That’s the length of the longest “day” Chad Hasegawa spent working non-stop in an advertising agency – and he still felt like he had to sneak out of the office to go home.
While Hasegawa was employed at one of the top ad agencies in San Francisco, he discovered that he could operate for extended hours under incredible stress and continually produce great work. He learned that this was the type of work ethic that it takes to be at the top. Now, as a full-time artist, Hasegawa says, “I should be sending fruit baskets to that agency to thank them for my art career and for showing me how the amazing happens.”
At age 13, Hasegawa was living in Honolulu and painting with spray paint. He learned how to use different tips – NY Fats, NY Thins, German Fats and German Thins. When he felt like his technique was good enough to go out and paint on his own, he tried and got arrested.
That’s why he realized there was a lot more to learn than just painting.
By age 17, Hasegawa was inquiring about the success rate of artists who earned their BFA at schools in San Francisco. (His art teacher at Kaiser High School, Mr. Fujie, told him that he needed to go to art school in either San Francisco or New York.) One art school encouraged him to look into a degree in design from the Academy of Art University, where he stumbled upon advertising.
Advertising was his way to be creative and make a living.
Or so he thought.
After doing well at the Academy of Art – earning student awards and receiving job offers from his instructors – Hasegawa graduated and went on to intern at Venables, Bell & Partners as well as Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. He then worked as a freelance designer for Hawaiian surf companies while trying to land a full-time job in advertising.
Almost four years after graduation, it happened.
On Oct. 8, 2010, Hasegawa’s full-time job found him. It wasn’t in advertising after all – it was in the art world, the world he wanted to be a part of since he was 13 years old.
On that October night, Hasegawa’s art was shown in the first 6th Street Art Walk in San Francisco, which they called the “2 Blocks of Art”. That night he sold his first painting, and the local art scene quickly caught on to him. Realizing the opportunity, Hasegawa took his art more seriously and started to have shows every month. He stopped looking for a full-time job in advertising and has never been happier than he is now in the art scene.
For ten years, Hasegawa visited The Luggage Store Gallery – a major non-profit, artist-run, multidisciplinary arts organization in San Francisco – and pined for the opportunity to show the co-founders Darryl Smith and Laurie Lazer his art. Even though they were showing Fecal Face’s 10 Year Anniversary Show during the 2 Blocks of Art, Smith and Lazer got wind of Hasegawa’s work.
A mere four months later – in February 2011 – Hasegawa was painting a mural directly on The Luggage Store Gallery’s door.
Hasegawa chose to paint the female grizzly bear because of its reputation of protecting her cubs. His vision was for this bear to protect the people of 6th and Market Street. Filmmaker Glenn Cargain – a trusted friend of Chad Hasegawa – chronicled the 2-month project in a piece entitled “Chad Hasegawa’s Mother Market”.
Chad Hasegawa’s style developed from being completely carefree about the amount of paint he uses. He uses bigger brushes as dripping tools or as shovels to pour a certain amount of paint onto the surface of his canvas. The aggression in his paintings comes from painting on the street and not caring about making a mess. His favorite part of painting is not planning the piece to a tee and leaving room for improvisation.
Chad Hasegawa has a love for Latex paint mistints because of their originality. These mistints offer colors that aren’t available to buy off the shelf or to the masses.
“And, of course, they’re cheap,” Hasegawa says.
“Mistints also make me feel like an environmentalist that does a good deed by recycling unwanted paint. Otherwise, I think I would feel bad about the environment for using so much paint, and I would be absolutely broke.”
Currently, Hasegawa is captivated by painting grizzly bears, their surroundings and playing with the colors on the canvas. When asked “Why bears?” Hasegawa has quite the answer:
“I love their abstract body shape. I love their brown fur that actually has a lot of different colors in it. The colors change depending on the time of the day. And basically who doesn’t like to see really big bears? They hold many different representations to many different people. They represent The West, California, San Francisco, native tribes, Berlin, Ainu culture from Japan, Kodiak Island, a lot of television cartoons, Dhestoe, Angry Woebots, myself, and many others. They’re animals of many personalities, so a lot of people think of themselves as bears. To sum it up, I wanted to paint something that everyone could enjoy, since I am painting my bears on the streets in San Francisco where there’s major cultural diversity.”
Hasegawa’s bears have been shown in San Francisco’s Space Gallery, LoPo Gallery, 941Geary, White Walls and The Luggage Store Gallery. In New York, Hasegawa’s bears have been hung in the Bold Hype Gallery in Chelsea.
He creates new work for every show; for one show in particular, he painted seven bears and three abstract forest pieces in ten days.
In June, he has an upcoming show at the Intersection for the Arts in the San Francisco Chronicle Building, and in October his art will be shown in Los Angeles.
His ultimate goals are to get into museums, do humongous murals on an international scale and to go as far as he can take it. He compares himself to the Art Director who is working toward becoming a Creative Director, and said he will know that he has made it and that he has gotten to that Creative Director level in the art world when, “He doesn’t have to wish anymore.”
During the transitional time between receiving his advertising degree and doing his art full-time, Hasegawa says this about the lessons he learned:
“Stay creatively busy even with this bad economy because you may end up doing something that you absolutely love and truly have always wanted to do.”
While he learned that not everyone gets a break, he also recognized that those who really want success must go out and get it.
“It feels a lot better to achieve something on your own,” he says.
As for advice to other artists just starting out, Hasegawa instructs:
“Don’t stop – and don’t worry about others. Stay true to yourself; get inspired but don’t recreate your neighbor’s art.”
For those who are dismayed by the low success rate of art school graduates, he says:
“Art school is very important, and so are other ways of learning. It’s what you do with what you learn that’s important.”