Face Oka

A masterclass in mischief

Face Oka was born in 1984 in Tokyo, Japan, where he continues to live and work.

Did you know?

Face Oka used to draw people’s portraits at events and music festivals. This helped him to hone his style, simplifying faces down to the bare essentials.

Collaborations

He has illustrated for an array of brands and magazines. These include Disney, Adidas, BEAMS, GOODHOOD, Sneeze Magazine and Richardson Magazine.

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Collaborations with this artist

Practice overview

Face Oka translates the world around him into a distinct, comical style. He borrows figures from adverts and cartoons, giving each a solid black outline. Sometimes people are reduced to graphic shapes and colours, while others are painted more realistically. Regardless, everyone is given Oka’s signature smiley face, either the right or wrong way up. Although his work appears digital, he actually paints with acrylic on canvas. Citing manga as an early influence, his comic book style is reminiscent of Pop artists like Roy Lichtenstein, and later Keith Haring. Graffiti and skate culture have a clear impact on his paintings, like the work of skater-turned-artist Mark Gonzales. In 2018, Oka also released a book of paintings, Dear Larry Clark... , based on the photographers’ documentation of skate culture.

Face Oka's work pokes fun at how sex-driven consumer culture has become. His smiley face becomes a way of dosing everything with a sense of humour. This is very present in his drawings of posed models and pin-up girls, who he gives a new-found goofiness. Their skin is often painted a bubblegum pink to the same effect. Stepping into Face Oka's world is a break from the seriousness of reality. As he filters everything through his own comical lens, he encourages us all to do the same.

“I became more enamoured with the face as I drew it more often. Then I ended up only drawing this face.”Face Oka