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Artists Among Us: Artist Profile - Lynn Matsuoka

Originally Posted: November 16, 2009

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"Classic Jumper," 2008, 14" x 17" oil and graphite on archival paper. All images courtesy of artist

Lynn Matsuoka shown here in the dressing room with her primary subject over the years, the Great Grand Champion of Sumo, Chiyonofuji.

Continuing with our artist profiles of artists both living and working in the Hamptons, our next artist is Lynn Matsuoka, who lives in Bridgehampton.

Bridgehampton - Lynn Matsuoka was born and raised in New York City. She received her B.F.A. in music and art at Temple University in Philadelphia, and then studied at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. She documented the Watergate hearings for ABC and CBS before moving to Japan where she spent the next 35 years, beginning her career as a fashion illustrator for Gimbel's & Saks 5th Avenue, also working with Vogue and Women's Wear Daily magazines in Tokyo. She married a top division Sumo Wrestler, had two sons, and eventually returned to the Hamptons. Matsuoka has been described by designer/artist Milton Glaser as "Probably the greatest living reportage artist."

"Rock Star," commissioned portrait, 2004, 14" x 17" oil and graphite on archival paper.

While in Japan, Matsuoka became well known for her drawings and paintings of people in action, and her portraiture skills depicting Sumo wrestlers and Kabuki theatre. She worked with Bunraku (puppet theater), Geisha, and Maiko (young Geisha) organizations as well. Also, as a color commentator on the NHK TV worldwide Sumo broadcast for 15 years, she acted as liaison/translator for NBC Sports, The Asia Society, President Jimmy Carter, and National Geographic.

Through her artwork Matsuoka has been instrumental in introducing sumo to the world. Her first book "The Scent of Binsuke" was published in 1981. She has been the subject of numerous documentaries and is currently working on an autobiographical novel, and has exhibited throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe and Japan, and is represented in both Hawaii and Japan.

Matsuoka states "My goal has always been to capture the intense and private moments while athletes and actors prepare for their performances." Additonally, she reveals "I have always donated my work and skills to fundraising efforts both nationally and internationally."

"Cowbird," 2009, oil and graphite on archival paper.

During her multi-faceted career, Matsuoka has worked as a documentary artist with the American Ballet Theater (ABT), and with Anne Bancroft, Maria Callas, Natalia Markarova, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Raul Julia, Elton John, Count Basie, Leon Russell, Ten Years After, Ken Norton, Tom Sever, President Jimmy Carter, and "The Johnny Carson Show." Among the numerous athletes she has worked with are Dave Winfield, Don Mattingly, Dave Righetti, Ricky Henderson, Lou Pinella, Bob Tewksbury, Pete Rose, Steve Carlton, Joe Moore, The NFL Pro Bowl, The New York Jets, The Knicks, The Hula Bowl, The Vienna String Quartet, The Honolulu Symphony Orchestra, Alvin Ailey Ballet, The Dance Theater of Harlem, and The Merrie Monarch Hula Competition.

Her works are included in the collections of UBS Bank, Bank Nationale Nederlande, Warburg Dillon Reed, ABN Amro, Jardine Matheson, McCann Erikson, Citibank, Morikami Museum of Art, Shochiku Movie Company, Hakuhodo Advertising Agency, McCorriston, Miller, Mukai, MacKinnon Lawyers, and Sen Restaurant.

Various corporate clients include American Express, Deutche Bank, Proctor & Gamble, Quintiles, Coca Cola, Zurich Reinsurance, Pharmacia Upjohn, The Sumo Association, McNeil (Johnson & Johnson), Stork, Chanel, New York Times, NBC Sports, Japan Airlines, Montreal Botanical Garden, Missouri Botanical Garden, Japan Society Honolulu, Japan Society St. Louis, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FOX, Associated Press, Rueters, Kyodo News, and Mainichi Shimbun.

"Children's Dressing Room (Koyaku beya)," 2006, 14" x 17" oil and graphite on archival paper.

Her illustratrations have appeared in "The Ozeki Musashimaru Biography, Sumo, a Fan's Guide" by Mark Schilling, "Yokozuna Chiyonofuji's Biography, The World of Sumo" by Lora Sharnoff, and The Official Sumo Association's calendar.

"Young Girl," 2007, 11" x 14" oil and graphite on prepared paper.

When did you start making art and what medium(s) do you consider to be your roots in art?

Lynn Matsuoka: I started when I was 10 years old when my mother recognized something and enrolled me in private art lessons. When I was 25, and started to cover court trials for TV Network News, I started using an oil and graphite technique for speed. I have developed this over the years, and use it now. I am occasionally working on learning the watercolor technique, which handled well, is gorgeous, and very different from the techniques I use. Drawing quickly with a dark black graphite pencil has always been my favorite thing, and my speciality is very quick, extremely accurate drawings. In the 1970s I added oil pastel and have developed a very fast, realistic technique over the years. I love hand-made and artfully prepared paper, and that is mostly what I work on.

What is it about the Hamptons that brought you here and enticed you to stay, work, and pursue your art here as opposed to some place else?

LM: In the early 1980s, when we would be in New York, my husband and I came out here from the city for weeks at a time, renting places to stay. This was a beautiful and peaceful break from the city. After a couple of summers of doing that, I decided to buy a house. Most of my friends went to Woodstock, but I wanted to be near the sea, and loved the landscapes here. I still look at the passing fields and trees like a tourist, even though they are closing in. All this time I have wanted to paint landscapes, but still have yet to do that. I am mainly a figurative artist. I went back to Japan in 1988 and lived between there and Hawaii until just recently. I came back here, but travel often to Japan for my work, until about a year and a half ago, when I just didn't want to leave.

