NEYAGAWA, Osaka Prefecture – Toshio Katsuma, a painter, was devastated when he lost the ability to use his dominant left hand due to sudden illness 11 years ago.
He no longer knew how to draw. It was a blow, and he almost lost the will to live.
But seven years later, the artist fulfilled his long-held dream of hosting a solo exhibition through hard work and the help of a computer and a friend’s pet chat.
Katsuma, 70, has always been good at drawing since childhood.
When he was in high school, his sci-fi comic book became popular among his classmates, earning him the nickname “Manga”.
He decided to pursue a career in drawing after graduation, and then study at a professional painting school instead of a high school.
Katsuma made his professional debut as a manga artist at the age of 18 when his first work was published in the comic book anthology Weekly Shonen Magazine, which also published the hugely popular serial titles “The Star of the Giants “and” Ashita no Joe “(Tomorrow’s Joe).
Unfortunately, none of his manga works gained popularity, and his manga career ended after about three years.
Yet he relied on his talents as a painter to survive, working as an instructor at a vocational school and providing illustrations for advertisements and other services.
In December 2010, he felt his hands shake. He collapsed at his home in Osaka after working without sleeping to finish a drawing.
He had suffered a stroke.
When Katsuma came to himself, he felt numb along the left side of his body and couldn’t hold a brush with his dominant hand.
He was 59 at the time.
His doctor told him that he could no longer work as a painter.
But Katsuma refused to give up.
Thinking that he might be able to draw using a personal computer, he moved the mouse with his right hand and made a drawing. He continued even though he was not happy with the result.
Two years later, a friend asked Katsuma to draw her pet cat. It pleased her to see that she was delighted with the portrait he had created on his computer.
He posted the drawing on his Facebook page, and it instantly attracted hundreds of likes and gave him confidence in his skills.
Since then, Katsuma has uploaded her drawings every day.
His models are invariably stray cats. Having lost an important part of himself, he identifies with them as they roam the streets without being noticed by anyone.
His drawings caught the attention of an art dealer, who helped Katsuma organize a solo exhibition at a department store in Saitama Prefecture in September 2017. It was his first experience showing his works in a gallery. .
Some visitors shed tears as they remembered their dead animals.
“I always wanted to draw pictures that would be remembered because I had only drawn manga and other designs that would be thrown away after a short while,” Katsuma said.
It was as if a new path opened before him, he said.
He has since held solo exhibitions in department stores and bookstores in Tokyo, Fukuoka, Osaka and elsewhere across the country.
Two years ago, when Katsuma was holding a paintbrush with his right hand, he was pleasantly surprised to find that he could draw as well with it as he once could with his dominant hand.
During a solo show in January at a department store in Osaka’s Minami district, Katsuma drew an acrylic painting of a cat with a brush for a live event.
“I want to organize personal exhibitions exclusively using my hand-drawn paintings in the years to come,” Katsuma said.
He said he is now determined to move beyond the skill level he had before he got sick.