When you run and clear your head, the lines you draw become simpler|ZUCK (Illustrator)

Illustrator ZUCK balances a healthy lifestyle with his creative work by continuing to run

  • Photograph:Takeshi Abe

There are many reasons why people incorporate running into their daily lives. The word "runner" can refer to a wide variety of phases and approaches. However, any runner who has experienced the physical and mental health benefits of running and its side effects will one day be able to "talk about running". ZUCK's running life began about 10 years ago as an illustrator for magazines, websites, books, music videos, and a variety of other media. He says that the time he spends running sometimes inspires the cute and captivating POP illustrations he draws. We asked ZUCK, who finds value in running as a tool to bring him closer to a comfortable "as-is" state at the end of the day, to talk about his running.

Running and Creation

For illustrator ZUCK, running is a part of his life. He runs alone on his favorite course near his home.

The reason I started running was simply to lose weight. My job requires me to sit at home and paint all the time, so I wanted to break up my day with lunch and snack time. I added running to that, and it became a habit not only to lose weight but also because I enjoyed thinking about various things while running, and it gave me ideas for my work. My routine is to finish work in the evening and run before dinner.


Sometimes he runs intensively, and other times he goes on hiatus for a while because he can't find the time. ZUCK, who incorporates running into his life as he sees fit, held a solo exhibition titled "WELLNESS" last year.

I chose the title "Wellness" not only because I wanted to paint on the theme of moving my body while running, but also because I was conscious of the contradictions that had emerged in my mind, and I wanted to confront these contradictions in my paintings. The contradiction was my oblique way of thinking that a person who creates pictures can't create interesting pictures if he or she is leading a healthy life, i.e., running (laughs). I was thinking about this as I made it a habit to run.

When I mentioned this to someone, he told me about an essay written by Haruki Murakami about running, and I read it. What impressed me the most was that he wrote that as a novelist, one must develop physical strength to face the toxins that lie at the root of human nature....

I am the type of person who thinks that I would be able to draw more interesting pictures if I were more twisted and sarcastic (laughs).  The fact that he is conscious of physical training as an artist is something that I have come to understand as I have gotten older.


When we try to write a novel, that is, when we try to launch a story using writing, something like a toxin at the root of human existence is inevitably extracted and brought to the surface. The writer must confront these toxins more or less head-on and handle them deftly, knowing the risks involved. Without the intervention of such toxins, it is impossible to carry out a creative act in the true sense of the word. (I think, however, that if we want to continue writing novels professionally for a long time, we must build up our own immune system against such dangerous (and in some cases fatal) toxins in our bodies. (And where else but our own basic strength can we go for that energy?

(What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: by Haruki Murakami)

As a person who creates for a living, ZUCK has been pondering the relationship between running and the "act of creation," and he has also been thinking about the bible for runners, "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.

It's being whittled down to the simple lines it should be.

The secret behind the cute and pop illustrations that ZUCK creates lies in the rough lines at the beginning of the creative process.

When I am finished and I feel that the picture is good in my own way, it is when it reflects me as I am. I usually do a rough line drawing first, and I try to make the lines already have a beautiful shape. I try to create a line that is neither more nor less than that, but rather a line that is consistent, that says, "This is it.

If I can draw a line that will stay there, I tend to be satisfied with the coloring and completion of the work. When I am not concentrating, the line becomes vague and vague, and I end up with an adequate finish. So it's something you take with you, not something that just happens."

In his solo exhibition "Wellness," he says he was able to paint a number of simple, stripped-down works.

He said, "It takes courage to paint with simplicity, to have pauses rather than to fill them up, but I had the sense that I was able to paint by being conscious and concentrating. I don't know if running really has an effect on me yet, but I do feel that my mind is clearer and I can concentrate better when I am moving my body. I think I will continue to reduce my work to the "line" that it should be.

Unlike the contradiction he once had, ZUCK has already found inseparable value in running and creation. He has been using HERENESS items for a long time.

「I like HERENESS designs and have many of them, but this was my first time to try the "SMOOTH WOOL T-SHIRT". The design itself has a loose silhouette, so it can be used seamlessly with everyday clothes.」

During the summer, I always wore "FOCUS CAP" when I was working as well as when I went running. My hair is a little long, so I wear it all the time so that it doesn't get in the way when I draw. I even forget that I am wearing [SUGARCANE SHORTS(MEN)] (laugh), so much so that they have become a part of my skin. I guess it's because they feel so good against my skin.

Continuing amidst change

Just as the nuances of a painting change as we age, so too do our circumstances.

When I run in the evening and see a beautiful sunset on a wide open road, I feel like I've made it through the day. I'm trying to make it a not-so-special thing, but it's nice to end the day with a run anyway. But I am going to have a baby soon, so I wonder if that will change things. I may become a morning person."

ZUCK, who will soon become a father, also seems to have become more flexible in his thinking, rather than remaining with his old values.

「When I was a student, I thought "art" and "personal life" were two completely different things. As I get older, I feel that the line between the two is gradually disappearing. For example, I come up with ideas during my lunch hour, or I am inspired by the scenery when I am running. There are times when things from my daily life show up in my works and motifs. So I think there will be times when I want to revisit a theme from a past exhibition.」

As she continues to create and run amidst the changes in herself and her surroundings, we can't wait to see what kind of works ZUCK will have lined up when she opens another solo exhibition with the theme of running.

Wearing items