Friday, December 31, 2010

nengajou (received n.y. cards)

The message gives the traditional New Year greeting with the addition of a private message to me. The image depicts one of the seven lucky gods that is referred to a lot at this time of year.

Shows tiger (2010 zodiac) turning into a rabbit (2011 zodiac). Printed words translate roughly to "Having long ears doesn't make you a rabbit." In his private message, the artist says he's resolved to quit pretending to be other than what he is.

This lino-cut rabbit is accompanied by the words: "May this year be full of happy things." The artist is a certified etegami instructor and reminds me time and time again that the best etegami is simple and childlike.

Rabbit and carrot etegami with "Beginning of Spring" in gold ink. This is another common way to refer to the New Year. Even if the cold and snow continues for many months, New Years Day is when we rejoice in the expectation of Spring and in new beginnings.

This is the second year I've receive a nengajou from this artist, and once again she has delighted me with her creative ideas. The card is overlaid with soft, fluffy, wrinkled washi paper and stamped with an utterly adorable bunny seal. On the other side is her greeting: "Happy Fluffy New Year!"

I've come to expect gorgeous colors & fine technique from this etegami artist, and this nengajou does not disappoint. The words are one more version of the traditional New Year greeting done in strokes oozing with character.

This nengajou is from a new etegami friend whose work has been posted several times on my mailart gallery blog. It may be hard to see, but the gold ink added to the bunny and the waves conveys wishes of good fortune and happiness. The accompanying words say "With a Fresh/Renewed Heart and Mind."

It is already New Year's Day in Japan, despite what date might appear at the top of this post. The mailman delivered the first batch of New Year cards, presumably the ones that were posted before the Dec 24th deadline. Cards from those who mailed theirs after the deadline (that includes me :p) will trickle in during the next few days. I'll post more soon. : ) To learn more about the Japanese tradition of exchanging New Year postcards, check out this post from last year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

illustration friday (winter)

Harness bells accompanied by a quote from one of my favorite winter poems, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost. This poem always brings back fond memories from my childhood, before paved roads and snowplows became common in rural Hokkaido, and we rode in horse-drawn sleds to visit our friends during the New Year holiday.

Friday, December 17, 2010

illustration friday (mail)

This is not really an etegami, but it *is* an image accompanied by words, and it certainly fits the new Illustration Friday theme. I did a series of Japanese Mail Collection Box collages to send to Postcrossers a couple years ago, and this is one of them.

It shows the kind of mail box that was used when I was growing up, and the shape of it is very dear to my heart. The modern ones are just a rectangular box on a pedestal (blah).

One of the memories from my childhood that I treasure, is of my father teaching me how to collect stamps. Now that I have trouble walking, and rarely leave the house, exchanging mailart is one way for me to travel the world. Stamps are little windows into new landscapes, rare creatures, and unfamiliar history. The canceled stamps I used for this piece are ones I collected over forty years ago. They depict national parks and nature reserves from all over Japan.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

japanese citron

A few weeks ago I received a box full of yuzu from a dear friend in Yokohama, far from the frigid, citrus-unfriendly climate of Hokkaido. She has a yuzu tree in her garden, and this is the second time she's shared this marvelous citrus fruit with me. Yuzu has uneven skin, with lots of irregular bumps and discolorations that make it the kind of subject etegami artists love to paint. What little juice the yuzu has is very tart, and used in cooking like vinegar or lemon juice. But it's the zest that we value the most. So WONderfully aromatic! I painted several etegami of this delightful gift fruit before I cut it all up, separating the juice from the rind, and freezing it for future use. The accompanying words are the Japanese version of the proverb I used in my previous post: Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed (Proverbs 11:25).

Monday, December 13, 2010

illustration friday (phenomenon)

It seems that the word phenomenon has a fairly wide range of meaning. One definition I came across was "an unaccountable fact." The words accompanying this image of a pear and apricot are from Proverbs 11:25. Like the oft-quoted phrase "The more you give the more you receive," they express a fact that is difficult to account for.

