Kellen Hatanaka's Mural on The Drake Café Patio

Posted by Maggie Lever, August 10, 2016
Drake Cafe Patio Kellen Hatanaka

There is a new mural on The Drake Café patio by Toronto-based artist and graphic designer, Kellen Hatanaka! Based on the curated Desert Cool (aka 1960s Palm Springs) summer theme at the Drake and influenced by the patio space, Hatanaka’s work depicts various unique plants and planters painted on a white wooden fence.

Drake Cafe Patio Kellen Hatanaka

After talking to Kellen Hatanaka, it became clear how his energy and engaging personality comes across in the dynamism of his work. We wanted to know more about this captivating person both in and out of the studio (see random questions below) and how he balances his personal life, as well as artistic and graphic design practices. By confining artistic practice to regimented 9 to 5 work hours, he is able to keep up with the demands of his work, while also creating time with his wife and their dog. Yet, despite this commitment to his art, Hatanaka has no shortage of ways to clear his head when he needs to take a step back from his work; with a studio fitted with a basketball hoop, his workspace also holds ample room to skateboard, along with a record collection featuring mid 90s rap, and turntables for the former DJ.

Drake Cafe Patio Kellen Hatanaka

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Hatanaka’s latest work, titled Overgrown Pots, would be a reflection of an eccentric, urban renaissance man. In the instance of his mural at The Drake, Hatanaka took into account the location of this work on the Café patio and sought to use a colour scheme that catered to the summer space, but remained true to his characteristic colours that are common in his works. After a long process and careful consideration to the composition, Hatanaka used a variety of stacked pots to add a variation of heavier shapes in combination with more organic floral shapes. With bright attention-grabbing colours, turquoise, salmon, blue, and yellow, this mural is bright and adds energy to the patio. These vibrant summer hues, are less muted than Hatanaka’s usual colour schemes but add even more contrast against the white background.

These elements of colour and shape are striking in all of Hatanaka’s work. As an artist and graphic designer his practice ranges from editorial illustrations to drawings done with chopsticks and ink, with aspects of digital collage and screenprinting. Yet through the variety of these artworks he uses similar distinctive qualities of line, shape and colour.

Drake Cafe Patio Kellen Hatanaka

Read Kellen Hatanaka’s answers to the questions we asked him and learn more about him and his approach to art-making:

1. What is your favourite planet?

It used to be Pluto, but now that it is not considered a planet anymore I don’t think I have a clear favourite. Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune look pretty cool though.

2. How does your graphic design work influence your mural painting, and vice versa? And how do you see your practice evolving?

My design and illustration work definitely influence my painting and sculpture practice quite a bit. In my design work I use a lot bold, graphic shapes and elements and the focus of the work is always on composition. This holds true with my paintings as well. Even though most of my paintings are representational in terms of subject matter, I like to simplify the objects and subjects of my paintings until they become graphic shapes or a combination of shapes, which I arrange to create dynamic compositions. My interest in typography comes from my design work and I often try to incorporate type into my paintings as well. Recently, I have been spending a lot of time on commercial projects, which means a lot of time on the computer. I definitely appreciate and take advantage of the precision and efficiency of the computer, but I have become increasingly less interested in the clean, crisp results that a computer generates. I have been experimenting a lot with a looser, more organic approach with my design work, which is informed by my painting, drawing and other artistic endeavors.

3. How do you feel about Artificial Intelligence?

I am pretty optimistic about AI, although I must admit that I am not extremely knowledgeable on the subject. I know a lot of people see AI as the apocalypse, with human-like robots taking over and exterminating the human race, but I imagine artificial intelligence will play a much more subtle roll in our lives. I think AI could be very useful in helping us with menial, every day tasks and streamlining our user experience with all the technology we currently use. I recently did artwork for a company called Snips that is using AI to streamline the use of smart phones which is a great example of how AI will integrate into our lives. At the end of the day, any new advance in technology has the capacity to be used for good and evil.

4. Do you prefer odd or even numbers?

Even numbers. My favorite number is 10.

5. You recently collaborated on a book "Tokyo Digs a Garden" with your brother-in-law, can you tell us more about this project?

Tokyo Digs a Garden was a lot of fun to work on. It was a really great experience working with Jon-Erik on this book. I think it is widely regarded that working with family is a dangerous undertaking, but I am glad we rolled the dice, and truthfully I knew we would collaborate well together. Tokyo is the third book that I have illustrated, but it was the first time that I have worked on a story written by someone else. I was a huge fan of the manuscript and Jon-Erik included some really amazing imagery in the story so I felt a lot of responsibility to do the story justice. It is a tricky balance bringing someone else’s vision to life while staying true to your own practice and sensibilities.

Drake Cafe Patio Kellen Hatanaka

Posted in: Art