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Spotlight on Artist Hajime Okamoto

Artist:  Hajime Okamoto
Born:    1942
Place of birth:  Osaka

Hajime Okamoto is an artist with a distinctive and lighthearted style. Born in Osaka, Japan in 1942, in the 1980s he went on a cultural exchange program to the Jilin Province of China, and was greatly influenced by his time there. He first displayed his art at a Chinese university exhibition in 1986 at the age of 44. His works focus on calligraphy, painting and zen concepts. Between 1991 and 1993 he gained popularity in a series of Osaka-based exhibitions. In 1995 he had a fortuitous opportunity to exhibit in a national Japanese gallery after which his career escalated. He signs his paintings with a seal, and a stylized form of his name in Roman letters (with his family name last).

Okamoto is famous for his drawings of six different cats, the most memorable of which is Kabamaru, who is always drawn as the largest cat in all of his multi-cat paintings. Kabamaru is the leader of the group, looking out for his friends. Kaba in Japanese means “hippo” and maru means “round.” He’s named that because he’s a bit of a slowpoke. Kabamaru made his debut in 1998 and a picture book about him was published in 2003.

Okamoto is also renowned for his whimsical screen printed artwork for calendars, which are collector’s items. In 2012 Japanese he created his sea creatures calendar, Sakana Saijiki.