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.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

singing cricket

I fixed the misspelling of Dickinson's name, just in case you noticed it before. ;p (very embarassing)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

illustration friday (old-fashioned)

For this week's IF challenge, I chose this etegami depicting geta (traditional wooden clogs) from my Japanese proverbs series. The accompanying words mean [There's no knowing the outcome] until it's time to put your geta back on. The saying has its roots in the unpredictability of Go matches. Go is "an ancient board game for two players that is noted for being rich in strategy despite its simple rules." (Wikipedia). Hence, you never know the final outcome till the very end, when it's time to put your shoes back on and go home. Another traditional touch in this picture is that the person belonging to the feet is wearing indigo-dyed samue, the traditional (=old-fashioned) working clothes of Japanese artisans.

I've attached more "old-fashioned" footwear etegami with proverbs below. The first two show waraji (cheap sandals made from straw rope), and the next two show zouri (thonged sandals, made of better material, and more fashionable, than waraji)

1. To wear two pairs of waraji (one person doing two jobs or fulfilling two roles).
2. Find yourself a wife that is older than you, even if you have to wear waraji made from metal. (ie: Metal waraji, if there were such a thing, might make walking difficult but would not quickly wear out. A woman who is a year or more older than her husband has great potential for making a good wife, making it worth a long and difficult search for her.)
3 & 4. To screw up just as you're putting on your zouri. (No matter how well things are going at first, you can ruin all previous success by screwing up at the very end.)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

proverbial cows

Here is a series of etegami based on cow-related proverbs. Some may be familiar to you, others less so. Since cow faces featured prominently in Issa's cows, I tried to refer to the cow a little more indirectly this time. The one posted here at the top quotes an African proverb. I don't know which tribal group or language culture, but it obviously comes from one which values cow dung for its usefulness in daily life. I wasn't trying to be gross or anything. (Those black marks are cow hoof prints, by the way!)

Of the etegami and etegami collages shown below, the only one that doesn't come with English writing is the Japanese proverb that reads: Tsuno o tamete, Ushi o korosu, which translates roughly to: Killing the cow while trying to straighten its horn. It has a similar meaning to the English saying "strain at a gnat and swallow a camel." (obsessing over minor things and screwing up something major).

I think I'm finished with cows for a while. But I would be thrilled if any of you want to send me your own hand-painted etegami or other mailart based on a cow proverb, song, or poem from your own culture. :D

Thursday, September 23, 2010

issa's cows

Haiku inspires many of my etegami. The poems of Matsuo Basho are favorites of mine. But he doesn't mention cows very much, and after my recent purple cow post, I was itching to draw more cows. You know who mentions cows time and time again? The haiku poet Kobayashi Issa. This fact was recently brought to my attention by @Cow Lady when she sent me this link. I took up the challenge and, although I didn't necessarily use the translations provided on that page, I tried my hand at illustrating some of Issa's cow haiku with etegami collages.

In my next post, I'll show you some etegami I did that were inspired by cow proverbs. heh heh. Can you tell I'm having fun?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

illustration friday (acrobat)

Let's just say I was feeling silly. The cow was shot into space from a circus cannon (can you tell?). What started out as a traditional etegami turned into a collage that couldn't decide between being a purple-cow parody or a cow-jumped-over-the-moon parody.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

illustration friday (proverb)

Early in 2010, I resolved to make etegami of at least 100 Japanese proverbs before the end of the year. So this week's IF topic was perfect for me. The one shown here is an etegami/chigiri-e hybrid. I painted the frog as I usually do, on a soft washi card in the traditional etegami manner. Then I cut it out and glued it to a sheet of handmade, hand-dyed washi (such as used in the art of chigiri-e), which in turn was glued to a sheet of paper made from various grasses. The proverb is an oft-quoted one that translates roughly to: A frog in a well cannot conceive of the ocean.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

bursting chestnut

The awful, record-breaking hot and humid weather we've been suffering through has suddenly become fall-like. There isn't a whole lot of time for those of us in Hokkaido before the long winter comes 'round the corner, so I plan to wallow in the sights, sounds, smells, textures, and tastes of autumn while I can. Here's a chestnut for you. The words translate to "Under a Spreading Chestnut Tree," the first line in a popular Japanese children's song.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

thunder and lightning

A few weeks ago, I received the happy news that a baby boy had been born to friends of mine in Canada. They are not Japanese, but they have a passion for Japan, and they chose to name their son Raiden, the Japanese word that can mean thunder and lightning, or used as another name for Raijin, the mythical creature that controls thunder and lightning. I don't know the story behind this name choice (it's actually his middle name), but I do know that it is evidence of their love of Japanese culture.

Well, I went and promised my friend that I would draw an etegami to celebrate his son's birth. Coming up with a design turned out to be more difficult than I had imagined. After dozens of problematic attempts, this is the etegami that I decided I would have to settle for. It represents Raiden/Raijin in the stormy clouds with the ring of drums that he hits to produce thunder-- Altogether too dark and stormy an image for a newborn baby boy. But he won't be a baby for ever. What I wish for him is that he will grow up to have the mental and physical strength of Raiden, and that like Raiden, he will serve a meaningful purpose on earth and for humankind.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

illustration friday (dessert)

I was fantasizing about a galaxy where the planets and asteroids were pies of different types, and that led to the twist on the saying "pie in the sky," which is apparently a cynical way to refer to heavenly rewards (a cynicism I do not share).

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

video clip of summer etegami

I found this video clip of summer-themed etegami on YouTube posted by guu8211. I assume this person is also the artist, but the works themselves are signed with the mark for "se," which, according to etegami tradition, indicates that the artist's personal name probably begins with that syllable. (If I ever find out the full name, I'll let you know.) Since I want you all to be exposed to as many different etegami styles and personalities as possible, I've posted it here for you to enjoy: