Taking Motivation From Nature, Inspiration From Peers

Artist Yoko Tahara is on a quest to express her inner voice through art

Yoko Tahara was inspired to start an artistic career when she viewed a series of woodblock prints by noted artist Shiko Munakata, who is often identified with the mingei—or folk-art movement—of mid-century Japan. In her own work, Tahara identifies with the rawness and uncertainty that comes with the printing process "because the work is covered until you remove the paper from the press and the result often contains surprises."

It's that same adventurous spirit that drew Tahara to the Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Visual Arts. Already a self-taught, disciplined creator who regularly spends days in her Bay Area studio, Tahara chose to pursue a certificate and finds that her studies allow her the luxury to explore other artistic dimensions such as drawing and collage in preparation for her final portfolio production.

"Nature is a source of my inspiration," she says, standing in front of a series of minutely observed drawings of lichen displayed at her art show at Extension’s San Francisco Campus. "I draw the objects. I create prints out of lino-cut. I make collages out of prints and YUPO paper. I do ink-and-paper work three days a week at home and print-making once or twice a week in the studio."


Being in the program allows Tahara to discover new ways to express her artistic talent. In fact, it was instructor Sheila Ghidini who first encouraged her to take lichen as a subject for her drawing. "She listened to my inner voice," Tahara explains, "and brought it to life." Another instructor, Pamela Lanza, underlined the importance of explaining her art as a way to "develop the artistic mind."

You can see more of Tahara’s work on her website. There, she discusses her lichen drawings in more detail. “At first, from a distance, I was curious to see the color moss green in the forest. Now, I see the lichens everywhere in daily life and am attracted by its various forms and subtle colorings. I am interested in abstract images I see in the patterns of lichens in nature. The lichens grow freely in an infinite variety of complex forms. My drawings are with pen and ink on white paper, which I feel can capture the delicate textures, shapes, values and lines found in the abstract imagery of lichens.”

That ability to speak about her art doesn’t come easily. “In critiquing my own work, I tend to evaluate the process and not the final product objectively,” she explains. “It is also challenging to critique others’ work as I found it very difficult to detect the concept behind the art on the spot.