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Azure M: On working with Green Day, knitting and drawing in New York (interview)

drawing: Azure

Azure is an interesting young woman. She is a Japanese living in New York, working with Green Day, knitting odd scarves and drawing comics-like illustrations for cool projects. Oh, and she has a band, too. We interviewed her to get to know more.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background. 
I was born and raised in Japan, and came to NYC to attend an art school.  I studied Design and Technology, where I learned graphic design, motion graphics, web design, and a little sound design.  
Your main job is film/animation related? 
Yes. I originally wasn't particularly focused to learn animation at school, but I liked drawing too much I unintentionally ended up doing animation for my motion graphics class.  At that point it was kind of like..."Yay! I get to draw more stuff".  
Motion graphics class, core studio class, presentation...when I had the liberty to chose which media I could use, animation was my first choice.  But I guess I was thinking of animation in more like commercial spots as opposed to TV shows and feature animated films, so I ended up not particularly taking any concentrated Animation course (which, I still wonder why to this day).   
By the time I was a Senior, I liked animation enough that I couldn't think of anything else but animation to do for my  thesis, and pursued to become an animator from that point on.  Since then I’ve worked on shows like Ugly Americans (Comedy Central), Sid the Science Kid (PBS) , and The Electric Company (PBS).  I’ve done a lot of the actual animation and designs, but I also have worked on animated shorts and series pilots as a storyboard artist and assistant animation director.
You are an illustrator - do you do books, ads, or something else? I really liked out drawings on flickr, how did your drawing/painting evolve and do you draw on a daily basis? 
As an illustrator I like using Sketchbook Pro and have had some exhibitions with Autodesk Sketchbook, in San Francisco at the Digital Canvas 2011 and in Vancouver at Siggraph 2011.  One of my illustration will be in a digital artbook sponsored by Autodesk and VIZ Media this fall.  
I've liked drawing ever since....I don't know, I've liked it ever since I can remember.  I liked drawing in kindergarten...(trying to think back)  I remember clearly that my elementary teachers were concerned that I draw too much.  If I did something bad as a kid I was never grounded, but instead my mom would not allow me to draw.  It was way effective and way painful, and mom was sure aware of that!
I think....there has been more days after graduation of collage that I cannot draw personal art because I'm loaded with deadlines, but until I started working I drew at least one thing a day.  I remember sneaking a pad of paper and pencil under my pillow when I was sick and was supposed to be sleeping.
My work has 'evolved' during the course of my life, so I really can't explain this without telling my life story, haha.
I did take a couple fundamental outside-school art class.  First one was...I might have been seven years old.  I liked drawing, but studying to draw was painful.  I only took a few lessons that time but started to go to a class weekly when I was in 8th grade.  There I did a lot of pencil and charcoal sketches and a couple oil painting.  
I really like rendering in pencil, and LOVE details.  I was sad that photographs existed so there were less demand for drawing super realistic subjects.  
I didn't read much of manga, and I was only allowed about a hour of TV time as a kid so I grew up not watching much anime, but what I did like doing was to try to copy the artists that I really liked.
I think "manga" and "realistic" kind of meshed at one point, and I started refusing to draw super huge shiny eyes-kind of manga.  From there I kind of just...drew what I felt I like, got influenced here and there, and here I am.    
You worked for Green Day, how was that and how were you involved? 
Haha, that project was for the Broadway show "American Idiot" (which, I think was never actually used in the show. but oh well).  What I did was design the characters of the piece, and ...basically was given a stickman storyboard and animated that, making the shots as dynamic as I possibly could.
You have a band yourself and it sounds pretty interesting, could you elaborate on the music you make? 
I joined the first band in 2008.  Totally random.  My boss and Director Alan Forman had a band with his friend Roger Mason called Ten Minute Turns for years.  Just around that time I had told myself I would start practicing piano again (I took piano lessons from 4 years old to 19 but hadn't had a chance since I moved to NY), and Alan overheard me talking about it.  He asked "you play piano!?  Wanna play?" and my response was "Ohhh yes!" So we did a tryout, he liked it, so I started playing with them as keyboard and back chorus.  I just recently joined Roger's other band called Kings County as well and started playing on synthesizers. 
