Thalia Surf Interview Series Presents: The Extraordinary Yusuke Hanai


In case he needs an introduction for you, Yusuke Hanai is a world famous artist whose work can be seen in various forms. You can spot his designs on apparel, in books and magazines, clocks, and so much more. Although the Pacific Ocean regularly keeps us apart, we were still able to catch up via email to see what our old friend has been up to lately.


THALIA SURF: You've been a friend of Thalia's for a while now. Can you tell us how that relationship started?

YUSUKE HANAI: In 2005 I met Will Penartz in Japan. Will used to run the gallery next to Thalia (before it became the Vans store), and he had asked me to send some of my work to his gallery. When I visited California to deliver the art, I met Nick next door. And we've been friends ever since!

Nick Cocores, Yusuke Hania, Jim CocoresNick Cocores, Yusuke Hanai, Jim Cocores

TS: Did you always know you were going to be an artist one day? Or did you want to be something else when you were growing up?

YH: Since I was a child I always enjoyed creating art, but I never thought I would become an artist. When I met Will, I was working for a sign maker as a graphic artist, and he had asked for me to send in my work after he saw a sign I made. If I did not meet Will, I would not be an artist today. I was a house painter, graphic designer, sign painter, and a web designer before I was an artist. I didn't have a specific dream, but I have been enjoying making things. 

TS: We've all been psyched to get your new publication, Ordinary People, in the shop; although we don't get to flip through it for very long since it sells out pretty quick! What was your inspiration for this book?

YH: I've been painting and drawing for more than 10 years, so I summarized the last decade in this book. I've reviewed all of my works, and I realized what I like to draw. At first I just drew surfers, and then I wanted to draw surfers out of the water. A lot of surfers around me are far from perfect, but that is part of their charm. For example, if the waves are good, they don't go to work. They prefer waves more than work. I realized then that I like to draw people who are considered weird/silly/crazy/stupid, because I think everyone has those kinds of situations in life - that is ordinary. So then I made the title "Ordinary People." 

TS: Who is your favorite character to draw?

YH: When I was a kid I liked to draw "Kinnikuman" (Ultimate Muscle), "Captain Tsubasa" - those Japanese Manga comics. But also Tom & Jerry and Bugs Bunny.


TS: You've cited Rick Griffin as a major influence for your work in the past. What part of his style really spoke to you?

YH: I really dig the 50s and 60s American counter culture. Beatnik, hippies... At first I found Rick's art on a poster for The Greatful Dead and Jimmy Hendrix, which led me to his drawings of Murphy for Surfer Magazine. His drawings are comical but represent that culture in the best way. Pop but punk.

The Mattson 2 with Yusuke HanaiThe Mattson 2 with Yusuke Hanai

TS: Do you have any other current influences in your work today?

YH: For sure!

  • Japanese Manga
  • Hokusai Katsushika
  • Ben Shan
  • Saul Bass
  • Barry Mcgee
  • Andy Davis
  • Jeff Canham
  • Wolfgang Block
  • Rich Jacobs
  • And many more!


TS: What are you working on next?

YH: I've been wanting to make figures, and I'm finally working on a vinyl figure with Medicom Toy!


We just received in a few more issues of Ordinary People - click here here to order your copy before they're gone! While you're at it, check out our exclusive Vans x Yusuke x Thalia Surf tee here!
*some of the responses have been edited due to translation
Words by Jackie Bowles // Photos from Vans x Yusuke party at Thalia Surf by Thomas Green //
Additional photos provided by Yusuke Hanai

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1 comment

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    Bo: January 04, 2018

    Love his stuff! Hope vans does another collaboration soon.

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