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Artist infuses Sydney surf culture with Japanese comic book style

Kentaro Yoshida is an artist making his mark on contemporary Australian surf culture with his own style of imagery inspired by Japanese myths and comic books.

A full-time graphic designer and illustrator for creative agency M&C Saatchi, Kentaro is also now gaining a profile as an artist. He’s designed art for surfboards and clothing while taking part in exhibitions.

Illustrations of animated skeletons and skulls adorn the walls of his apartment near Sydney’s famous Manly Beach where he’s made his home.

“I did a mural in my friend’s surf shop. It was quite big, and then people started recognising me as an artist”

He’s lived in Australia for about a decade and completed a Bachelor of Visual Communications at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), as well as becoming a keen surfer.

As a child, growing up in a Japanese fishing village 300 km northwest of Tokyo, he spent a lot of time in his mum’s studio drawing comic book characters. His mum, a glass artist, encouraged his creativity.

“Seeing my mum make a career as an artist made me think that I, too, could be an artist or creator,” he says.

He came to Australia at the age of 18, having chosen Sydney as the least expensive international destination to learn English. He first went to language school and then took an extended Diploma of Design at UTS College.

“There were students from Indonesia, Hong Kong, China, Korea and some Europeans. I was the only Japanese student – so it was kind of easy to hang out with these different groups”

Kentaro learned how to write academic essays and do presentations, as well as gaining experience collaborating with people of many different nationalities.

During his degree, Kentaro did an internship with the surf brand O’Neill and created designs that were later used on some of their clothing. For the first time he saw how he could combine his passion for surfing and art.

At M&C Saatchi, Kentaro worked on campaigns for large corporations such as the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Google, Optus, NRMA, IAG and Lexus

At the same time, he’s expanded his creative practice, advising other young people to network. “Sometimes you need to break the barriers. Once you get through the barriers, your life becomes easier.”

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Key points​

  • As a creative thinker, Kentaro pursued a career in design
  • During his time at UTS, Kentaro worked on a mural at at local surf shop - big surf brands recognised his unique style which opened a new world of opportunities
  • Unifying his passion for design and skills developed at UTS, Kentaro has become a well known artist