Monday, December 6, 2010

illustration friday (prehistoric)

The Japanese Giant Salamander (Andrias japonicus), which grows to be over 5 feet long and can live for as long as 80 years in the wild, is considered a "living fossil." They say its skeletal structure is almost identical to fossils from 30 million years ago, but it is now threatened by pollution and habitat loss. It isn't the prettiest creature in the world, but it is quite fascinating. I saw one in a national wilderness area in central Japan many, many years ago.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


I made several different designs for this year's Christmas card, including a Japanese version of the one shown here. The words are the original Latin for the title of a well-known Christmas hymn "Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel."

You can order greeting card and postcard prints from RedBubble

Sunday, November 28, 2010

illustration friday (savor/savour)

As I am terribly sensitive to caffeine, Rooibos Tea (red bush tea) has become my staple these days. It doesn't hurt that it also seems to be the staple of Precious Ramotswe, the heroine of the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series (and I do mean the books, as I've never seen the dramatized version).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

new etegami goals

This year has gone by soooo fast. Does it seem that way to you? One of my goals for 2010 was to do an etegami series of Japanese Proverbs, and thanks partly to my mid-year decision to combine that series with the Sketchbook Project, I managed to wrap up both goals in a way that I am satisfied with.

As I cast about for a new etegami focus for 2011, I came to realize that, somewhere deep inside, the decision had been made the moment I discovered the They Draw and Cook website. Thanks to TDAC lighting a match to this particular fire, I am now having the time of my life combining two of my passions: Etegami and Creative Cookery. I will try to complete a minimum of 50 illustrated recipes during the coming year, many of them recipes I've devised myself and were inspired by Japanese food culture.

In addition to this, and for a limited time only, I'll be accepting custom orders from people who want to preserve and display a recipe that means something special to them. The details are here on my Etsy shop.

Friday, November 19, 2010

illustration friday (sneaky)

As soon as I heard what the new IF prompt was, my mind leaped to cockroaches. The funny thing is-- as far as I know-- we don't have cockroaches in Hokkaido. I guess it's too cold here.

The first time I saw a cockroach in Japan was in Nagoya, when I was in my mid-twenties. Of course I've always known, from reading books and hearing stories, that humans generally consider them disgusting, filthy, sneaky, and almost impossible to get rid of. Should I risk grossing you (my darling followers) out with an etegami depicting a cockroach? Sure, why not?

On the other hand, I googled definitions for "sneaky," and one string of synonymous terms I came across was: furtive: marked by quiet and caution and secrecy; taking pains to avoid being observed; "a furtive manner"; "a sneak attack"; "stealthy footsteps"--> That sounds just like NINJA to me. Doesn't it to you?

Anyway... I solved my dilemma by combining the two mental connections I'd made. So, here it is.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

mini-exhibit (autumn)

Acorns by Mike Szwarc (USA)

Changeable Autumn Weather by Carole Marshall (Australia), Autumn Leaf by Yun Stouls (France)

Autumn Leaves by Katerina Nikoltsou (Greece)

Bursting Chestnut "under the spreading chestnut tree" by dosankodebbie (Japan), Autumn Leaf by Jennifer Kennedy (USA)

Persimmons Hung to Dry "getting sweeter by being hung and dried" by dosankodebbie, Horse Chestnuts (Psalm 51:2) by dosankodebbie

Chestnuts "good friends" by Michiko Shimizu (Japan), Hototogisu Flower (Tricyrtis) "to be among the autumn grasses" by Youko Ogawa (Japan)

Yellow Cosmos Flower "waving at a blue sky" by Michiko Shimizu (Japan), Pine Cone "fragrance of pine" by dosankodebbie, Pear "the color of autumn" by Takako Chida (Japan)

My warm thanks to all who responded to the Autumn-themed Etegami call, even though I gave you very little warning. The deadline was actually calculated to keep you from spending too much time on your submission. Etegami are best when they're drawn without too much self-conscious planning. Some additional pieces may still be on their way, but I've decided to go ahead and post what has already arrived. Any etegami arriving after today will be posted on my mailart gallery instead of here.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

illustration friday (burning)

A branch of the shrub known as "Burning Bush" (aka Winged Euonymus or Spindle Tree): Euonymus alata "Compactus." Though unremarkable for most of the year, when Autumn comes, it appears as if it has burst into flames.

