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