Tatsuo Horiuchi | the 73-year old Excel spreadsheet artist

tatsuo horiuchi (1)

“Cherry Blossoms of Historical Castle site” (2006)

“I never used Excel at work but I saw other people making pretty graphs and thought, ‘I could probably draw with that,’” says 73-year old Tatsuo Horiuchi. About 13 years ago, shortly before retiring, Horiuchi decide he needed a new challenge in his life. So he bought a computer and began experimenting with Excel. “Graphics software is expensive but Excel comes pre-installed in most computers,” explained Horiuchi. “And it has more functions and is easier to use than [Microsoft] Paint.”*

Horiuchi also tried working with Microsoft Word but it didn’t offer the flexibility that Excel did. “Take that, Wall St. analysts,” he later added. (not really)

*all quotes have been translated by the author.

[update] we have begun selling limited edition prints by Tatsuo Horiuchi in our shop.

tatsuo horiuchi (2)

“Kegon Falls” (2007)

Horiuchi first gained attention when, in 2006, he entered an Excel Autoshape Art Contest. His work, which was far-superior than the other entries, blew the judges away. Horiuchi took first place and went on to create work that has been acquired by his local Gunma Museum of Art.

Don’t believe these were made in Excel? You can even download the excel file and play around with it yourself:

horiuchi tatsuo ph2_px420
horiuchi tatsuo ph1_px420


  1. Thanks for this great article; first time visitor to your blog. I had no idea that Excel can be used in this way and Mr. Horiuchi is amazing. Keep up the great posts – makes me really miss Japan!


    June 3, 2013 at 2:55 pm


  3. This is absolutely amazing. Any tool can be used for art, and Mr. Horiuchi proves it!

  4. Imagine if this guy learned photoshop. =D

  5. Kim Thuy Adkins

    June 5, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    Mr. Horiuchi,
    It is so beautiful. Thank you for telling all of us what you use for your art work.

  6. I’m 75 – Back in the 70s (when I was learning AutoCAD) but had no other graphics software other than Paint, I did some art creations using AutoCAD’s polylines (changing the widths of them multiple times) and copying and rotating, stretching etc. One that I save a few coping of printout was a large group of whooping cranes. I used the program mostly for HVAC and electrical designs for Zenith Corp factories at the time (I was a facilities engineer for over 9 years there)

  7. Tatsuo Horiuchi is a total badass. I recreated Mondrian’s Trafalgar Square in Excel but he puts me to shame: http://patrickt.tumblr.com/post/46008765778/trafalgar-square-in-excel

  8. So, as far as I can tell, these are just images pasted into an XL sheet.
    How were the images created? Here are the graphs or formulas? How exactly was XL used to create these?
    I downloaded both files and looked for hidden sheets or formulas and didn’t find anything so I am a little skeptical.

    • Twebe – the autoshapes are grouped together into a single shape. I was able to “ungroup” and then move the shapes around freely.

  9. Thanks!
    That is much cooler than I thought. But I assumed it was all formulas and conditional formatting and creative graphs or some such.

  10. I still don’t get what’s “Excel” about this. I can “ungroup” and move/stretch shapes around, too. But, for instance, there’s a swan in the middle of the cherry blossoms picture. Where did he draw the swan? Did he freehand that using some other software and copy it into Excel?

    Can’t someone just do something like this by “drawing” into a large spreadsheet using “fill” (the paint can on the home tab) and then shrinking it down, so it doesn’t look pixellated.

  11. I wish I had something profound to say about this, but I just don’t. Who knew you could do something so creative with such a *seemingly* uncreative program!?

  12. mth: The swan itself can be ungrouped as well. The smallest shapes it contains are polygons with various fills. The swan’s tail or whatever is a hook-shaped polygon made of manually placed points with a white to grayish gradient to give it shading. The other parts of the image are created similarly.

  13. What my eyes see , my mind cant make . In black n white but too many colors project … Bless the man !!!

  14. Even using cold office equipment like Excel that’s not meant for art, he captures the essence of nature in the finest execution in the Japanese style. The colors, the composition – it’s like Ukyo-e but digital! Hiroshige would be proud.

  15. These are truly works of art and the fact that they are made with Excel is AMAZING!!!!!!

  16. I can’t figure out how to ungroup them.

  17. Right click > Grouping > Ungroup

  18. These are Beautiful, I would love to be able to do something like this…..

  19. Woww!!!!! so creative and hard worker.

  20. Wonderful created through and exciting program. Who say’s creativity is lost?


  21. Works in LibreOffice Calc too. Wow!

  22. Alexei Humeniy

    June 13, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    ‘Cause using Illustrator for Vector-based graphics is too mainstream

  23. Truly inspirational. Compels one to share it. Thank you.

  24. He makes art with excel and microsoft is too cheap to give him a new copy of 2010 or 2013 excel. good job microsoft.

  25. “Any tool can be used for art, and Mr. Horiuchi proves it!”

    Severe intellectual fail. He didn’t prove any such thing. What’s remarkable is that even *after* Mr. Horiuchi both states and demonstrates with his beautiful work that Excel has more drawing functions and that they are easier to use than Paint, a program designed specifically for drawing, so many people make comments based on their own prior beliefs and expectations about Excel rather than on its capabilities that have just been demonstrated.

    “Even using cold office equipment like Excel that’s not meant for art”

    Another foolish statement. Pens and pencils are also “cold office equipment” not meant specifically for art, but they provide that capability, as does Excel which has features designed specifically for producing *artwork* … it has polygon fill and gradients; it is not “any tool”. Not even Mr. Horiuchi can make art with a disk defragmenter or an anti-virus program.

    “‘Cause using Illustrator for Vector-based graphics is too mainstream”

    Uh, no, rather because “Graphics software is expensive “.

  26. LIFE is Art! Live it ALL like it is Golden!



    Tracy @ Ascending Butterfly

  27. An Awesome Art… 🙂

  28. Fine work has been 🙂

  29. Give this gentleman a copy of illustrator and he’d rule the world…

  30. this isnt excel. excel art is pixelated at the Cell level. this is just free-draw and could be done in any microsoft product…
    nevertheless, they are beautiful.

  31. Wow, just amazing! I did not know that you can do something like that in the spreadsheet program …

  32. I was expecting some kind of pointillist approach, coloring in the individual cells…

  33. it’s amazing, i have to think about this


  34. Nuwan Wickremasinghe

    June 24, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    I would like to know how you get the varnish shape color with your cherry blossom art collection actually a using a mediam right now.

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