Today we’d like to introduce you to Jared Egusa.
Jared, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
This past year, when I was 28, I fell in love for the first time. And when it ended, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself. It was a very foreign concept to me, letting someone in and allowing them to get close. To say it was rewarding is an understatement. To say it was the deepest connection and the most profound happiness I have ever known is closer to the truth, though I’m aware of how cliché that sounds.
When that spot I had hollowed out within myself became vacant, I felt an incredible amount of loneliness and pain. Heartbreak, I realized, was every bit as turbulent, dramatic, and woefully indulgent as pop songs, romance novels, and age-old love poems had touted it to be. Now it was my turn to finally experience it. And I’ll concede, it was awful. That month was hard for me. I felt like I was drowning; in sorrow, in memories, in longing. So I did the only thing that I was capable of doing at the time. I picked up my pencil and drew.
I have always been drawing for as long as I can remember. My mother is a very gifted artist and I can say with certainty that I inherited my love of art from her. Growing up, I was surrounded by her influences: her weekly drawing classes, horse skulls and ostrich eggs laying around the house, sketching fish eyes, the sheen of my sister’s violin, a bounty of art supplies at my disposal. It was a playground for my creativity to take root and grow. But there came a tipping point when awareness of self entered the picture and I became acutely aware of my own ability or my perceived lack thereof. I often wonder if other children of artists grow up feeling like they are living in the shadow of their parent’s talent. It’s funny how, even as children, we can become so result-oriented as opposed to process-driven. By that, I mean when we are told or made to believe we are no good, we shut down and give up, regardless of how much we may enjoy the actual process of doing something.
I wanted something that was my own and maybe because of this, or perhaps because of some deeper-seated longing, I found a love in performing. When I watched the television growing up, I knew that I wanted to be on it. There was an unfettered joy to performing and a wild abandon that I instantly knew I wanted a part of. On top of this, I hardly saw anyone like me on TV. I knew that there was this slot that needed to be filled and I wanted my voice to be the one to fill that slot. Because of this, my life has gone in a certain direction that has led me to where I am; living in Los Angeles, working as an actor commercially and theatrically, which is actually where I met the person whom I fell in love with a year and a half ago.
It’s important to note that despite feelings of inadequacy, I have never once stopped drawing. I have faltered at times but never given up. All my life it has been the one constant, the one thing I can be assured of that I have waiting for me at home. All I need is a pencil and some paper. Self-doubt still creeps in like a shadow, but it doesn’t loom large enough to deter me like it did in my youth.
After the breakup, I began to draw what I was feeling. Since I was feeling depressed and heartbroken, I figured, why not use that as raw material. Why not make a piece as an ode to my love. And thus began the genesis of my latest series, For You, From Me, a retrospection of my relationship; the beginning, the end, and all of the turmoil throughout.
Has it been a smooth road?
As far as my pursuit of artistry the road has been anything but smooth and yet it’s hard to picture it unfolding any other way. My self-doubt was crippling at times and on top of that, I suffered heavy bouts of depression with a more-than-recommended dose of self-loathing. I sometimes wonder if all artists feel this way. Not tortured, per se, but uncertain. External validation failed to give me the satisfaction I was desiring. It wasn’t until I picked up an art magazine that my view really shifted. It was called Hi-Fructose and it led me to discover more publications of the same variety, such as Juxtapoz and Beautiful/Decay. These were magazines that featured artists whom I had never seen anyone like before. Artists who, dare I say, reminded me of myself. It celebrated the New Contemporary, a subset of art I that I instantly identified with: Pop Surrealism. All of a sudden, my art had a context, and that was the push I needed to believe that my art could have a home, a tribe, a community. My journey as an artist has mirrored my greater journey as a human in a lot of ways, the ultimate goal being to find acceptance in both myself and my work.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
In some ways, I am grateful because I feel very multi-faceted as an artist. I am happy I have different channels to express myself creatively, whether it’s through drawing, painting, coloring, dancing, or acting. I was born in Japan and spent a very early part of my childhood raised in Tokyo, followed by a swift move to the US, where we settled in Connecticut to continue with my education. I have always felt mixed and I have always felt slightly ‘other’. I knew growing up what it felt like to not be white enough for my white friends and not Asian enough for my Asian friends. My two biggest inspirations growing up were Stan Lee and anime, very emblematic of my half-American side and my half-Japanese side. These two sources have, over time, influenced my style to its current juncture: wide-eyed, waifishly-proportioned, vibrantly colored. Margaret Keane meets Takashi Murakami, one friend commented, which I still take as a high compliment.
I have tried to incorporate thematic elements of otherness into my drawings. I am at a point where I am beginning to take an interest in conceptual art. For a large majority of my life, the art I was creating was purely aesthetic or purely from my imagination. I never took drawing lessons or studied human anatomy, so my style has kind of become it’s own, and the subconscious would breathe to life these images that interested my friends. But I wanted to challenge myself, and For You, From Me was a good opportunity for me to imbue my work with a deeper meaning. For me, it is my most serious and refined body of work to date. It’s funny that in a way, it took heartache and loss to feel the most growth I ever have as an artist. The source truly opened myself up to inspiration.
What role has luck (good luck or bad luck) played in your life and business?
I don’t know how much luck has had in my art career. I’m fairly pragmatic. I’ve put in a lot of hours into drawing. The Beatles used to play eight-hour gigs in German clubs before coming to America where they rocketed to stardom. You just get better with more practice. That being said, I’m also aware that every single person that I have ever met is a stroke of luck, pure chance, and some of those people have been really crucial in my evolution as an artist. So it’s hard to say. I had an artist as a mother, and I fell in love with acting at a very early age, which led me to live in Los Angeles, which is where I met someone who I fell in love with, which led to a series of drawings to cope with the heartbreak of when it ended, which led to this interview I’m writing right now. So it’s hard for me to unravel the thread and find where it begins. In a way, it’s all interwoven and connected. And at the end of the day, does it matter? I am here. You are here. Maybe that’s all that matters.
- Instagram: @jaredegusa