Tuesday, September 20, 2016

the little grape's big dream

The poetry of Naoko Kudo (mentioned briefly in my last post) has inspired a lot of my etegami recently, both directly and indirectly. This etegami is of the indirect variety, and though I hate long blog posts, it needs a bit of explanation.

It was inspired by the poem titled Yama-budou no yume (literally: "dreams of the mountain-grapes," except that yama-budou aren't really grapes at all. You can learn more about this plant at this link: Vitis coignetiae).

The poem describes the young berries as they discuss what they want to be when they grow up. One says "a muscat grape" and another "a concord grape," but then the dreams start getting weird. One says he wants to grow up to be a marble, and another excitedly says "When I grow up, I'm going to be the full moon!!"

I was thinking about this poem the other day as I was watching an odd-looking ship approach Ishikari port in the far distance from the wood deck of my studio in Atsuta. I had never actually seen a ship of this type before, but I recognized it at once from a very peculiar conversation I'd had with a gnomish electrician from Atsuta village just a few days earlier. I plan to use that electrician in an etegami some day, but that's another story.

Anyway, I recognized the ship as a liquefied natural gas carrier. And my next thought was that the tanks looked like huge grapes. From there, my thoughts went to the poem, and I began to imagine a tiny mountain-grape with the huge and totally irrational dream of growing up to become an LNG tank. Thus the etegami was born.

I tore the etegami image of the LNG carrier out of the washi card I had painted it on, and glued it onto a patch of dark blue paper cut out of an old paper bag, to give it the look of the sea.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

towel brush etegami

The town of Senshuu (known for being the origin of towel production in Japan) is calling for etegami painted by "towel brush," so I thought I would give it a try. A towel brush is basically a chopstick or other stick that has a small piece of terry cloth towel wrapped around one end, fastened tightly with rubber bands.

There are no hard and fast rules about how to make a towel brush, but I basically followed the directions in the image posted below. The merit --or charm-- of using a towel brush instead of a regular ink brush is supposed to be the coarseness and sloppiness of the lines. I certainly had difficulty affixing the towel tightly enough to the stick to use it with any control at all. And I quickly learned that, when dipped into my sumi ink bottle, the towel brush soaks up the ink so fast I have trouble keeping the bottle filled. It feels kind of wasteful, to tell the truth...

The dragonfly (top photo) was my first attempt. I hated it. But later it started to grow on me. The words are from a children's song about dragonflies and sunsets.

The next three attempts. I hated these too. The cucumber says "(Summer is over but) I still have a role to play." The open jar says "I let the fireflies go."

I was pretty disappointed with my towel brush etegami attempts up to this point, so for the next three I made even simpler images. I also used a gel pen to write the words, because I had to fit too many words on each card to attempt it with the thick towel brush. Each quotes a line from a different poem by Japanese poet Kudo Naoko. Top left is a yawning cloud. Top right is a grape dreaming of becoming the moon. Bottom middle shows scattered pieces of a broken heart waiting to be picked up. I hate these too, but I'll look at them again next week and maybe I will feel differently.

Obviously I need lots more practice. Especially practice making towel brushes. The sample art on the poster (top photo) is quite charming though. I wish I could produce something like that. We'll see.