In this Artist Q&A session, get to know, JUURI, the person behind the Fortune Favors The Brave mural along Western Avenue.
Let’s start off by getting to know you. Tell everyone a little bit about yourself and your art.
My name is JUURI. I’m a Japanese + American artist born in Tokyo on Christmas Eve, 1983. I currently live and work from Norman, OK.
I grew up in the Midwestern US, graduating from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah with a Bachelor’s in graphic design. The many Japanese exchange students I met there helped me connect back to the Japanese culture from which I had been away for so long. After graduation, Japanese motifs as seen through my current multi-cultural lens became my muse.
My art is an attempt to visually capture the nostalgic moods from my earliest childhood in Japan, and to reconcile them with my current outlook on the world. I work primarily with watercolor, colored pencil, and digital means. Recently, I am shifting my focus to massive murals, which I’ve had the opportunity to paint both here in OK and out of state.
How did you become an artist?
I’ve drawn and painted since early childhood. I started taking private lessons at 13, and went on to get my Bachelor’s in graphic design in university. I also took a lot of fine art classes there. After I graduated, I got a graphic design job in a busy production house. I soon discovered that my true calling was fine art all along; and so I started painting seriously in 2010. After that it’s just been one adventure after another. I have so much fun daily with all my projects, and I get to travel a lot!
What’s your process on creating a mural from start to finish?
I first make an extremely detailed sketch with all the colors planned out. I take inspiration from the mural surroundings in regards to color, so that the mural blends seamlessly with the environment. I then project the outlines at night. Then I come back the following days and fill in all the colors. I need to back up to make sure I’m painting things right on such a huge scale, so you’ll often see me running back and forth across the street like a crazy person!
Tell us about your finished public murals.
My mural is entitled “Fortune Favors the Brave,” alluding to the resilience of Oklahomans to withstand overwhelming natural and man-made disasters. No matter the hardships, we always bounce back and treat everyone with kindness, free of embitterment.
The muse for my piece is a local 14-year old girl who is beautiful inside and out. She is crowned with kimono-style florals and scissor-tailed flycatchers rendered in kimono style to represent my Japanese heritage.
The thin blue line represents law enforcement who have given so much of themselves in our times of need here in this state. As a volunteer for the police department in Norman, I can confidently say that our officers are some of the best people I have met in my time living here. (An Oklahoma City officer and a Norman officer helped me paint the blue line.) The line is placed behind the eyes of the girl to symbolize future watchfulness against threats, and the line in front of the left eye means that we will never forget the past.
What advice do you have for artists on making murals?
I’ve learned that planning is essential when painting large-scale. You don’t want to “make stuff up” once you’re painting so large since any mistake is magnified in size.
In terms of art, what would you like to see more of in Oklahoma’s future?
I’d love to see sponsorship of more street art, a push for excellence, and either public or private funding so that artists can get paid what they deserve for skill they’ve developed over a lifetime of practice.
What can public art do for a community?
I talk to more people while painting a mural than I do in all my art shows combined. I love how public art engages every person who passes by. Any place I’ve ever painted a mural has become more beautiful and safer… not just because of the art of course, but because of the attitude of all people involved in bringing about the change to the area. Beauty is contagious!
What do you think are some of the most beautiful places in Oklahoma?
I grew up in Eastern OK, so I think the green countryside, rolling hills, and moody misty mountains there are something to see!
Anything else you wish to share about yourself or your art?
My art is inspired by Japanese culture and beauty, but it’s also equally inspired by courage… which is a worldwide phenomenon! Especially courage from an unlikely person. I hope everyone who sees my art is encouraged to be more excellent, more kind, and unafraid to do what is right.