Monday, November 8, 2010

grilled pacific saury

You may remember the illustrated recipe for Crunchy Ramen Salad Cones that I painted last July as a submission to a really cool website called "They Draw & Cook." Last month I submitted another illustrated recipe-- this one for grilled pacific saury-- and it was chosen as one of the recipes to go into a cookbook scheduled to be published very soon. Isn't that awesome!? I urge you to check out the fabulous illustrated recipes submitted by artists and illustrators from all over the world. The site's creators, Nate and Salli, have more projects in the works, so if you want to give it a try and submit an illustrated recipe of your own, it's sure to be loads of fun, and who knows what kind of adventures it will lead to! Check out They Draw & Cook.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

illustration friday (afterwards)

This week's IF prompt brings to mind one of Robert Frost's early poems: After Apple-Picking. It speaks of winter, weariness, sleep (death?), and tasks not completed. Here are the first 13 lines of the 42-lined poem:

After Apple-Picking
My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

illustration friday (spent)

This week I am a bit preoccupied with the fact that my cardiac pacemaker battery is running out of juice (power), and that I need to have surgery soon to get it replaced. So when the new IF topic was announced, I naturally thought of "spent batteries." That, and the fact that I've been thinking a lot about rabbits as a theme for my next New Year card (2011 will be the year of the rabbit), resulted in this image. The words are a parody of the ubiquitous American dairy industry ad "Got Milk?" Yes, I know, I should have drawn a cuter bunny. This one is heavy-set and overly serious.... I guess it takes after me.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

sketchbook project 2011 (part 3)

You may remember that I finished my sketchbook project a week or so ago, but was troubled about how to protect the pasted-on sections from popping off the slick, thin pages of the notebook. I ended up covering each page with the clear, adhesive plastic sheets that librarians protect books with. I was able to order it online, which is often a deciding factor for me, since severe arthritis and other health factors make it difficult for me to leave the house.

It being my first experience working with said adhesive sheet, I ended up wrinkling up quite a few pages of my book. But the majority turned out well, so I've sent off my project, wrinkled pages and all, to the Art House Co-op, way ahead of the Jan 15, 211 deadline. I wanted to send it off before the end of October, because I've had too many devastating experiences of having mail go missing when I send it in the months of November, December and January-- almost certainly because of holiday mail congestion.

All together (including the cover), 40 of my illustrated Japanese proverbs and sayings went into the book. I won't even try to post them all here. It was fun, and I made some lovely new friends through the project. After my sketchbook tours the US (along with all the other entries), it will be included in the permanent collection at the Brooklyn Art Library. Thanks to modern technology, I will be notified each time someone views my book. I think that's kind of cool. : )

Friday, October 22, 2010

illustration friday (racing)

I try to make a new etegami each week for IF, but when I saw what this week's topic was, I thought of this one I drew as a birthday card for a soccer-loving young friend of mine. The quote refers to the worthiest race I know.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

more word play

This Waratah blossom was the centerpiece of a flower arrangement that caught my eye a couple weeks ago, and I felt compelled to draw it. The accompanying Japanese words translate to “I love your laughing face.” It is a play on words, based on the similarity of the word "waratah" to the Japanese word for “laughed” (waratta).

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

illustration friday (transportation)

I will never forget the exuberant feeling of flight that I got from my first pair of roller skates. Unlike the skates in this etegami, they were simply wheeled metal frames that screwed tightly to my shoes. Remember those? The words that accompany the image are the first two lines of "Brand New Key," a pop song written by folk singer Melanie (Melanie Safka), which was a hit in the early 1970s.

