Thursday, April 24, 2014

what is emptiness?

Today I received some mailart from Vvinni Gagnepain of a kind that I treasure for its rarity, in that it was created as a response to some etegami I had sent to him. This is the moment when mailable art becomes a dialogue. And when it's done cleverly, this dialogue can continue for quite some time without getting the least bit boring.

Some of you may remember my Holes and Other Empty Spaces series, and if you don't, please go to part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4. so that you can see what Vvinni has responded to.

My series was an exploration of different kinds of empty space. Vvinni's response is a suggestion that emptiness doesn't exist. He writes on the back of the card: "my reply... comes from the idea that what we may perceive as empty is either astronomically far away or very small, and that, in effect emptiness doesn't exist (except on an atomic level, [but] maybe that will be the next card)."

Update: In June, 2014, I received this sequel to the earlier mailart from Vvinni. The image didn't scan very well, but the message on the back starts out like this: "As promised, here's a follow-up card to the previous one. This one is based on the molecular idea of emptiness wherein almost 90% of all matter is empty space..." Vvinni gets quite philosophical as he explores how emptiness at the molecular level affects (or symbolizes) our feeling of isolation and un-connectedness to one another. All those thoughts packed into this simple graph-like image!

Friday, April 18, 2014

class reunion (4)

You may remember that I had started a series of etegami depicting nostalgic scenes and items from Japan's Showa Period (1926–1989). Early Showa was a disturbing time of war and treachery, but by the time I was born, it was an optimistic age in which to grow up.

Former schoolmates of mine, from the international high school we all attended in Tokyo, have been getting together online to plan a major 70s decade reunion to take place in the United States this summer.

I can't attend, but I thought it would be nice to share in the spirit of the reunion by painting and posting etegami that evoke the feel of Japan in the 60s and 70s. That's what the earlier etegami in this series were all about. But I designed this particular etegami for the reunion itself. I'm hoping to print this image on small magnets or postcards, and ask for them to be handed out at the reunion as souvenirs.

The image is that of Koinobori, the carp-shaped windsocks that are flown from flagpoles or lines stretched across rivers and other open spaces to celebrate Kodomo no Hi (sometimes called Boy’s Day, but more often called Children’s Day), a festival held in Japan on May 5th. The carps represent the parents' desire for their children to grow up strong against adversity, like the legendary carp who swims against the current of the river and leaps up waterfalls to magically turn into a dragon. I’ve always thought the row of carps makes a wonderful image to represent people who are connected to each other. Like family or classmates.

Monday, April 14, 2014

mismatched socks

I painted this as tribute to those very special people who, with commitment, humor, and thankful hearts, make their international marriages work.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

more bookish inspiration

You know by now, how often my etegami are inspired by the books I read.  And as much as I love rereading the classics (I'm now rediscovering the Complete Words of Charles Dickens),  I also like being introduced to new authors.

A few weeks ago, a journalist friend of mine recommended All That I Am by Anna Funder, so I immediately downloaded the book onto my Kindle.

From the very first page, I knew I had entered waters too deep for me. I struggled through half of the book before I finally became absorbed enough in the story to forget the passing of time. Yet, to my own surprise, long before I started enjoying the book, I had highlighted over a dozen passages that had leaped out at me and begged to be made into etegami. This is one of them. In time, I'm hoping to do justice to the rest.

Monday, April 7, 2014

giving old etegami new life

A few years ago, I painted this etegami-- depicting a butterfly fresh out of its chrysalis, still moist and a little crumpled-- on an A5-sized (about 8 x 6 inches) card to illustrate the expression "okagesama de." You can find the original post here to learn about the important role this expression has in Japanese life.

Today I decided to give the card new life as an Easter card, accompanied by English words. With careful cutting, I was able to reduce the card to 4 x 6 inches and remove the original Japanese words completely from the scene. There was enough empty space left to add the English words I had picked out. And here it is, a new etegami from the old, serving a completely different purpose from the original.

I actually do this a lot with old etegami that I've painted for some kind of art challenge rather than for immediate mailing. Especially when, like now, my eyes are too strained to paint new images. I think I like the proportions of this new version better too.

Sunday, April 6, 2014


This is Alix the bear. Why is he not cheery? you ask. Well... it's the season for him go into hibernation, but he has insomnia. Poor thing.

I've been asked to illustrate two story-poems. I've just begun. Where will it take me? We shall see. We shall see...

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

because i'm happy

When I first heard Pharrell Williams' song Happy, there was one line that jumped out at me and begged to be used in an etegami. I felt I had just the image for it in this etegami collage I'd started a few years ago but never quite completed. The ladybugs are my dosankodebbie avatar, and if I can remember that far back, I think I was trying to express some kind of freedom of spirit. What do you think? Does the image work with the quote? 

This etegami is for sale on my new Zibbet shop.

For those unfamiliar with this song, here is a link: