The Artist: Yukiko Ohse, Nevada City |

The Artist: Yukiko Ohse, Nevada City

What is your career and your current job title? I am a painter (acrylic & watercolor), classical singer (mostly operas by Rossini & Handel) and actor. By day, I am a freelance translator (English to Japanese).

Describe, in a sentence or two, your art. Though I sing all year around, I consider myself a seasonal painter and actor because I do my most intensive painting from spring to autumn, with the annual Open Studio Tour in October as a goal, and in winter I like to switch gears and do theater because it is a nice change from the very solitary efforts of painting and singing.

How long have you been working in this discipline? A painter for nine years, and studying classical voice since 1998. As a child, I belonged to a fairly prestigious children’s chorus in Japan for six years that went to a nationwide competition every summer. Theater is still new to me because I have been acting only since 2004.

Why do you do it? I can’t help it. I simply love all the arts. Pursuing art makes me feel very alive and in harmony with the world, a bit similar to the Bikram Yoga effect actually.

What do you hope to accomplish? I don’t have a particularly huge agenda, but I do have a list of operatic arias I would like to learn before the year 2010.

Do you create your art with an exact message? With my paintings, I really don’t have an exact message. The process is very internal and personal. The viewer can interpret it any way (s)he wants and that isn’t my concern. As a singer/actor, my job is ultimately to serve the composer/playwright and the audience, so I try to communicate whatever the message that is appropriate for the music, role or the scene.

Where do you want to be with your art? I really am where I want to be. For example, I don’t want a lifestyle of a typical full-time classical singer who has to travel constantly for gigs, while at the same time having very little time left to spend with loved ones and coping with frequent rejections in a highly competitive industry.

What kind of special training did you take? I am a mostly self-taught painter although from 1995 to 1998, I studied watercolor and figure drawing with Barbara Jackson and Virginia Banta respectively at Sharon Art Studio in San Francisco. I studied classical voice with Peruvian mezzo-soprano Zoila Munoz from 1998 to 2003. I have been studying drama with John Deaderick at Sierra College since 2004.

What’s your favorite part of your endeavors? It is exciting when I start a new painting after some planning, and again when the painting is nearly complete. About once a year, I notice that the top extension of my voice has improved, which could be as seemingly insignificant as one semi-note. But it’s a wonderful feeling to hear how your voice has stretched and you still continue to be your own personal best. And of course, the excitement of the opening night at the theater is indescribably magical!

What’s your least favorite part of your endeavors? I don’t enjoy varnishing and framing the paintings; I’m not too crazy about doing the scales at the beginning of my singing practice, and the first week we rehearse for a play, I know it’s silly, but my stomach gets upset because I feel overwhelmed by what we have set out to accomplish.

How many hours a day do you spend on your work? From early spring toward Open Studio Tour in October, I paint about three hours a day. As for singing, all year I try to practice 1-1/2 hours a day, and if I am too busy, I just vocalize while I shower. As for acting, when I am in a play, I try to put at least an hour aside so that I can use that time to research and/or get ready for the next rehearsal.

Do you consider it hard work and could anyone do it? Yes, it is a hard work. For example, I am currently rehearsing for an upcoming play, “The Madwoman of Chaillot,” in which I play a deaf person. My responsibility includes researching the history of the sign languages, particularly that of French sign language, the deaf community in general, and learning some basic sign language vocabulary. And as for painting or music, you really need to be willing to spend some serious solitary hours to create art, which means having to say “no, thank you” to party invitations sometimes. But I think anyone can do it as long as you have the drive.

Any other comments you’d like to include? Please come see “The Madwoman of Chaillot” at the Center for the Arts. It’s a charming bitter-sweet comedy with colorful characters, complete with music and dance. The show is directed by Sands Hall and runs Feb. 10-26.


“The Artist” appears each Friday. To suggest a creative talent who should be profiled in this feature, contact Pam Jung at or 477-4232.

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