Toshihiro Egawa


Artist Statement

The subject matter of my work is death and absurdity. I mainly explore expressionism with a more figurative emphasis, sometimes seeking a fusion with abstraction. I use photographs of people, animal fossils, bones, and natural objects as motifs to express these themes. These are depicted as collapsing as a visual metaphor, representing the uncertainty of life and the finitude of existence. Abstract irregular lines, shapes, and splashes suggest a loss of perfection. The works are created mainly by using only white watercolor pencils on black paper stretched on board, or in oil.

私の作品は死と不条理を主題としています。より具象性を際立たせた表現主義を主とし、時に抽象表現との融合を模索しています。 私はこれらを表現する為に、主に人物の写真や動物の化石、骨、自然物などをモチーフとしています。これらは視覚的なメタファーとして崩壊する様に描かれ、生命の不確実性と存在の有限性を表します。また抽象的不規則な線や形、飛沫は完全性の喪失を示唆します。 作品は主に板に張られた黒い紙に白の水彩色鉛筆のみを用いる方法、または油彩で制作しています。




I started my career in 1999, drawing cover arts for death metal bands. For more than 20 years, I have worked with numerous bands from all over the world. I focused on realism and taught myself how to portray people anatomically during this era. I proceeded to draw based on iconographies of death and pictures of dead bodies. Furthermore, I lost my wife to cancer, experienced cardiac arrest, and was saved from death. These things made me think about “Death” evermore. Naturally, “Memento Mori” became the central theme for my fine arts.

Now I draw only using white pencils on black paper. It is like finding light in the darkness, releasing from negative feelings and pressures that accumulate in society. It is a fundamental method for me when I try to express the deep darkness of “Impermanence” that no one can dispute. It is also a question about the value of life and existence in society.

I have gone into three cardiopulmonary arrests during operations for my cardiac pacemaker. The near-death experience influenced me to create art on black paper with white pencils.

During the near-death experience, my existence felt like a fog consisting of the blackest black incredibly fine particles. It is hard to explain how I exactly felt. I felt one with every existing thing including the universe. I remember my body and mind felt exceptionally light and it was an extremely pleasant feeling. I will never forget this experience.

For my artworks, I have tried different materials and methods to find the best way to express myself. Then I came across this method on the internet, I was thrilled. The drawing technique which allows objects to emerge from the darkness was exactly what I was looking for.

I have been familiar with colored pencils since I was young. The simple way of this method, needing only black paper and a white pencil, was perfect for me lying on the hospital bed. It was important for me to be able to keep drawing even if my body gets weaker. It was the best method to express a riot of emotion in succession.

I am not a Satanist. And I am not standing against any religion. Religious or anti-Christ images of my artworks come from my interest in the power of these images.

I am an atheist, though I do not deny what people believe. Such religious iconographies and images of skulls strike me with awe. Their stillness, emptiness, and memento mori interest me. These are the origins of my inspiration.

Drawing makes me calm. Maybe it is saving me from pressures I have felt since I was young, near-death experiences, bereavements, and my body being fragile. And it is giving me hope.




When he turned 10 years old, Toshihiro began to develop a strong interest for grotesque subjects such as how fragile human mortality was, death, and corpses. In other words, this is the age where he began to develop his craft into what you see today. He started with drawing different works of art and comics with extreme amounts of gruesome brutality, death, and violence. At this point, he began to develop an incredibly profound passion for capturing the brutality and cruelty that man is capable of.

When Toshihiro graduated high school, he found work further up north in Tokyo, and moved. However, he eventually returned to Osaka to help out his father-in-law fishmonger’s shop. For a while, Toshihiro stopped drawing and creating new works of art, but with the strong support and help from his father-in-law, who at one point wished to be a poet, Toshihiro began to once again pursue his passion and further develop his career on his own.

The following year, Toshihiro’s father-in-law’s health took a bad turn for the worse, which caused him severe depression. He committed suicide by hanging himself from his neck. This unfortunate event gave Toshihiro inspiration an even further curiosity of death, violence, and mortality, which only further deepened his interest.

After the suicide of his father-in-law, Toshihiro converted to Christianity. The Bible, Christian Mythology and religious artworks were the reasons for his conversion. His interest in the Bible, Christian Mythology and paintings derived from Christianity were just a few of the reasons for his conversion. Toshihiro isn’t a strict Christian anymore; rather, just like many other Japanese natives, Toshihiro has no religion.

In 1999, Toshihiro received a request from a longtime Japanese death metal record label company (whom he had a strong relationship with) to do the mini CD coverart for the Colombian band, INTERNAL SUFFERING. In the span of one month, this one coverart job got Toshihiro over 100 requests from artists, labels, and potential clients from all over the world. After doing many projects and gigs for various metal bands from all over the world, Toshihiro’s interest in Christianity and mythology, human brutality, and anticipation of death became deeper than ever, which eventually branched out to Memento-mori and Dance Macabre.

In June 2010, Toshihiro developed advanced bradycardia (complete heart block) and had a pacemaker inserted into him during an emergency surgery, where his heart stopped more than three times. Toshihiro rode it out, gave it hell, and came out alive. On July 8 of the same year, he had a permanent pacemaker installed, and was able to safely check out of the hospital on July 16th. Just like other difficult encounters that Toshihiro overcame in life and turned it into something inspirational, this life-threatening event, chock-full of tribulations, further deepened his view and experiences from the edge of death, and gave him fresh new ideas and motifs for his artwork.

In August 2014, he lost his wife to cancer.

He moved his base to Gifu in 2015.

Around 2016, he began drawing on black paper using only white colored pencils.