From the Studio of… Rie Kono

Each week we visit a Saatchi Online artist to share a glimpse into their studio, a peek inside their sketchbooks, and best of all, insight into their inspirations. Read on to discover more about Japanese artist Rie Kono.

Rie in her studio with her artwork

Favorite material to work with?
I work with acrylic on several materials. Basically, I paint on canvas but I also like to paint on stones, bags, boards and so on. Once I was painting on a wooden piano in a department store as my performance. While I was painting it, many people saw me and my work and it brought a smile to their faces.

I have a passion to paint wherever I can find empty space. I cannot stop it. Thus, if you come to my studio, you can’t find any empty space these days. I have already painted on the wall, stairs and chairs. I suppose I am good at catching empty areas’ voices saying, “Please paint me!”

Rie’s desk

What themes do you pursue?
A series of “Ballooning over everywhere” is perhaps the work which I am most proud of. My step-mother Konomi, who was my art mentor, painted balloons and I am trying to carry on her mission. Her mission was to make children smile  through her artwork. I think the balloon is the best icon for representing Konomi’s spirit.

How many years as an artist?
I started my career after leaving university thirty years ago.

A sketchbook and some drawings

Where is your studio?
My studio is in Chigasaki, Kanagawa, Japan. Chigasaki is rural and 60km from Tokyo, and there is a famous beach. I have lived there for more than forty years and I love the view of the Pacific Ocean. Unsurprisingly, I often paint views of the sea.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
“The art is the seed.” In my country, the seed is often used as an analogy for “something that brings about positive results.” Therefore “the art is the seed” means the art has a magical power that brings everyone’s happiness.

“Doll’s Festival 2″ ($4,444)

Art school or self-taught?
Although I have not been to art school and studied English and American literature at university, my step-mother Konomi taught me how to paint. I used to go to Konomi’s painting class in her studio. So I suppose I am not a typical self-taught artist.

Prefer to work with music or in silence?
I don’t mind either. I just hope that the audience catches music from my work.

“The Goldfish” ($4,444)

What’s around the corner from your place?
My house is only three minutes on foot from the sea. Unfortunately, I can’t see the beach from my window because there are pine woods between my house and the beach. My studio is also close to a local primary and secondary school where I have run children’s art classes once a week for three years.

Where can we find you outside the studio?
I prefer to stay in my place. Of course when I have exhibitions, I travel to those venues and also I have some painting classes for local people in public places. But if I can stay in my studio for the whole day, that is best.

“A musical for the coming year 2013″ ($7,200)

If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you do?
I have no idea. Indeed, I have never done anything else, except small part-time jobs.

What do you collect?
I’ve kept my step-mother’s collections and I already feel that they have become my own. In my house there are tons of miniatures and a French doll collection. Some of them are valuable and some are not. They are of varying quality. She used to enjoy making and playing with doll’s houses and now I try to keep them as pretty as possible for my family. If I fail to look after them well, I feel very uncomfortable. So I suppose it helps me to feel calm and creative.

Favorite contemporary artist?
If Konomi were alive, I would definitely choose her. But she is no longer with us. So I don’t have any specific favourite contemporary artists now.

“Ballooning over everywhere; Winter” ($4,444)

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
That is good a question. Maybe I would choose an artwork painted by Konomi. When I was a secondary school student, I found an amazing postcard and I fell in love with it immediately. I had not known which artist painted it, but I bought it and I still have it. A few years ago, I found a painting class near my house and I realized it was run by the same artist who painted my lovely postcard. Without this story I wouldn’t have joined a painting class and I wouldn’t have become an artist. Therefore I would like to keep the painting on the postcard if possible. My life was totally changed by it.

“Ballooning over everywhere: DAI-KICHI” ($4,444)

Who are your favorite writers?
My favorite writer is Geoffrey Chaucer. My career as an artist started when I painted The Canterbury Tales because at that time I had just studied it at university. I love the ironic characters in the stories. I would like to become friends with them so I painted them.

Is painting dead?
No, I believe that good paintings still have an aura. Only living artwork can attract people. Of course, I aim to paint living artwork.

Discover all the work in Rie Kono’s portfolio


  1. Hermit says:

    You certainly do like painting balloons, there’s no doubt about that!

    And your work is very colourful and full of character and charm. Excellent stuff! :)

  2. Suneel Jain says:

    Beautiful work, best wishes to RIE KONO.

    Suneel Jain

  3. Helz says:

    Love it….its looks more western than the usual work I have seen from Japan…but saying that I haven’t traveled much so I may be completely wrong x

  4. Judy Jones says:

    I love your work, it definitely has a happy energy :-) )

  5. Zeal says:

    Rie, what wonderful and pleasant paintings you create. All the work you put in them is certainly worth it. What pictures!
    They are creative and seem very nostalgic, serene and cheerful. Something I also noticed is that they have a very heavy European infuence and something I can relate to , maybe old England?
    Very nice indeed.
    Wishing you the best,

  6. David Heger says:

    Fantastic images. I specially like the optimistic mood in it. Be happy a fat is good recommendation for everyone :)

  7. This is so soothing and happy paintings, sure brings a smile on our face.
    Rie all the best, happy painting!

  8. Vlad da Hora says:

    Beautiful work. I desire to her the best luck!

  9. Catarina says:

    Hi Rie Kono,
    Im portuguese, born and raised in Macau, and never got the chance to visit Japan, but had always contact with its culture.
    Im still young, 26, junior doctor and Im quite creative, but havent got the same hand as you..I wish. Its Amazing! I Love your artwork!
    The photo of your studio shows how Magical your art work translates..
    I dont earn enough money to save up to buy your “A musical for the coming year 2013″, that I truly Love…but Im hoping in a future I´ll be able to…so I need you to continue your inspiring and Magical work, please: )


  10. Rie Kono says:

    Thank you very much for your attention.
    I am very glad you like my works and all your comments make me cheering up.

    It is my first time that I got such great feedback from all over the world.
    How amazing developing internet technology is!
    I achieved some confidence from this opportunity.

    Again thank you very much.
    I will keep updating my works and information.

    Rie Kono


Leave a Comment