How did you get into knitting and when? 
I actually knitted twice before in highschool, because I wanted to make a scarf for my boyfriend for Christmas.  It's a pretty cheesy but popular thing for a girlfriend to knit her boyfriend a scarf in Japan.  I'm not sure how that started, but I think it's still true to this day.  He liked it so much that he asked me for another one.  Both were really simple.  After that, I just stopped and didn't touch needles for couple years until I met my husband in 2008.  He had just moved to NY and he didn't have a heavy coat to combat the NY cold because where comes from, he didn't need it.   I was so desperate to keep him from catching a cold, so I decided to make a super warm Alpaca scarf.  Very simple, but a huge one.  Later I learned he wasn't much of a scarf person, but he loved it and still uses it to this day.  Woohoo!
Who taught you, or was it the internet? 
My absolutely first teacher was my grandmother who lived with my family.  I think I asked her to teach me crocheting when I was like 7, she got happy and started teaching, and I immediately lost interest after making a couple inches of chains.  When I made my first scarf though, I went back to her for the first few steps.  Second time I think I borrowed my sister's knitting book that I randomly found in our room.  
When I started again in 2008, I of course TOTALLY forgot how to do it.  My first action was to go to a bookstore and picked up a "very beginner" book in Japanese.  
I was surprised because once I casted on the stitches, it came back to me.  I think I started in October, pretty sure that I wouldn't finish until Christmas Eve (I was planning to give him for Christmas), but to my surprise I finished in 3 weeks.  Then I wanted to make something else.  So I started the first hat that was in the same book.  Then I wanted more.  And here came the mighty internet.  Since till then I had only known how to knit and purl, I was terrified and couldn't even think of trying cables or lace.  But all the articles and patterns I found on the internet got me so excited I just had to try.  I must have learned 90% of what I know from the internet.
What does knitting, yarn etc. mean to you? What was your most ambitious project? 
I am going to admit that I am a workaholic, and one of the things I hate is idle hands.  I can't just sit and say, watch a movie at home.  I like the state of 'producing something' and 'hands always busy'.  Knitting is not only productive, but you know, its fluffy, and colorful.  It makes me happy.  And the best part of knitting is that you know that whoever using this...hat or scarf or glove is going to be warm and comfy--though I know hand-knitted accessories or sweaters are risky when it comes to gifts, haha.  
Also, hand-knitted items have a whole new degree of warmth, I think.  I could make it sound extra cheesy and say "because it is knitted with LOVE" for lack of better words to explain it, but the process of knitting each stitch to make that thing is what makes handknitted objects significantly different from store-bought ones.  Also cheesy, but also true is that what makes me the most happy is to be able to make somebody smile.  That is kind of my ultimate goal for both art and knitting.
My most ambitious project would be my lace pishawl I'm working on.  I keep on stopping and working on items for store or presents so its taking loooooong.
Also my 16oz spinning I'm working on right now is pretty daunting but exciting,
Do you use things you learned in one job in others? How related are your various jobs? 
All my jobs are under the same huge category called 'art' but otherwise, My Animation/Knit/Music jobs are not so related.  But what I learned in one animation project will be definitely be used on the next.  That is something you have to do or else you won't get better at anything!  
How do you relax? 
See, this is something really bad at.  People think I never stop working and in fact I don't.  But my argument is that at the same time, I could say I'm never working.  Drawing and knitting is my hobby and that's what I like doing, and they just happen to be my work.  But...when I draw or knit as a hobby I still tend to try hard to make what I'm making really good so I do feel like working...(thinking hard)
I guess I feel the most relaxed when I'm just hanging out with friends while I knit/draw.
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on Ravelry as azure-m

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