Of Japanese decent, nisei, born in a WWII concentration camp along the foothills of the California Sierra mountains, Ken grew up in Gardena, a city just south of LAX and received his formal education at California State University, Long Beach.
Ken considers himself, for nearly three decades, to be an environmental artist and has directed his creative energies to themes dealing directly to land use, riparian habitat, global warming, and fisheries conservation in the US, and lately in Mongolia.
His creative art work is best known in the mediums painting and printmaking. More lately, he relies on digital photography, large-scale color prints, to address issues related to nature and environmental concerns.
Ken’s creative art work has been exhibited internationally and include more than 25 national solo exhibitions and participation in more than 200 regional and local exhibitions, public art commissions, favorable reviews and inclusion to many prominent private collections. His art work is represented by the Robischon Gallery, in Denver, CO.
Ken’s interests in nature, fly fishing and the environment go back to his earliest recollections of growing up in Southern California, and his teenage memories of family vacations fishing in the High Sierras, and other days fishing with his dad in the ocean and in the fresh water lakes and rivers in Southern California. I mention these early records because there was a great deal of tremendously varied fishing ( fresh and saltwater ) to be found in Southern California, open to the public and still very good fisheries, up until the early 60’s.
With his dad, Joe, he learned to surf fish, chased after the marlin around Catalina lsland, caught bluefin tuna, yellow-tail and white sea bass within a mile of the California coastline. Ken’s interests in fly tying go back to these early days, when he learned to wrap colored “feathers” onto a hook to catch bonita around the Redondo Beach breakwater. He is a self taught, teenage, fly fisher who first learned to fish for bull frogs (true story) only to catch largemouth bass, bluegill and crappie in the nearby lakes – frogs were never to happen.
Although he practiced fly fishing and was aware of trout flies, he was not totally immersed in the study of aquatic insects, trout and riparian habitat until he arrived at the University of Colorado, in 1973, and met Professor Jay Windell, of the Biology Department. Fortuitously for Ken, Professor Windell taught trout biology in the building next to the Art Department. So, with the encouragement of Professor Windell and his graduate assistants, Ken was allowed create his own research project, Ken set up a plastic, indoor stream, ala Trout Fishing in America and six aquariums to observe the development of aquatic insects known to be important to the diet of wild trout.
This intense project went on for almost two years and forged his understanding of stream born insects and their relationship to the riparian food chain. From these observations and his continued studies of insects and stream ecology, in general, it all brought forth his individual approach to fly tying and most importantly his work with trout conservation and sense of alarm concerning climate change, A.K.A. global warming.
Briefly stated his fly fishing background includes having published many articles on his fly patterns in national and international magazines since the mid 70’s, while his flies are included in many books and he is author of Iwamasa Flies, a book describing the inner workings of the trout flies he has created. In 1997, Ken and Jim Palermsheim co-curated an international exhibition “Arts of the Trout Fly,” and since 1999, Ken and Peter Mullet, www.mongofly.com have been making annual visits to Mongolia, working with Mongolian outfitters establish eco (fly fishing) tourism in their rivers best known for its taimen fishing.
Being one of the original Orvis fly fishing school instructors and fishing guide, Ken has reestablished his professional guide service and offers more than 30 years of fly fishing experience and knowledge of Colorado streams to this clients. Ken has given fly tying clinics and guest lectures to Trout Unlimited chapters throughout Colorado and the US, and continues to do so.
He is a lifetime member of TU.
Ken graduated from California State University Long Beach with a degree in studio arts in 1966. While in graduate school, he was drafted into the US Army and served as an Information Specialist (journalist and photographer) in Southeast Asia. Ken later returned to CSULB to complete a Masters degree in studio arts, printmaking, as well. As a graduate student, he was hired to teach in his department, and he continued exhibiting his artwork and part time teaching gigs in many of the colleges in the LA area. In 1973, he took a permanent teaching position at the University of Colorado. While not being totally convinced that this is where he belongs, he left in 1975-76 to teach at San Jose State University for one year. Upon returning to Colorado, and later getting tenure he left the University of Colorado again in 1985 to take a one-year appointment at Santa Monica College and returned to Colorado in 1986.
At the University of Colorado, he taught a variety of drawing, printmaking and film and digital photography courses, served as interim chair of the Film Studies program and summer chair of the Art Department on several occasions. He even served a short stint as Faculty Associate Dean, and Interim Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences 1995-97. In addition to receiving several grants and a teaching award, he retired from teaching, professor emeritus, in 2009.