Luis uses drawing as a therapy. His lines are as imperfect and clunky as he feels at that moment. He lets them go and flow and accepts them as they are. The looser the better. He lacks the technique and knowledge of the craft, but compensates by loading his drawings with as much warmth and feeling as he can.
MC: What is your relationship to Tokyo?
LM: I came here in 2009 for the first time on a three month sabbatical treat. I completely fell in love with the city and kept coming back a couple of times a year for a while. In the summer of 2013 I finally came to live here for a year and decided to stay indefinitely.
MC: When and why did you start drawing the city?
LM: During my sabbatical I kept a drawn diary (a comic actually) about what I encountered and learnt while in Tokyo. Once back at my home in Amsterdam, a designer friend saw the diary and asked me to make illustrations for his magazine. That was the start of my career switch from designer to illustrator.
MC: Do you draw professionally?
LM: I think I work now as an illustrator for 80% of my clients. But even when they ask me to design a logo, I will include some drawing in it, in one way or the other. I don’t see a clear division between drawing and designing really. In my work they intertwine with one another.
MC: Are there any recurring subjects in your Tokyo drawings?
LM: Probably people, because they are the easiest to draw, specially in the train or in bars/restaurants. I occasionally do drawings of cars, houses, or things. Tokyo is full of motives to draw!
MC: Do you have any special places in Tokyo?
LM: Tons of them. From the beautiful parks like Happoen to the izakayas and the narrow backstreets. I love Kagurazaka, but also Yanaka and most of Shibuya but really, even jumping in any train and get comfy, it will give you a great inspiration source to draw.
MC: Do you have any references for your work or anyone you particularly admire?
LM: Many, of course. From the loos style of French comic author Joann Sfar to the wonderful journalistic approach by Robert Weaver. The colors of Dong Kingman and the talent of Adrian Hogan.
MC: Why is drawing important for you?
LM: Drawing changed my life in many ways. There was a time when I hated my drawings for not being good. One day I realized I wasn’t accepting myself and if I wanted to become a happy person, I must first accept my drawings as they are part of me. You can say drawing is for me a therapy. It helps me accept what I am.
Drawing gives you the time to concentrate on something while thinking on something else. It combines feeling and representation. It flows and it also speaks volumes, drawing is what we all could do before we could write or even walk, but we’ve unlearned to do it. Unfortunately, people tend to think drawing well means to be able to represent real objects well. I think drawing well means to put on paper that which is flying around in your heart.
Luis Mendo is an editorial designer converted into an illustrator. He worked for twenty years in Spain and The Netherlands as a successful magazine and graphic designer until 2013, when he moved to Tokyo and started drawing on a regular basis, rediscovering the joy of the craft, and developing a career as an illustrator and artist along with his design work.
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