We’ve long been fans of utterly endearing Japanese artist Mogu Takahashi. From cats in jumpers and rabbits with cheeky glints in their eyes to quick and colourful sketches of plants, her naive gouache paintings are full of joy and charm. “For me drawing and painting is kind of like writing a letter to someone,” Mogu tells It’s Nice That. “I sometimes hide a little secret message in a painting that only my dear reader can understand.”
If you’re lucky enough to be based in Melbourne, an exhibition of work by the self-taught artist runs from 8 May to 1 June at Lamington Drive, with the cute title A Little Hat On You. “It’s simply because I like to draw little hats on creatures,” says Mogu of the upcoming show. “For me it’s something like putting a broach on your jacket – a little gesture that makes your day better and brings joy. I have kept this idea in mind when making this new work as well. I often like daydreaming in my head… If I gave a rabbit a hat, what kind of hat would that be? If this turtle could talk, what would he want to tell me?”
Mogu has been drawing since she was a child, but initially studied architecture, somewhat unhappily. “College life was not so interesting for me and I started skipping classes and spending more time drawing.” She also started selling postcards of her paintings in the park (of all places), until one day she was spotted by a gallerist and invited to take part in a group show in New York. “My work was received very warmly there and this was the first step for me – helping me to decide to stick to drawing and to become an artist instead of an architect.”
Now Mogu’s repertoire involves all kinds of creatures and natural life, taking inspiration from their shapes and colour contrasts. Drawing is part of Mogu’s daily routine and her sketchbooks are crammed with observations of animals, reflections on dreams and whimsical characters. She mostly uses gouache but has recently been trying out other mediums to create more dynamic brushstrokes.
In 2013 Mogu began the self-initiated project Mogu Daily Doodles, posting these images on Instagram where she found she could connect with other artists, brands and publishers around the world. “They are like my private daily visual diary but are also idea books for future reference,” says Mogu. “I bring them everywhere I go, it helps me introduce my work, especially in a meeting with clients and galleries.” Mogu still paints and draws in a sketchbook everyday, and often exhibits these works to accompany larger paintings. They’re glimpses into an innocent and wonderful world that is lovely to visit, if only for a short while.