Rider’s Lens: Kan Kobayashi’s Illustrations
In this edition of Rider’s Lens, we meet young illustrator Kan Kobayashi from Tokyo, Japan, who shares a selection of his distinctive bicycle-themed illustrations. Get to know Kan and the story of how bicycles became the central theme of his art and how he found an online community during the height of the pandemic here…
Words and illustrations by Kan Kobayashi (@kankobayashi_)
Hi, my name is Kan Kobayashi. I was born in 1998 and will be 25 this year. I’m an illustrator and artist living in Tokyo, Japan. I draw the people, bicycles, and scenery I see while cruising, playing, and traveling on my bicycle. As for my work, it consists mostly of posting artworks on social media, exhibiting at art shows, collaborating with fashion brands, and doing various activities as an illustrator and artist.
I recently raced tracklocross for the first time. The experience of riding a fixed-gear bike on gravel was shockingly fun, and I couldn’t help but draw it afterwards. I’m always trying to paint new landscapes with new expressions, and it’s especially enjoyable when I can draw from personal experience.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic came upon us, and in Japan, we were forbidden to leave our homes. I was a college student at the time, so I was bored at home because I couldn’t go to campus or hang out with my friends. I was extremely lonely, so I wanted to somehow feel connected to people from all over the world. I couldn’t travel because of the pandemic, but I thought I could communicate with cyclists around the world through my artwork, even from home. That’s how I first started drawing pictures of bicycles.
As an art student, I had been drawing pictures for a long time up to that point, but no matter what I drew, it didn’t seem to be be something that conveyed a strong message to people. But, when I started creating illustrations of bicycles and people riding bicycles, not only people who liked bicycles, but also people who weren’t interested in bicycles became interested in my artwork. For some reason, people from all walks of life really seem to connect with them.
At an art show, I’m happy to be able to talk to people who look at my artwork and see their smiles. It’s a pity that I’ve only been able to hold art shows in Japan so far, where I haven’t had many opportunities to meet people from overseas. That’s why I’m very happy to receive comments and messages on social media, and I’m very grateful to have developed a small online following, through which I’ve connected with many interesting people. And, when I make things that people can actually use, such as T-shirts and bags, it makes me incredibly happy to see people using and enjoying them.
If I’m not painting, I’m probably out riding my bike. Both of those activities keep me quite busy, but other than that, I like to spend time with my family and friends. When I’m too tired to paint after riding my bike a lot, I’ll typically go to public baths and saunas to relax. There are many good saunas in Japan, and I can highly recommend visiting one of them if you’re ever in Japan.
I’ve changed and grown a lot through my encounter with the humble bicycle. In my opinion, a good illustration is somehow like a bicycle. They are both simple but essential and they can enrich our lives and do lots of good for our minds and overall wellbeing. When I’m worried about work, I like to go out and do some thinking and calming of my mind while riding my bicycle.
I hope my illustrations will entertain and help people all over the world. As I write this, I’m sitting at a cafe and drinking a coffee, and my bicycle is sitting just outside on the bustling street. Hopefully, you’re able to take some time to enjoy the small collection of work shared in this post, perhaps even with a coffee or tea of your own.
If you’re interested in seeing more of my work, you can find my web shop here or follow me on Instagram @kankobayashi_. Thank you for reading!
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