Monday, October 11, 2010

sketchbook project 2011 (part 2)

Here are some more pages from my Sketchbook Project, which I have titled: A Collection of Japanese Proverbs and Sayings. See part 1 if you don't know what the Sketchbook Project is. I've actually completed all the pages, but some of the glued-on pieces keep popping off after they dry, so I'm exploring ideas for sealing the pages without making the whole book too bulky.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

autumn-themed etegami call

You are invited to send me your hand-painted etegami on any subject associated with Autumn. Please abide by the basic definition of etegami, which is a simple image accompanied by suitable words. Postcard-sized submissions only, please. Choice of medium and style is up to you. Your etegami should be postmarked by November 10 in order to reach me in time to be included in the Autumn-themed Etegami Mini-Exhibit, which will be posted on this blog in mid-November. Your submissions will not be returned. My address is at the top of my mailart gallery blog. Have fun!

Attached is an etegami I drew of some kabosu, a tart, juicy citrus fruit that is used in Japan like lemon or vinegar, especially as a seasoning in autumn cuisine.

Monday, October 4, 2010

sketchbook project 2011

Submitting to art challenges helps me maintain a steady pace of producing etegami. I've blogged about some of them in previous posts. Illustration Friday is one such challenge that has kept me on my toes because it renews every week, and the topics often boggle my mind.

You may have noticed the Sketchbook Project banner somewhere along the right edge of this page and wondered about it. If you haven't already done so, click on the banner and check it out. I thought about it for months before I actually joined, and once my notebook came, it took me almost as long to pull my ideas together, because it's the most large-scale art challenge I've ever attempted. I have to somehow fill up a notebook of fifty pages with artwork based on the theme of "if you lived here..." (I chose the theme from a list they gave me.)

I finally decided to combine the Sketchbook Project with a goal I set for myself at the beginning of this year of producing up to 150 etegami illustrating Japanese proverbs. Since the pages of the notebook are thin and slick, it doesn't work to paint directly on them. I have to print out copies of my etegami and glue them into the notebook. The result is sloppier than I would have liked, and the colors not as vibrant, but I'm trying to accept that.

I'm half-way through the notebook, and thought it was time to post some sample pages. I will probably be adding some hand-written trivia and doodles in the blank spaces of some of the pages, but not much.

Friday, October 1, 2010

tea field art contest results

Remember the tea field photo and art contest I urged you to submit to a couple months back? Well, the results came out today. The winning entry was one of mine. Yup. Now don't you wish you had submitted something? It was fun.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

the french connection

A few days ago I received some mailart from @yun of France, who interacts actively with us on this blog. Enclosed with the card were two blank sheets of 45-gram-weight washi paper that appeared to be the right dimensions for hanshi, which is what we call the thin-ish washi sheets used for calligraphy practice.

Yun asked me to test the paper to see if it was a suitable substitute for the kind of washi cards I have recommended for etegami use. It seems she is able to find sumi ink, gansai paints, and traditional Japanese writing brushes in France, but not washi cards. So she had the idea of gluing washi paper to stiff cards cut out of cereal boxes. I tried out her idea.

I used the traditional Japanese writing and coloring brushes to paint the first two etegami (photo at the top), without first gluing them to a stiff back. I was happy with the way the sumi spread on the paper. The gansai paint also went on adequately, with a good amount of nijimi (bleed), but it tended to seep through the thin paper and wet the surface beneath. If I hadn't been careful, the pool of paint that collected beneath the paper would have stained the uncolored parts of the etegami as well. Fortunately, this didn't happen. After the etegami were dry, I glued them to cards cut from the back of a taco shell box. The washi paper tended to wrinkle as I glued it to the stiffer surface, but I managed to spread it flat enough that the wrinkles aren't too obvious.

Next, I tested it with the bamboo quill pen, but I thought it would work better if I glued the paper to a stiff back first. This worked great! (photo below) I was more careful with the colors this time, so there was no serious seepage. My conclusion is that this method works very well as a substitute for washi postcards. NOTE: Paint on the rough side of the washi sheet, not the smooth side.

Thanks, Yun! Yun also sent me a vibrant octopus etegami she had made, using the same washi paper glued to a stiff backing. I've posted it on the mailart gallery blog, so be sure to take a look.