myself to paint a mural with the local kids. Many kids and adults joined the event and they stencilled and spray painted more than 100 stars. Since there were many more participants than I had expected who wanted to paint stars, I had difficulty dealing with it for the latter half of the event. I felt that most of the kids looked like they enjoyed being able to help paint the mural.

— Please tell us how you felt about participating in Hirono Art Camp for the first time.

I was impressed with the passion of the local people and government to revitalize their town from the Great East Japan earthquake. I also appreciated that they were persistent in their long-term goals and were motivated to continue to improve their surroundings. I am very honoured that I was invited to take part in the event by such a wonderful place with such wonderful people.


— Why did you use Hon-minoshi (Japanese handmade paper) as a medium?

Gifu, where I’m from, has an extraordinary Japanese traditional paper industry which is still a secret to people around the world. Street art is about spray paint. I thought if I fused this strong paint with exquisite paper, something special would happen. I thought I just needed to give it a go! It’s actually extremely difficult to stencil and spray paint onto Hon-minoshi, but the completed art pieces have an indescribable charm to them.

— We’ve heard that the production is limited because the whole process to create Hon-minoshi is done by hand, so we imagine that it would be hard to purchase. How were you able to acquire the paper?

I went to meet the artisans in person in Mino-city, Gifu. To be completely honest, I told them exactly what I wanted to do and asked them to let me use their paper. They thought my challenge was interesting and agreed to work with me. As a result, they custom-made an unusually thick paper especially for me.

— Please tell us what is difficult about stencilling and spray painting onto Hon-minoshi.

At first glance, spray paint doesn’t look like it would go well with Hon-minoshi but the completed art pieces have an indescribable beauty. However, since Hon-minoshi isn’t coated like regular paper and spray paint is strong, it’s very difficult to work on my pieces without any problems. For example, I encountered things like pilling and paint not adhering properly during the process of my creation.

— Could you tell us what you have coming up in the near future?

I want to make a social contribution through my art and challenge myself to do something that no one else has ever done before. Those are my main goals. I don’t paint to make myself happy. I think that I will continue painting my works of art for people and communities because they appreciate my creations.

You can purchase art pieces created by RoamCouch from HERE.