Interview with Hiroshi Ariyama: Transforming Time

Hiroshi Ariyama, designer and screen printer, is a resident artist at the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative. With a background in photography, he elevates screen printing to fine art with his graphic depictions of Chicago landmarks and everyday observations.

ArtStyle: Why did you decide to go into printmaking?

Hiroshi Ariyama (HA): I've been a creative person, working for ad agencies and design consultancies, but in that capacity there's always someone who's going to say “yes” or “no” to what I produce, and they put their two cents in and thereby nothing is purely mine. I think there's some part of me that needed to satisfy that aspect of being pure — producing something from beginning to the end. It was a driving force behind why I started screen printing.

I have a lot of photography and printing background, so screen printing was an interesting method for me to pursue because it involves my core competencies. There's a lot of room for me to express myself and produce a very unique piece of art. In my work, I discovered something interesting — a picture taken during the day could be turned into a twilight or evening scene with great effect.

Hiroshi Ariyama 5pm
5 pm. Courtesy of the Artist.

ArtStyle: In general, what process do you go through to create a piece?

HA: First I take the photograph. Whether I'm riding a bicycle, taking the train, walking, or driving, I just roam around the area that I want to take picture of. I don't know exactly what I'm looking for, but I'm looking for something that might have a story behind it.

Perhaps this might be a good example (5 p.m.) of the process. Here I'm trying to re-create the time after sunset when everything turns blue. There are four layers of different shades of blue used here. The four layers were created by posterizing the photograph, and then isolating each tonal range so that I could assign each layer a unique color.

Hiroshi Ariyama 6pm
6 pm. Courtesy of the Artist.

ArtStyle: Let's examine your print of this train station.

HA: This image (6 p.m.) is the Brown Line station at Chicago Avenue and Franklin. I took the photo during the early evening so the lights were on. It was right after the train had left. You see the distant train and a lone person on the platform. In this particular piece, I laid down the dark brown color first, and on top of that I put down the black halftone, which adds all of the details that you see here. I added the yellow to illuminate the lights on the platform, distant train, and the windows. Finally, I applied blue ink to the sky and to the building, which adds extra depth to the picture. I made the blue ink to be a certain opacity where it shows the color but not wipe away the image.

ArtStyle: How many screens did you have to use to create that image?

HA: I typically use 4 to 6 screens to do one print. As my skill level improves, I will be increasing the amount of screens. There are people who use 24 to 34 screens to do a piece. When you use that many screens, then the piece starts to look like a photograph, and that's not my intent. So I like to keep it fairly graphic. Maybe I'll go up to 8 colors but probably not more than that.

ArtStyle: And how long does it take you to create a print?

HA: It depends on the edition that I'm making. Typically, my editions are small — 30 to 40 prints — so I probably print in two solid days.

Hiroshi Ariyama Untitled
Untitled. Courtesy of the Artist.

ArtStyle: Let's talk about the Picasso sculpture. How did you do the colors in this piece?

HA: Here the use of color is far away from reality except for the darkness of the sculpture itself. I isolated the sculpture, the background, and the light red, and dark red to define the architecture behind the sculpture. Typically, I put down the lightest color first. It's easier to achieve good results because darker colors tend to be more opaque than the lighter ones.

Hiroshi Ariyama Daybreak
Daybreak. Courtesy of the Artist.

However, sometimes I use a lighter color later intentionally to have something come through from behind. In this piece (Daybreak), I'm trying to illustrate the purple clouds hanging lower than the rest of the clouds. I wanted the background to show through, as clouds are translucent, and I wanted to put down the lighter color to achieve that.

Hiroshi Ariyama Lakefront
Lake Front. Courtesy of the Artist.

ArtStyle: Could you talk about this lake scene?

HA: This was a commissioned piece. I'm very interested in creating memory for people. This is a shot taken by the children’s mother one day last summer when their father was swimming away, and the two kids were watching over him. I thought it was a very interesting composition for a screen print.

I chose the set of colors that could illustrate late afternoon, but at the same time I wanted to use a reddish color for their skin tone just to make it a little bit more suitable for children. Looking at this print, people could almost re-live the experience they had in their lifetime when they were looking out to the sea or lake.

Hiroshi Ariyama Lasalle Street
LaSalle Street Blue. Courtesy of the Artist.

ArtStyle: Let's talk about the LaSalle Street prints.

HA: This is the Board of Trade building on LaSalle Street, taken last year. This was probably during the middle of the day. The only difference between the two pieces is that I used a warm red background in one and blue, in the other. This is a very dark print. It's as though you're in a canyon and your eyes can only escape from it by going to the top of the print. And there's a lot more going on when you look very closely.

Hiroshi Ariyama Brownline
Brown Line. Courtesy of the Artist.

ArtStyle: Which is your newest print?

HA: It's the Brown Line. In certain lighting, this brown really stands out, and you can really see the details. Someone told me it looks like the art in a Japanese comic book, which it could be. I've read a lot of comic books growing up.

ArtStyle: How do you think your work is changing? You said you wanted to try new things.

HA: I think I want to gradually do something other than scenery. I might want to do more abstract compositions. It may be related to nature or something artificial, but I'm not there yet. I'm in the process of experimenting, and I have to be patient and make the gradual attempt to go larger.

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