M.A. Tateishi is a Vancouver-based artist who was a pleasure to chat with recently.

For me, it was her passion for her process that stood out during our chat. I’m certain if I wanted to dive deeper — and had the time — she could have provided me with enough to write a university dissertation on the topic of layering in paintings.

She has her own studio in East Vancouver, but give her a heads up if you plan to drop by. You’ll understand after you read our chat, especially Question 11. 😉

[Featured Artwork: “Malmö by M.A. Tateishi.]

M.A. Tateishi


The following responses are lightly edited for length and clarity.

01. Rock, paper, or scissors?

It has to be rock because that’s my name in Japanese. It means “standing rock.”

02. What are three interesting facts about you?

A. I have a Business school degree.

B. Related to that, I am an Art school dropout. After my kids grew up, I went back to school. I went to art school and I did a lot of years part-time, but I never finished my degree because my art career was going really well.

C. I’m a big hockey fan (Vancouver Canucks).

03. What is the main medium you use in your art?

Resin. I paint in multiple layers of tissue and I use acrylic paint for that.

I start with a wood panel and I paint on that. Then I add a layer of tissue, paint on top of that and then add another layer of tissue. When I have 10 to 20 layers of tissue then I pull them back. And when the work is done compositionally, what I do is I put resin on it. Resin intensifies the colors — because my work is about color — and it also allows you to see through some of the tissue layers.

It’s like if you had an old house and you tore back the wallpaper so you could see the old wallpaper underneath, except all the wallpaper had been done by crazy monkeys with neon spray paint.

04. What inspires your art?

I’m inspired by the visual.

I’m going to send you a painting called Malmö (Editor’s Note: See featured image above). That painting was inspired by seeing this really cool photo of these artistic crayons, which were multi-colored, and I liked the way they were lines of color. That was the original inspiration but, of course, it’s not going to look anything like that when I’m done because of all the layers.

05. Are you more productive at night or in the morning?

Morning. Definitely mornings because I get up pretty early. I have a studio that’s separate from my home. When I go there I can probably get twice as much done in the morning than I can in the afternoon.

06. What is the most unique thing about the city you live in? (Vancouver, BC)

With Vancouver, I think it’s beautiful. The unique thing is that the mountains and ocean are so close together. I think people associate mountains with being at high altitude but, here, you’re right at sea level and the mountains are right there. From my home, I get to see both. So, it’s nice.

I guess the other thing is, because I’m Japanese, there’s a ton of Asian people here and Asian culture and especially Asian food. So, that’s great.

07. Is art your career or a hobby? Something else?

It’s my career. I work enough hours at it.

08. What kind of training do you have?

I did a certificate program at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, which is the arts school here in Vancouver. And then I joined the regular degree program and did three out of four years of a degree before I dropped out.

09. The art is one thing, but what’s your secret to generating interest and ultimately selling your art?

I don’t know that there’s a secret. You can’t copy things and follow trends. You have to create work that comes out of your own personality.

For me, I’m a really fast painter. When I first started out, I could produce a painting every day. I started layering, first of all, because I was interested in layers and how things looked. But my layering process taking so long slows me down a bit, which is good. It enables me to create more intricate work but it also helps me to get over that fear of a blank canvas that some people have. I have a process that I follow that enables me to get in there and get started and not worry about the finished product.

10. Where did your passion for art start?

I always liked to draw.

You know how books open and they have those blank pages? Well, I wrote and drew all over one of my mom’s books. It was her medical guide but I just saw blank paper and I would draw on it. So, from the time I was really small, I drew.

Unfortunately, like a lot of people, I was discouraged from thinking of art as a career. So maybe I’m rebelling against my parents by being an artist now. *laughs*

11. What would be the most annoying thing about having yourself as a roommate?

I’m kind of messy. Yesterday, at my studio, the building manager said, “I’ve got my sister and her friends, can they come through?” But the studio looked like a bomb had hit. There was paper and scraps everywhere. I agreed but they had to pick their way through. It was so embarrassing. Of course, like most messy people, I don’t like other people to be messy. So, I think it would be awful to have to share a studio with me. *laughs*

12. What is your go-to band or singer?

I really love a band out of Newfoundland, they’re called Hey Rosetta! They make beautiful anthemic music. They broke up, but now the lead singer, Tim Baker, is making music so I listen to his music. I, apparently, was in the top 99.7 percent of people listening to that band on Spotify.

13. What’s something you’ve been meaning to try but just haven’t got around to?

I guess the only thing would be travel. I like to travel a lot but with the pandemic I haven’t gone anywhere lately. I’ve never been to South America or Africa. Probably more likely South America, I wouldn’t mind going.

14. What household chore do you actually enjoy?

I like doing laundry, actually.

It started when we traveled. We traveled with small children and I ended up doing laundry in the hotel sink or going to laundromats in exotic cities. It was actually really interesting to get a glimpse of how people lived. There’s differences. Some places don’t have dryers like we do, so you’d have to hang everything out and you’d get to see everybody’s laundry. I find it pretty interesting to do laundry internationally.

15. What app do you use most often?

Probably Instagram. I’m visually inspired so I love Instagram.

16. What is one common misconception about being an artist?

I would say that we’re not business-like. I think because I have a business degree maybe I’m lucky. But to be a successful artist you do have to be fairly organized around the business parts. I think a lot of people do resist it but I think they end up doing it.

17. What is your favorite drink?

Water. To make it exciting, sometimes, I drink sparkling water.

18. What do you hope people get out of your art?

I love it when people say, “I got one of your paintings and I look at it and I see something new all the time.” I just love hearing that people are enjoying it every day.