Sunday, November 27, 2011

illustration friday (round #2)

In eastern Hokkaido there is a lake called Lake Akan, where the marimo grow. A marimo is a rare growth form of the filamentous green algae (Chlorophyta), where the algae grow into large green balls with a velvety appearance.

The Ainu, northern Japan's indigenous people, called them lake goblins or lake rollers. It turns out that the only other regions where colonies of marimo are known to form are Iceland, Scotland, and Estonia, but the ones in Lake Akan are known to grow particularly large-- up to 30 cm across.

When I was young, we used to think of marimo as a sort of pet, and kept them in jars filled with water. I was a lazy guardian, and my marimo invariably died, but, if memory serves, one of my sisters kept one alive for a long time, growing it to an impressive size. Nowadays they are a protected species, and the little ones you find in souvenir shops are hand rolled from free-floating filaments.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

more colorful produce

Hokkaido has entered the dormant season where the once-colorful leaves have crumbled to brown dust and snow will soon cover all traces of ground vegetation and even the mis-matched colors of our house roofs and automobiles.

This is when I really start appreciating the colors of our fruits and vegetables. Sure, we have beautiful produce during our brief summers, but I guess I don't appreciate their colors as much as they deserve, because, outside, the leaves on the trees are all shades of green, flowers bloom like pieces of the rainbow, and butterflies flit like floating flower petals.

In the setting of a monochromatic winter, purple-skinned sweet potatoes and persimmons the color of the sun really brighten my world. I picked out a couple samples from my illustrated recipes as evidence.

Friday, November 25, 2011

illustration friday (round)

There are two gift-giving seasons in Japan. One is in the summer and one is in the winter. Winter gifts often involve agricultural produce for which the sender's home prefecture is known. Each winter I receive a case of potatoes from an old friend in south-western Hokkaido, a case of tangerines from an even older friend in Nagoya, and a case of persimmons from the oldest friend of all in Shikoku. I reciprocate by sending each of them a case of lily roots, a rather high-class vegetable that is often used in New Year dishes. 90% of the domestic product is produced in my home prefecture of Hokkaido. I also try to send each of these friends an Etegami thank-you card with a painted image of the gift I received from them.

I never tire of the gifts, even though my friends have been sending me the same thing every year for over twenty years. I base my winter shopping and meal plans on the assumption that I will have lots of potatoes, tangerines and persimmons. And I suspect my friends make similar plans each year around the lily roots that I send them.

The problem is, I run out of new ways to depict this produce in my Etegami thank-you cards. I've painted whole persimmons, halved persimmons, persimmon wedges, persimmon pie, persimmons in the box, persimmons on the branch, persimmons in salads... One year when I was at loss for a new way to paint persimmons, I decided to slice them cross-wise, which is never done, because it makes them harder to eat or use in cooking. It did provide a new and interesting visual perspective though. So I accompanied the image with the words: "A Change in Perspective."

For those of you who have never seen a lily root, here is a smaller image from one of my illustrated recipes. Lily root is a lot of fun to cook with. You can see that it's (sort of) round too. : )

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

media goes wild over cookbook

It seems so long ago (at the same time it seems like just yesterday) that I first began to submit illustrated recipes to the They Draw and Cook website. It was a fun and quirky challenge, and an enormous thrill to see my etegami posted alongside some of the most delightful artwork I've ever seen. I never dreamed that one of my works would make it into TDAC's first published collection of illustrated recipes.

It seems the artists who submitted to the cookbook aren't the only ones thrilled by its quality. The media have been raving about it left and right. And for good reason. Because of its great low introductory price, I had expected an economical paperback with grainy pages. My jaw dropped when I first held it in my hands.

It's a beautifully bound hardback with a spine that allows each recipe (they spread across two adjoining pages) to lie flat without your having to use a brick to hold the pages down like you have to with lots of other cookbooks. High quality paper is used for pages. The color printing is awesome. It is thick and heavy, and exudes presence. A coffee table book rather than something to flip through while you're mixing ingredients on a messy kitchen counter. A source of unending culinary inspiration and a delight to the senses. A window into the cuisine of exotic cultures and regions, as well as dishes that are comfortably familiar. Get yourself a copy. Give someone a copy for Christmas. You won't regret it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

etegami calendar 2012

My very first attempt at putting together an etegami calendar is this Illustrated Recipes Calendar. (For Sale Here) I really wanted to make one based on my Earthquake series, but you know how important the explanatory text is for each one of those, and I haven't yet found a feasible way to combine both image and lengthy text in a calendar. If you have experience with this sort of thing, I'd appreciate advice. :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

illustration friday (silent #2)

Here are two more from the Holiday Daruma Series, which I introduced in the Halloween post. In addition to the two etegami posted here, yesterday I finally finished the Christmas etegami I plan to send out this winter to my closest friends and family. It also features a daruma doll. I don't want to spoil the surprise for them, so that one remains secret for now. : )

Saturday, November 12, 2011

last reminder- breakfast etegami call

I'm getting some delightful submissions to the Breakfast-themed Etegami Call, and they will all be posted here on December 1. If you'd been meaning to send me something, and had forgotten, there are two more weeks before the deadline. Click here for submission guidelines. If you don't understand something, don't hesitate to ask.

I've posted an old etegami depicting my favorite Japanese-style breakfast. A bowl of hot rice topped with a very fresh raw egg. I drizzle a bit of soy sauce over the top and mix it all together. Served with a side of Japanese-style vegetable pickles. Yum yum.

Friday, November 11, 2011

illustration friday (silent)

I'm working on a new etegami for this week's IF prompt, but meanwhile, remember this etegami that I made for 2011 The Year of the Rabbit? Did 2011 pass as quickly for you as it did for me? Was it as tumultuous for those of you outside Japan as it was those of us in Japan? Whew! What a year.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

illustration friday (stripes)

One of the many things I love about Autumn is the shapes of the clouds in the sky. The other day I looked up at a sky that was striped from edge to edge.

This is a collage made from three different kinds of washi paper. The accompanying haiku by the itinerant poet Matsuo Basho, reminds me that being able to see the moon (or whatever you've set your gaze upon) --clearly and all the time-- isn’t necessarily the only way to enjoy it— or life.

Friday, November 4, 2011

toasting with apples

Although my siblings and I were all born and raised in Japan, the vast ocean that now separates us is not easily or frequently crossed. The older I get, the dearer they are to me, and I am eternally grateful for the internet, which makes sharing my life with them so much easier than it was for my parents who were similarly separated from their loved ones when they made the choice to leave their home country in their early 20s.

Recently, one of my sisters bought her first house in the apple-y state of Washington (USA), within view of Mt.Adams. In the email that announced this huge decision, she wrote:
My real estate agent who led me through the whole process brought two freshly picked apples to "toast" the closing. I was so charmed by the image these words evoked, that I decided to illustrate it as an etegami and send it to her for a housewarming gift. It is my way of sharing this happy/scary step in her life.