"Flight 3," 2009, 18" x 22" oil and graphite on archival paper.

How do you support yourself as an artist?

LM: I am primarily a portrait artist, and take commissions for individuals, corporate and family portraits here and through my websites. My portrait and 'Event Artist' work is very heavy, especially during the holiday season. I create quick drawings of people, either portraits or groups of guests and atmosphere, as desired by the host. The drawings become a gift for the guests, and the process becomes a point of entertainment as people enjoy watching the drawing. For a year I did an interview and portrait two times a month for a local magazine. I also exhibit in different parts of the world.

For 20 years I have been been giving lectures on the World of Sumo as a microcosm of Japanese society, illustrated by my paintings and drawings. My clients are usually international banks and brokerages with business interests in Japan. I am currently talking to sports teams about again working as an on-site sports artist. I am also working on three books, one that connects the Hamptons with Sumo - really! I supported my family with that work over the years, and still have requests for that work. Everything is a portrait, whether it takes me four minutes or two hours. I take commissions for corporate and private portraits. People love this, and I am often asked back for another event. I also do reportage portfolios of family pets or horses.

Equestrian portrait commission, 2009, 14" x 17" oil and graphite on archival paper.

Why live and work in the Hamptons as opposed to elsewhere?

LM: I love the off-season Hamptons for the open spaces and the natural colors, the dozens of birds in my garden. You can have solitude for your work, or go out to the openings and restaurants to be social. I also want to be here to be near my family. I like the peace and beauty of this place, but these days find most of my clients in other places, where I am known for my work. It has been slow getting a following here, and the last year has made it more difficult.

What local environmental or historical aspects of the Hamptons do you relate to that may be reflected in your medium?

LM: I originally came out here for the landscape, the winter light and color so I wanted to capture all that in paintings, but have not yet done that to my satisfaction, having spent much of the last 30 years between Japan and Hawaii. The last four or five years here, and after coming back full-time, I spent most of my drawing/painting time on horse farms in the warm weather and near the water where seagulls gather in the colder weather. I have been warmly welcomed by horse farm owners and riders out here, which enables me to work from live subjects.

"In the Dressing Room, Merry Monarch (Arianna)." 2007, 11" x 14" oil and graphite on archival paper.

What artists do you feel have influenced you and your work?

LM: Without question - Daumier - whose drawings I studied as a child, Lautrec, Degas, Mucha, Cassat, the impressionists, Maxfield Parrish, and there are some great artists out here - Elwood Howell, Ivan Kustra, Walter Us, Janet Jennings and Barbara Groot, to mention just a few of my favorites.

"The Judge," 2008, 11" x 14" oil and graphite on prepared paper.

What advice would you give an emerging artist?

LM: Follow and focus on that which resonates within you, and keep at it until it is second nature. Recognize mentors, and observe - observe. You might also consider becoming an IT expert as a back-up, get some doctors and lawyers for friends, and marry well! Study and develop well the technique you need to capture the subject you love, and consider creating a back-up income.

What gives you an edge (if any)?

LM: I can draw very well, and fast. If I must use pictures for reference, I can easily correct distortion or change details, and I have worked under the most distracting and uncomfortable conditions to get the job done. And, of course, I love what I do.

What are you working on now, and are you involved in any upcoming shows or exhibitions?

LM: I am developing an on-line art gift shop with affordable merchandise that carries my images at www.cafepress.com/sumoartist. I am also doing a line of dragons and year of the tiger images on tee-shirts and garments, as well as working on a couple of portrait commissions, and have been invited to do two exhibitions here in December. On December 12 at The Laurel Group at Baywoods (Water Mill) with a holiday reception on Saturday, December 12, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., showing a mix of equestrian, nature and some work from Japan, and another exhibition opening on December 19 at Xavier in Sag Harbor (with a reception on the 19th from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.), which will be mostly reportage artwork. These are two very different spaces, and I am showing two very different collections. I do lectures on "Sumo as a Microcosm of Japanese Society" and am putting together lectures in Japan for 2010.

"Sleeping Grand Champion (Chiyo)," 1992, 18" x 22" oil and graphite on archival paper.

 • To view more of Lynn Matsuoka's work call 631-537-5237, or visit the following websites at www.hamptonsartist.com, www.traditions.jp or email at artist@hamptonsartist.com

Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.

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Guest (Tony) from N.Y. says::
I was stationed in Japan between 1988 and 1990. I was lucky to see and meet Takamiyama, Konishiki, and a rookie named Akebono. The artwork of Ms.Matsuoka brings back lots of memories for me. i have one of her prints of Konishiki, and it hangs on my wall as a reminder of my time in Japan, and what a great sport Sumo was back then, with all it's rivalries.
Jul 31, 2011 1:12 am

Guest (Lynn Matsuoka) from Hamptons says::
I really appreciate this artile written by Eileen Casey. Re Sharnoff's comment, I didn't , and wouldn't bother to mention her book, written very long ago and out of print. The stated World of Sumo is where I have been working for 36 years and counting. Being a scholar, I know she did not mis~read it.
May 23, 2010 10:51 am

Guest (Lora Sharnoff) from Japan says::
Iwas recently sent this article by a mutual acquaintance of Ms. Matsuoka and mine. The title of my sumo book, which contains some illustrations by Lynn Matsuoka, is "GRAND SUMO: The Living Sport and Tradition"-- not "The World of Sumo." This can be looked up on Google and elsewhere.
Apr 26, 2010 6:51 am

Guest (barbara groot) from E Hampton says::
Wonderful interview !!!!!! Thankyou for the mention !!!!!! xo BG
Dec 9, 2009 8:17 pm


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