Tuesday, May 25, 2010

etegami tulip garden

Recently I asked a few of my Japanese etegami colleagues to share some of their pieces with me so I could post a mini-exhibit of etegami tulips. In addition to the usual crowd, I also extended the invitation to two new etegami friends I had connected with through Twitter but never actually met.

One of my two new friends mailed me tulips he had painted on a roll of soft-but-durable, washi paper called sansou-hongasen. He had made the envelope from the same paper, and painted on both sides of it as well. It has a wonderful texture, almost like very soft leather.

The second new friend regretfully declined the invitation, saying that the tulip season was over in her part of the country, and she didn't want to draw from memory or from a photo because the resulting etegami would necessarily lack emotional impact. I was stunned by her response on two counts: First, by her artistic integrity, and second, by being reminded that spring did not come to all of Japan at the same time.

In northern Japan, where I live, tulips peaked just last week and are only now beginning to droop and scatter their petals. But in the rest of Japan, this year's tulips are already a distant memory. This means I had put my first new friend in a position where, in order to be agreeable, he had been forced to draw his tulips from imagination. I do regret this, and will have to pay more attention to the changing seasons in other parts of the world the next time I suggest a project like this one.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the colorful display of etegami tulips posted here. I'm thinking hydrangea blossoms would be a good choice for the next mini-exhibit. In Japan, they are associated with the rainy season, which will creep over Japan within a matter of weeks. But in Hokkaido, which does not have a rainy season in the same sense the rest of Japan does, hydrangeas don't generally bloom till nearly August, and then they keep blooming till our early winter comes and the blossoms freeze-dry on the bush. If you have a chance to draw hydrangea in the etegami manner this year, please send me one so I can include it in the next garden post scheduled for mid-August.
Tulip artists:
Michiko Shimizu, Takako Chida, Yoko Ogawa, dosankodebebbie, Ryoko Nakagawa, Yoshikazu Matsumoto


Thursday, May 20, 2010

tamano "sea-themed etegami" call

The coastal city of Tamano in Okayama prefecture, in conjuction with the Japan Etegami Society, is calling for Etegami on the theme of the Sea. There is no fee to enter. There are no prizes. Submissions will not be returned. All submissions will be exhibited from October 30 to November 7, 2010 at two locations in Tamano city.

How to submit to this call:

  • Submissions will be accepted from May 6 to August 31, 2010
  • Only one submission per person is allowed
  • Size of etegami should be approximately 10cm x 15cm (4 in x 6 in)
  • Write the name of your prefecture/country and your own name in the bottom 1 cm of the card, on the same side as the artwork.
  • On the address side of the card, write the address in the center-to-right half of the card (in Japanese as shown in the attached image) and your own complete address, name, and age in smaller letters in the lower left.
  • It doesn't matter if you use the card vertically or horizontally for your artwork.
  • The postage stamp must be on the addressed side of the card (not on the image side), and the card should not be placed in an envelope.

The sample etegami on the printed announcement are of images as varied as a lighthouse, a tropical fish, a swimsuit and beach ball, suntanned feet, sun setting on the horizon, seafood platter, shellfish-- giving you an idea of how far and wide you can go with the sea-theme. You can see that some of the samples break many of the guidelines of traditional etegami (such as not filling in the background). So feel free to draw in any style you like.

If you are unable to write the address in Japanese letters, use the following romanized address:

Dai 25-kai Kokumin Bunkasai, Tamano-shi Jikko-iinkai Jimukyoku
Uno 1-27-1 , Tamano-shi, Okayama-ken, 706-8510 JAPAN

I plan to submit something. You should too. It will be fun!

Friday, May 14, 2010

a delightful surprise

Today I received an unexpected gift of a slim book titled Hagaki to tomo ni (together with postcards) containing photographs of handmade art postcards. On first glance they appear to be traditional etegami, but a closer look reveals them to be etegami-collage hybrids. The "drawing" part of each postcard is, in most cases, shapes cut out of old kimono fabric or obi (the stiff sashes worn with kimono) and pasted onto a washi card. The accompanying words are done in the traditional way, with ink brushes and sumi ink.

The book is a collection of the works of postcard artist Kimura Atsuko. The collection includes a great variety of styles, which tells me that she really enjoys experimenting. Best of all, the words are thoughtful and thought-provoking. It's an encouraging collection for those of us who don't see a problem in stretching the boundaries of traditional etegami. The attached image is from the title page of the book. It depicts a flounder (or perhaps, turbot) cut from kimono fabric, and the accompanying words translate roughly to mean: When one is happy, words are round.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

9-armed sea star

Sometimes my etegami switch is flipped on by a random image or an overheard phrase. Does this ever happen to you? The other day, a Facebook friend posted a photo of a nine-armed sea star that she had come across while walking on a beach in Florida. The name "sea star" intrigued me. The idea of "nine arms" intrigued me. The next thing I knew, I was drawing it. Of course it would have been better if I had the creature in front of me as I drew, but photos are sufficient for times like this.

The cool thing about etegami is that it takes so little time and space to set up your tools if you have them all in a box or bag to begin with. Three minutes to set up, less than fifteen minutes for each attempt at drawing the subject. There's no re-doing or fixing-up with etegami. You have to take it or leave it as each one turns out. I actually tried five different versions on five different types of washi postcards. I was satisfied with two of them, though each was quite different from the other, due to the differences in how the ink spread through the paper.

Planning ahead is good. But spur-of-the-moment can be a lot of fun too.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

children's day festival

When we make etegami, we try to reflect the season. Maybe that's one reason why we're sticklers for drawing from observation rather than our imagination. You wouldn't normally draw a watermelon in January, or a tangerine in July, because that would be out of their season.

Another way to mark the seasons is to draw subjects that reflect certain holidays of the year. It so happens that Japan is in the middle of Golden Week, a series of holidays beginning on April 29 and ending on May 5. May 5 is Children's Day (formerly known as Boy's Day) and we traditionally eat a sweet called Kashiwa Mochi on that day. It's a simple sweet consisting of a ball of sweet bean paste enclosed inside mochi (made from rice flour), and then wrapped in an oak leaf. I posted a recipe for this sweet, along with an explanation of the symbolism, on my wagashi (Japanese confections) blog if you'd like to take a look.

Now, you may remember that last year I celebrated Children's Day by drawing a carp. More specifically, a Koi-nobori, or carp-shaped streamer like those which are flown from flag poles all over Japan at this time of year. They represent the parents' prayers and wishes that their children will grow up to be strong against adversity, like the carp is said to swim against the current.

It always adds something to an etegami if you can find a postage stamp that represents the same season as the drawing. I had a postage stamp left over from last year that depicted a Koi-nobori, and even though it's in a denomination that is more than the required postage for a postcard, I decided to use it for this year's Children's Day card. So I'm feeling rather pleased with myself.

The attached etegami depicting Kashiwa Mochi is accompanied by words which translate roughly to mean "My thoughts are drawn to my son who is far away." May you be able to celebrate Children's Day with your children (or your parents) this week, and if that is not possible, may your thoughts be for one another.