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Studio Visit - Satsuki Shibuya

Studio Visit - Satsuki Shibuya

Studio Visit - Satsuki Shibuya


Studio Visit with Satsuki Shibuya

This week we sat down with artist Satsuki Shibuya to talk about her new works launching on Tappan this week and her practice as it continues to develop. Simple in form, Satsuki's watercolors are representative of a meditative state of mind. Conscious of the movement, palette and tone in each work, Satsuki perfectly coalesces her medium and her mindset, creating paintings that exude a calmness, a state of existence that one can truly get lost in. Satsuki discussed her special gift of synesthesia with us, a heightened sense that ultimately led her to convey feeling and emotion through her watercolor paintings.


We've briefly discussed your gift of synesthesia before and how it has influenced you to create. How do you define synesthesia? There is certainly a dictionary definition, but what a personal and unique experience! Tell us about what is means to you, and your early experience of realizing you possessed a special gift.


For myself, synesthesia comes in a variety of forms, some closer to the definition and others, not so orthodox. If more inline with mainstream understanding, I associate sounds with colors, or more specifically, certain sound waves as colors. It is a combination of the sound tone, mixed with a sensory connection to the vibration felt throughout the body which produces an association with a particular color. Ever since I was young, I would feel the world around me, noticing the simplest of details, like a leaf falling from a tree on the side of the freeway, while peering out the window sitting in traffic. I would not only see this happening, but feel the leaf, swaying side to side, floating down onto the ground. It would mesmerize me as all senses were being tantalized by this one moment. I remember one day riding in the car with a friend and pointing out a beautiful autumn colored leaf which was green not too long ago, sharing thoughts about the seasonal change, only to receive a reply of, “What the heck are you talking about? You’re so weird, Satsuki.” ’Til this day, those words ripple within, once associated with a stabbing reality of being different, is now a fond memory, coupled with a chuckle and thankful for the deep connection I experience through this “gift”.


Is the affect of synesthesia a constant one? How have you managed to "live with it?"


It is a constant one in a sense that if I visit a densely populated area or find myself surrounded by multiple sound sources, it can get quite overwhelming quickly and therefore need to either do some preparation work prior to entering the environment or find quiet time afterwards to recharge. Sometimes, if it affects the body heavily, I will end up feeling ill for a few days. Before, it felt out of my control as I was not aware of what was happening, but finding out more about my condition and the way in which the body, mind, and spirit interact with the outside world, I am able to better harmonize with my surroundings, and through it, transmute the experiences into my work.



Living with synesthesia certainly inspired a slew of creativity in you - did you begin with watercolor or were you at first finding other creative ways of discovering and communicating your gift?


As I was not quite aware of this “gift” until 2011, after a sudden illness, I never really took into consideration having it a part of what I do, but by the time I discovered watercolor, through receiving messages to paint, it was very much a guided decision, watercolor being the medium best suited in expressing the unseen words experienced into a tangible form of communication with others.


Satsuki Shibuya says

“When I first began painting, there was never an intention to create in a particular style or genre, but I was intrigued when others, who graciously shared my work, would refer to it having hints of Japanese culture. Being second generation Japanese-American, I have always felt neither here nor there, but in the middle, I sense that this is what comes through in my work.”


Have the cities you’ve lived in influenced your practice? If so, tell us a bit about that, and what elements in particular steered you in certain directions.


I’ve never had the opportunity (yet) to live in another city except the City of Angeles, but I have always been deeply influenced by my parent’s homeland, Japan, whether it is the philosophy of Buddhism or the architecture of Kyoto. When I first began painting, there was never an intention to create in a particular style or genre, but was intrigued when others, who graciously shared my work, would refer to it having hints of Japanese culture. Being second generation Japanese-America, I have always felt neither here nor there, but in the middle, and sense that this is what comes through in my work.



What is one artist living or dead you feel a great connection to? Someone who’s work has inspired your own practice and what you’re creating these days?


Agnes Martin. When I first came across her work, the distinction was instantaneous. All the cells in my body danced — I knew I was in the presence of something beyond just a beautiful piece of art. After reading more about her life, her philosophy towards painting, and perspectives, it was clear why I felt a connection.   


What's one thing you still have from your childhood?


My sense of direction. I’m sure I get it from my father, but if I visit a place once, sometime twice, I will never forget how to get there again. It’s funny as I had the hardest time in school remembering historical figures, names, mathematical equations, chemistry elements, but maps and directions? I was and am the queen.


When do you make your best work?


When I am well rested, feel balanced and grounded through yoga, meditation, reading, writing, and eat a whole foods diet. All things that I am sure make any human body feel good, but for myself, with painting being such a physical practice, the mind, body, spirit balance has to be in tune with the Earth and Universe to create the best work possible.



Regarding your method of making, is it a case of the material or method dictating the idea of the other way around?


