For some time now we’ve admired Naijel Graph’s particular artistic style. Naijel has created works for some pretty big names: BEAMS, The Beastie Boys, Adidas Originals - just to name a few. Hiroki, who heads up Coffee Supreme Japan, is quite the fan too. So, when he walked into BEAMS and saw Naijel Graph in the flesh, he struggled to keep his cool.
After a couple of brainstorms and fangirling sessions, Naijel Graph has designed two t-shirts for us, and you. One features a Toyota Comfort - the quintessential Japanese taxi and the other was inspired by the iconic NYC gig venue, CBGB.
We sat down with Naijel Graph to get a little insight into the legend himself. Pour a cuppa and read on.
Q: I’ve just arrived on the planet, who is Naijel Graph?
Naijel: Naijel Graph is an artist, mainly using techniques such as illustration, collage and drawing to create various works.
Q: What lead you to freelance instead of working for ‘the man’ - whoever the man is - himself?
Naijel: Well, I’m not sure myself, but one of the reasons is probably my style of work. I draw and make things without acquiring permission so I think it’s a bit risky for someone to hire me. Not belonging to a company or someone allows me to work without restriction and I can work freely. But sometimes I feel envious of belonging.
Q: What’s your morning routine; what’s your favourite toast topping? Do you eat straight from the breadboard standing in your undies, or sit down with a plate? Light or dark roast? Filter or espresso?
Naijel: I get up in the morning, get changed, make breakfast for everyone (toast), and drop my daughter off at the nursery school! My favourite toast is bread with butter, cheese, ham and cherry tomatoes cut in half and baked. It tastes like pizza if you add tomato sauce, but I like it without. The simple grilled tomatoes taste delicious. We have an Artek Aalto table I bought a long time ago, and I dreamed to have breakfast with everyone on that table, but the reality is that my daughter is eating at another table (her own table) and my wife is too busy in the morning to eat together. I’d like to sit down and take time to have coffee but I really don’t have time. So my mornings start with Coffee Supreme Instant. Seriously, this is really delicious.
Q: What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Naijel:Ideally, my daughter’s kiss, but I wake up with iPhone alarm. She does give me a kiss but once in a while.
Q: Favourite cheap eats spot in Tokyo?
Naijel: Tokiwa Shokudo in Asakusa, at the entrance of Sensoji temple next to kaminarimon gate. I recommend the pork dish and black cod.
Q: Pen or pencil of choice? What are some of your favourite tools of the trade?
Naijel:Nothing in particular. Everything I use is cheap... I use a cheap brush. Sometimes it's too cheap and I can’t draw details or it doesn’t allow me to draw in the way I want it to but there’s a charm about these tools.
Q: Favourite comic as a kid?
Naijel: When I was kid I liked ‘Ultimate Muscle: The Kinniku Man’, ‘Slam Dunk’, ‘AKIRA’ and ‘Gundam’. After growing up I like ‘BUDDHA’ by Osamu Tezuka. I think ‘BUDDHA’ taught me about what human being is about. I don’t practice any religions though.
Q: Tell us about your career highlight.
Naijel: When Mike D of Beastie Boys found me. I was able to do official goods for Beastie Boys such as T-shirts and hoodies. Four designs have already been released on their website and they are planning to announce more in the future, so please check it out.
Q: Where do you look to for inspiration?
Naijel: It’s hard to find even if I try to look for it. There are times where inspiration springs from after talking with my friends. There are times when I see the news and am driven by the urge to draw. If I go to a country that I've never been to I can look at myself objectively and get inspiration sometimes.
Q: If you could sit down and draw/ have a coffee with someone, who would it be?
Naijel: My daughter. She’s only four years old so we can’t have a coffee together but I want to sketch and have juice with her.
Q: What’s next for Naijel Graph?
Naijel: The exhibition at 'Adidas Originals Flagship Store Tokyo feat. NAIJEL GRAPH' will be held at Adidas Originals Flagship Store Tokyo in Harajuku from Friday, 27th September ‘til Wednesday, 16th October. Naijel Graph will be sampling Adidas archives, players, artists, and celebrating Adidas’ 70th year anniversary. A reception party will be held on the first day of the exhibition. Maybe you can drink Coffee Supreme there?!