Today we’d like to introduce you to Ayaka Prenton.
Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
Art has been one of my important communication skills since I was 11. Until then, I was always drawing and making crafts as a child, but it was something I just did for fun. I never thought I was any more creative or better than any other kids. In 1998, I came to the US from Japan. As an immigrant, I faced language barrier, but I came to learn that art was a universal language. One day my classmates gathered around me during an art class, and I didn’t understand what was happening. I remember being scared because I was usually alone, and I thought people were going to make fun of me again. However, I was happily wrong. I ended up making a best friend for the first time through drawing Power Puff Girls and silly flipbooks. Art became a form of communication and expression, and I learned the joy of connecting with others through art. I ended up pursuing a degree in fashion design, but as is for most people, there were many plan changes and detours along the way. I worked as an office assistant for couple of years, got married, and became a stay-at-home mom to three children.
I stumbled into painting in the fall of 2017, a few months after our family moved to China for my husband’s job. We had two young kids at the time. I was home with then 1-year-old son while my 5-year-old daughter was in kindergarten. Watching my son grow every day and seeing my daughter learn Chinese as well as English and Japanese so effortlessly, I also felt the urge to “grow” and to get better at something. I picked up paintbrushes that I hadn’t used since college. I painted during my son’s nap time. I painted at night. I chose a goal to create something every day, and I started to document my art journey on my IG @ayaka.m.p.art. When we came back to the US in 2018, I began working on creating my own style and chose to incorporating sewing into my paintings. My IG account started to gain more followers as I create new pieces, and I started to receive inquiries for my artworks. I set up a business as a self-employed artist, and here I am today!
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I became an artist when my second child was 2 years old. Finding time for art and going through “mother artist” guilt has been a challenge all through my art career. As a stay-at-home mom, it’s easy to get in the mindset that there are myriad things to do, a bunch of tasks left undone, I should be spending my time with/for the family. I have a very understanding husband who supports and encourages my art practice, so that has been very helpful to fight the guilt. My youngest is now 1 year old, and the time I have for myself is limited and precious so I get down to business as soon as nap rolls around. I need to plan ahead what I can accomplish in this limited and unpredictable length of time for myself, and I need to focus really well. I also need to be okay with being interrupted even in the midst of creative high and things not going the way I had planned.
There are many other struggles I go through as an artist. I often feel vulnerable showing my art in person or on the internet. When you are creating art, you’re putting a personal part of you in your piece. You have to be okay with any reactions you get. You also have to truly believe in yourself that what you do and create is valuable. When you are trying to make living with your art, you are not creating something for just yourself anymore. You also have a family to support with your art. You also need audiences and collectors. You have to become realistic and find those people that resonates with what you do and wants to support you. Another challenge has been social media. I got my professional start through IG, and that is how much social media can play a big role for artists. As much as I love being able to make connections and relationships through social media, I feel the pressure to show up every day, show my personal life, make myself more relatable, create more contents… which has become more challenging as the platform evolves and gets complicated.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
My art comes from thoughts and emotions derived from human imperfections. I’ve been fascinated with the idea of human nature; having complex feelings, ideas, and the natural instinct to be so unnatural. This concept is integrated with inspirations from nature, where I feature the organic shapes and natural forms I encounter, such as landscapes and florals. In my work, I like to balance the opposites, such as controlled/uncontrolled, planned/unplanned, natural/unnatural elements, to explore and express the contradictions and complexities of human nature and the beauty of imperfection. I incorporate embroidery details on top of paints. As I have a background in fashion design, sewing skills is something that I have nurtured for quite some time. I have come to utilize the stitches much as a painter uses their brushes, creating depth and movement with the thread.
How do you define success?
Success means being able to be true to myself, to love and enjoy the process, and to be found by those who resonates with my work. Art is a form of communication and expression for me. It’s my way to make connection with others. I find greatest joy when my art connects me with those who value them as much as I do.