It is definitely the method that dictates the material or the philosophy that dictates the method that dictates the material. Without the conscious and higher self as my guide, I would be like a boat, without a compass, aimlessly floating out at sea.



What's one accomplishment you're most proud of?


I’m not sure if proud would be the right way of describing this feeling, but it is of not giving up on finding my life purpose, no matter what others may say or do. It is not easy as judgement seems to be of second nature to us all, but something inside continued to push on and I am thankful for if it were not for this inner knowing, I would not be who I am today.


What motivates you?


To be a catalyst of love, peace, and harmony through art and words, where we can all live, appreciate, and honor one another for who we are and the life we have been given.


About Satsuki Shibuya

Through watercolors, visualizations of universal metaphysics appear with a focus on themes such as nature, energies and aspects of everyday life.


Read More



A new book by Satsuki Shibuya Presented at Show + Tell Projects in collaboration with Tappan.


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About Satsuki Shibuya

Satsuki Shibuya is an artist, poet, and spiritual thinker whose work represents her way of translating the energy of the unseen, spiritual world into something more tangible. Born and raised in the constant activity of Los Angeles, California, her work blends the powers of art and spirituality, and it is this combination that allows her to connect deeply with others, more accurately define her art, and better understand her identity as an individual.

Satsuki’s earliest creative exploration was in music, primarily piano and vocals. After spending time in the music industry, she felt herself pulled into the visual arts and pursued that initially through graphic and product design. Following an extended illness that took her away from her profession and allowed her to connect more deeply with her spirituality and her soul, Satsuki was called to painting. With brush in hand, she lets emotion and feeling guide her work. She began to explore peace with her own identity as second-generation Japanese by recognizing that belonging is about those in your life rather than where you physically sit. Today, Satsuki continues seeking the harmony her ear was trained to find by translating experiences beneath the surface into something that in turn helps others connect with themselves and the world in a way that often eludes explanation.

Regardless of how her work takes shape, Satsuki knows the purpose is not in the making or the medium. Rather, she creates to express to others what she feels and experiences beyond daily existence with the hope that her art may serve as the catalyst that allows them to discover a deeper purpose for themselves by responding to this energy with sensations all their own.



"I want people to feel connected not necessarily with my work, but through it. I see myself less as the artist and more as the medium through which the universe communicates the harmony that moves between us. Love is foundational to every human connection and, with my art, I strive to express the energy behind this emotion through visual representation in whatever form necessary. As a result, my art connects deeply to my spiritual practice and is driven by the energies and auras I experience. This helps guide everything from the medium itself to the colors and the way the brush responds in my hand.


The forces that define us are often experienced beyond day to day life, and I hope to support others by enabling them to experience these forces in a way that is uniquely theirs. I’m drawn to both visual representations in various mediums and the written word, and I combine the two in some of my work as a way of painting with language and speaking with form and color. Working in this way adds depth and detail to how the often-unseen world shows itself to me and allows me to more accurately translate what I experience." - Satsuki Shibuya



2004 BS, Music Industry, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA

2009 BA, Communication Arts (Graphic Design), Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, CA



Moments, Show + Tell, Los Angeles, California, 2016

Tête-À-Tête, Salad Bowl, Tokyo, Japan, 2016

Flow, Poketo, Los Angeles, California, 2015

Into The Light, Do Design, Madrid, Spain, 2015

Calm Chaos no. 02, Zeitgenießische Galerie, Heidelberg, Germany, 2018

GIFC, 0-0 LA, Worldwide, 2018

Palette, Ampersand International Arts, San Francisco, California, 2016

Kisaragi No Isidis, Edane, Osaka, Japan, 2016

Spatially Speaking, Platform, Culver City, California, 2016

fresh stART, Santa Monica, California, 2016

Next Generation Art Party, UNICEF, Venice, California, 2015-2017

Soho House x Tappan Collective, Soho House, West Hollywood, California, 2015

Good Mail Day, Artstream Studios Gallery, Dover, New Hampshire, 2014

Floral Edition 003, Collectif Blanc, Montréal, Canada, 2014

The Summer Print Shop, Book Stand, FvF Apartment, Berlin, Germany, 2014



Urban Outfitters / Space 15 Twenty, Moment Marketplace, live painting + installation, Hollywood, California, 2017

Modern Citizen, ROW DTLA, Los Angeles, California, 2016

The Line Hotel, Los Angeles, California, 2016



LA Design Festival, Mindfulness & The Creative Process, Panel Discussion, Los Angeles, California, June 2018

OTIS College of Art and Design, Foundation Forward Alumni Panel, Los Angeles, California, February 2018

Show + Tell, In the Moment — Developing your Intuition for Work and Life, Los Angeles, California, November 2016

POKETO, Explorations in Watercolor Workshop, Los Angeles, California, September 2015, April + October 2016, April 2017

POKETO, Branding 101 Workshop, Los Angeles, California, September 2013

Satsuki Shibuya