Thursday, February 4, 2016

giving art journaling a try

Do any of you keep an art journal? I never have, and when I first noticed the term "art journaling" popping up on the social network sites, I didn't think it was for me. I don't need any further stimulus to paint every day, and I'm fine with scribbling ideas for new work on the backs of envelopes or in the blank spaces of bills or receipts. I did keep a diary as a child, and I have kept writing journals of various kinds as an adult, but they have never been for art.

Then, a few weeks ago, I got it into my head to join an Art Journaling group on Facebook. They have strict rules about only posting art that is obviously part of a journal. So I looked and looked for a notebook made up of washi postcards so that I could stay true to the purpose and methods of etegami. The closest thing I could find to what I wanted, was this ring-bound Maruman notebook of gasenshi cards with a very low level of bleed. Each page is perforated so that it can be pulled out and sent by mail as a postcard.

My paper of choice is hon-gansenshi with the highest level of bleed available in Japan, and much of what distinguishes my etegami is only possible because of the cards I use. In the beginning, painting on the low-bleed gasenshi cards in my new notebook was a painful experience, requiring a serious compromise in the way I use my brush, and a lowering of my expectations in the results.

 I also tried using a white gel pen to outline this butterbur sprout, thinking I might have better results with it than with sumi ink applied by brush. But the image was so hard to distinguish even after adding the color, that I ended up drawing over the white lines with a black gel pen just to make it visible.

And this morning, I used a thin-tipped black marker to outline a chameleon, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the paper responded better to the marker ink than it did to the sumi ink in the earlier green pepper etegami. It actually allowed the marker ink to bleed a little, giving the lines just a tiny bit of that wobble that every etegami artist aims for.

The other issue I have with this low-bleed gasenshi is that it doesn't allow the gansai (mineral-based watercolor blocks) colors to bleed into one another the way I like it to. But I'm learning to adjust. In fact, I'm learning to appreciate what the paper can do, and not blame it for what it can't do. At least I can start posting my work on the art journaling site. I'll stick with it until I run out of pages in the notebook. Can't say yet what I'll do after that.

Monday, February 1, 2016

there's something about grasshoppers

On the Grasshopper and Cricket    

by John Keats

The Poetry of earth is never dead:    
  When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,    
  And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run    
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;    
That is the Grasshopper’s—he takes the lead      
  In summer luxury,—he has never done    
  With his delights; for when tired out with fun    
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.    
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:    
  On a lone winter evening, when the frost     
    Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills    
The Cricket’s song, in warmth increasing ever,    
  And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,    
    The Grasshopper’s among some grassy hills.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

improvise, and then improvise again

Remember that I ran out of sumi ink? And that I started improvising with white gel pen? Now my gel pen ink is running out. Hmm.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

oops. ran out of sumi ink

I ran out of sumi ink. So today I used a white gel pen to outline the images of some new etegami, and to write the accompanying words. When I painted over the white lines with gansai paints, the lines repelled the gansai and showed bright and clear through the colors in a sort of negative version of traditional etegami. What do you think? I broke a lot of etegami "rules", but I kind of like the results.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

green, but not

The snow does not let up, and neither does my compulsion to paint green things.  But as I was painting these traditional Japanese tea-picking baskets, I decided to stop short of depicting them filled with tea leaves. Call it the moment before the tea-pickers sling the baskets over their shoulders and begin work for the day. Or maybe the baskets have just been emptied. Somehow the complexity of the weave of the baskets made me reluctant to clutter the image with any further ink or color. The green is there in spirit, though. I can see it if I try. And I can smell the freshly picked tea leaves.

I chose the words Chatsumi-Uta (tea picking song) to accompany the image. It hints of yet another sensual stimulation which isn't actually depicted here. Chatsumi-uta were songs that the tea-pickers sang to bring rhythm to their monotonous task. There's a rather charming haiku by Kobayashi Issa that goes Akubi ni mo/ fushi no tsukitaru/ chatsumi kana (Even while yawning/ she keeps the tune/ tea picking). [translation by David G. Lanoue]

Saturday, January 16, 2016

going green

Sure, snowscape can be breathtakingly beautiful. But 5~6 months of it is a bit much. By the end of January, my eyes and heart are starved for green. I can't decorate my home with potted plants because my husband's allergist forbids it. So I've been making rich green broccoli or spinach soups from frozen veggies, and re-reading Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham. But when all's said and done,  painting green etegami is the best medicine for what ails me.

The idea for a tea ceremony etegami came to me when a friend mentioned how much her daughter loves green tea. The words were inspired by the tea master Sen no Rikyu.  The model for the fern etegami is my own backyard, and the inspiration for it is my own longing to see the resurrection of the ostrich ferns that congregate exuberantly in the shade of our maple trees.

I figure the more green the better, so I dug out another green etegami from my archives. May I present the Galaxy Kiwi Fruit inspired by Star Wars.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

floundering wordplay

I first got into painting flounders when I was trying to come up with an etegami for a friend going through a rough patch in life. And, as you know by now, I have a great weakness for wordplay. The fun thing about flounders is that they suit wordplay in both English and Japanese.

The English wordplay in the etegami at the top of the post needs no explanation. In Japanese, the word for flounder is hirame (literally: flat eyes). Twitch it just a little, and it becomes hirameki, the word for inspiration. In the Japanese etegami directly above, I stretched the wordplay to include words that rhyme with hirameki. In fact, the lines were taken from random stanzas of a very jolly song written by someone I only know as BYO, for a group I only know as A.F.R.O.  I don't even know what they look like.

Translated into English, the words on the card say: Turn inspiration (hirameki) into excitement (tokimeki); turn inspiration (hirameki) into brilliance (kagayaki); turn inspiration (hirameki) into commotion (zawameki); turn inspiration (hirameki) into surprise (odoroki).  I'm tempted to use this etegami as my logo.