Creative Layover: Tokyo

“Konnichiwa” (the Japanese word for “hello”) and welcome back to Creative Layover! Our global tour has landed us at our next stop: Tokyo. As the cultural center of Japan, this destination offers a relentless wealth of art and ritual. The three artists featured in this layover put a unique spin on the artistic categories we have previously explored: photography, photo manipulation, and graphic design.

Tokyo, Japan

Japan’s culture, while influenced by other Eastern and Western powers, has maintained a unique set of traditions, ceremonies, and art forms. “Origami” (art using folded paper), “ikebana” (flower arranging), “bunraku” (puppet theater), and “ukiyo-e” (woodblock printing) only scratch the surface of the artistic depth that Tokyo has to offer. Additionally, more generally practiced art forms are imprinted with Tokyo’s cultural perspective, distinct from the rest of the Eastern world. Without further ado, let’s meet three artists whose work exemplifies this perspective.

Photographer – Yuma Yamashita

Yuma Yamashita is a photographer and the creator of Inspiration Cult Magazine, which promotes a collaboration between brands and photographers to produce fresh and creative content. Yuma is connected with other photographers and artists all over the world and is proud to represent an element of the art scene in Tokyo. Regarding his photography style, Yuma says, “I prefer to take the dark side of photos and show something sentimental. I always focus on the shadows when I shoot and edit — there is only darkness because there is light. I believe we can see humanity and backgrounds in portraits, and feel emotions from landscapes when we focus.”

Omoide Yokocho. “Unlike the rest of Tokyo, Omoide Yokocho has remained relatively unchanged since WWII. I go there often because I really like the nostalgic atmosphere. In this photo, the man seems to match his surroundings perfectly.”

Tokyo Tower. “Tokyo tower has many faces, especially in the nighttime, when it looks really moody and warm. On the day this photo was taken, it was rainy and I was in search of a reflection to use. I shot this by holding my camera close to the building.”

Mt. Fuji. “Mt. Fuji is famous for being drawn by Hiroshige, an artist from the Edo era in Japan. This is a very interesting view because we can see that the mountain is crossing over the manmade highway right by the ocean. This shot felt rare to me, because the mountain looks like it’s wearing a hat!”

Yuma’s Tips, Tricks, and Parting Words of Advice: “Whenever I edit any picture, I first experiment with the Lightroom grid function to find the right angle and the perfect composition. My advice is to look at your photographs and their composition in detail before you start the actual editing (even when you are sure that you already know what you want your final result to look like).”

On lighting technique, Yuma says, “if you want to achieve a dramatic shadow and light composition — which is important for my kind of photography — you should always make sure that you raise the shadow and black levels while reducing the highlight intensity.”

Photo manipulator – Masaya Kitamura

Masaya Kitamura started taking photos three years ago and began using Photoshop to uncover unusual world views as seen in fantasy and science fiction. On getting started in photography, Masaya says, “I started to take pictures with a light feeling, but at some point, I wanted to make art with an unusual worldview. So, I learned to use Photoshop by watching a lot of videos. I am still studying to master the tool.”

Witch and Full Moon. “In this image, I tried to express a fantastic world where a woman in wizard attire has a full moon in her hands.”

The World Seen by Youth. “People wandered around in the streets at night. Among them, a young man stopped to stand and look at the sky and saw a world invisible to other people. Since the young man was the hero in this work, I wanted the world to look animated. To achieve this, I increased the clarity and saturation.”

Summon. “With an explosion from the palm of the wizard’s hand, a powerful dog appeared, as if summoned. This work was composed using a dog’s picture on the background layer. Using the brush tool, I created several blasts with different blurring conditions to superimpose a three-dimensional, dynamic feeling.”

Masaya’s Tips, Tricks, and Parting Words of Advice: In Photoshop, “use the brush tool when you want to upgrade the atmosphere of the work. It’s a basic tool, but it can be very useful in a lot of cases — such as directing smoke or light — if you cannot produce them at the time of shooting.”

Tips for balancing color: “The most important thing to note when overlaying multiple layers in Photoshop is the color balance between each layer and the depth of field of the work.

To prevent the colors from not matching, I spend a lot of time using the Blur (Gauss) and Tone Adjustment tools.”

Graphic designer – Asuka Watanabe

Asuka Watanabe is a graphic designer and illustrator from Japan. She works on a variety of design projects and partnerships, ranging from magazine spreads, to event posters, to LP covers (some of which can be seen below). A lot of her work is inspired by nature images, with a strong focus on color balance and aesthetic.

Cosmos. “This piece was a flyer-design for a music event called “Cosmos.” The design was inspired by the exterior of the event venue, Bar Bonobo’s, and I chose colors that have a galactic, cosmic feel.”

The Rainstick Orchestra. “This is a CD/LP artwork for The Rainstick Orchestra. I used images from nature, such as rocks and water. By using a digital process, I was able to make a well-considered collage.”

Unhappy at Work? This illustration was for a magazine article titled “Unhappy at Work?” The elements follow the article’s content as well as highlight the attractive visual colors. First, I drew vector lines, making an assembly of planes. Then, I filled in gradient-effected colors, considering the entire balance, used a noise effect as a finish, and then adjusted colors at the end.”

Asuka’s Tips, Tricks, and Parting Words of Advice: “I think one of the most interesting things about Photoshop is that sometimes you end up with completely unexpected images. Through trial and error, accidents and coincidences can lead you to a unique visual. To me, that’s what makes Photoshop a profound application. As a graphic designer and illustrator, I believe that creating these serendipitous, original images widen my execution’s potential and give me a chance to grow more.”

For more from these artists, check out their social channels below:

Yuma Yamashita | Instagram | Facebook | 500px

Masaya Kitamura | Instagram

Asuka Watanabe | Website | Behance | Dribble

Check out our last two stops in San Francisco and Paris, and stay tuned for our next installment of Creative Layover, where we will spotlight three new Photoshop artists in another city.