Sugawara was born in Tokyo in 1962. In 1989, he was admitted to the University of Fine Arts in Tama. In 1994, he received the Young Talents Scholarship from the Gotoh Memorial Foundation. He was then awarded many prizes by the Yamatane Museum in 1993, the Mokichi Okada Museum of Art in 1998, and won the Grand Prix Nikkei Nihonga in 2004.
Since 1991, major museums have hosted his exhibitions such as the Central Art Museum in Tokyo, the Shirane Togen Art Museum in Yamanashi and the Nerima Art Museum in Tokyo. Many museums are also showcasing his paintings in their permanent collections.
Sugawara works with washi paper (a mulberry based paper) stretched on a wood panel. The colors he uses are made from a blend of traditional Japanese nikawa glue mixed with natural pigments.
In some of his works on plain paper, he works in two successive steps. First, he applies a delayed mix of glue and natural pigments on the back of the paper. The pigments bleed through the paper by capillarity and appear on the front of the paper.
The artist then stretches the paper on a wood panel and paints the front with a mix of glue and rich pigments. The transparencies of the washi paper, the patterns created on the surface as well as the thickness of the pigments give the painting a unique depth.
In some of his other works, he covers the washi paper with squared gold, silver or platinum leaves. He then paints over them and combines various techniques: mixing the nikawa glue, Chinese ink, and ashes from resinous Japanese trees which retract when drying and create a network of cracks resembling the bark of Japanese cherry trees.