Sunday, August 29, 2010

illustration friday (immovable)

This week's IF topic did not immediately inspire me, and I had to chew on it for quite a while. Actually, that's been true of most of the IF topics since I joined in June. I guess that's what makes it a challenge.



My three-day road trip
Is nearly over
I leave the last motel
Just five more hours to go
The closer I come to home
I want to stretch it out
Delay my arrival
Stay suspended
Not here, not there
Just anonymous

First day was fast and furious
On the interstate monster highway
Second day I took
County roads
Weaving through midwest farm towns
Wondering at their smallness
Now on this third day
The final day
I'm an explorer
Venturing off the road
Over the train tracks
Into towns and neighborhoods
Leaving my car
To stroll through one-bench parks
To read a book
In the shade of a towering tree
Where no one knows me
Just an out-of-town license plate.

The five more hours
Have stretched into ten
As I slowed and savored
And stayed suspended

When I drive up to my house
It's evening
And I'm me again.

(another poem by Vicki Patschke)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

sister hands

The first four kids in my family are girls who were born within a five year period. This summer, three of them gathered for a brief time at the home of the third sister. I am the eldest of the four, but it has been almost a decade now since I had the health and mobility to cross the ocean that keeps us apart.

I was nursing my isolation with a mental pout, when the second sister sent me a poem she'd written that drew me into a metaphorical sister hug and wiped the pout from my mind. The poem begins with the line "Three pairs of sister hands." But I, too, was there at that kitchen table-- in spirit anyway. And my hands were a fourth pair reaching out to theirs. The poem begged to be illustrated, so that's what I did.


Three pairs of sister hands
Reach across
The kitchen table
For open display.
But tentative
Yet satisfied
At our lines
Bumps, knobs and twists
The hilly blue veins
We compare the wrinkles
Of our well-worn lives
Five decades each.

My young niece
Watching us
Instinctively offers
To paint our nails.

(poem by Vicki Patschke)

Monday, August 23, 2010

illustration friday (atmosphere)

at-mos-phere: 1. the gaseous mass or envelope surrounding a celestial body, esp. that encompassing the earth, retained by the body's gravitational field. I call this the sky.

This etegami of fireflies in a jar is one I drew to commemorate my grandmother. See original post.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

one more for the tea field art contest

Remember the Fantasies in the Tea Field Photo & Art Contest that I blogged about last week? I ended up doing just one more piece before sending them off yesterday. This one shows two large baskets such as the tea-pickers traditionally carry on their backs when they go out to the fields to pick tea leaves. The baskets are woven from strips of bamboo. And the shoulder straps are woven from leftover strips of often colorful fabric.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

firefly squid

The previous post on "star-gazing" revived a memory from my youth that I felt compelled to express in etegami.

Many, many years ago, when I was home from college for summer break, two friends and I hitch-hiked to the Izu peninsula. After an exhausting day of travel and play, we spread our sleeping bags on the sandy beach and conked out. I can't remember if it was before conking out, or if it was when I woke up in middle of the night, but I noticed the tide was coming in and my sleeping bag was in danger of getting soaked. I dragged the bag away from the edge of the water, then looked back at the pitch black ocean and saw that it was glittering with lights. It looked as though someone had scattered truckloads of diamonds across the water. And those lights were twinkling like stars. I was utterly AWEstruck.

At first I thought it was a reflection of the stars in the sky. But then I realized something on, or near, the surface of the water was the source of the lights. I don't remember if I knew about hotaru ika (firefly squid) then, or if it was later that I figured it out, but that is exactly what explained this mysterious vision. It was one of the most beautiful, bewitching sights I have ever seen.

Hotaru ika are tiny. Whether they are boiled and served with miso sauce, or pressed and dried like jerky, each one makes just one mouthful. They are incredibly flavorful, though, and I have become addicted to them in the decades since that awesome sight. Please don't think badly of me that I can enjoy these amazing creatures both as art and as food.

The letters that accompany the image say "chindon'ya" and refer to the costumed, noisy groups of performers that used to weave through the streets advertising the opening of a new store or a special event (sort of like sandwich men in the west) when I was a child, but are extremely rare nowadays. I think the phrase came to mind because the shape and sparkle of the firefly squid reminded me of those flashy performers with their musical instruments, triangular headgear, and bamboo-framed umbrellas.

Friday, August 13, 2010

illustration friday (star gazing)

This is a very simple black & white etegami I made for Tanabata, the Japanese Star Festival, which is normally celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month each year. In Hokkaido, however, we celebrate it a month later-- in August. I used cross-sections of okra and sumi ink to stamp the star-shapes, and the way they're clustered is supposed to represent the Milky Way. But I've been thinking it would have been better suited to represent falling cherry blossoms, so I might try that next spring.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

tea field photo & art contest

Haiku poet Aki Gibbons brought this photo & art contest to my attention a couple days ago, and though my time and attention have been tied up with house-guests, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. So today I stole away to draw for a few hours, just to get the etegami part of my mind limber again. The deadline is coming up quickly, but submissions are to be made electronically, so if you're interested in participating, you have till August 31.

I kind of like the teapot etegami myself, but it seems that the contest sponsor is hoping for submissions that have more to do with the planting and picking of tea, rather than the drinking of tea. As I don't feel that landscapes or detailed scenes are well-suited to etegami, I tried focusing on tea flowers.

The one with the green background is an etegami/collage hybrid, and the words are from the Chatsumi-uta (tea-picking song), a well-known tune that I learned as a child: "Pick, pick, pick. The leaves must be picked." The one with the white background is a traditional etegami and I borrowed the words from a pop song: "It's that time of year when the tea flowers are the best for viewing."

Friday, August 6, 2010

illustration friday (caged)

Since ancient times, it has been the custom in Japan to seek respite from the heat of late summer and early fall by listening to the tinkling song of Suzumushi (Homoeogryllus japonicus), or Bell Crickets. I don't know how many people in the 21st century still enjoy this practice, but I fairly soaked myself in the silvery sounds one summer when my son and I raised bell crickets from eggs as a science experiment. Traditionally these creatures are kept in bamboo cages, though nowadays plastic cases are more common. It's like having a music box in your house that can't be turned off.

The accompanying words are a Japanese saying that translates roughly to: "the suzumushi is kept in a cage because of its song." The idea it conveys is this: One's own talents are sometimes the cause of one's misery. Kind of sad, isn't it.

As I was in an experimental mood, I drew this etegami with a Pelikan-brand fountain pen filled with blue-black ink. I waited for the ink to dry completely before adding the gansai paint, but (as I feared it would) the fountain pen ink smeared as soon as it got wet. That's okay, though. Like I'm always saying, the best etegami is that which you don't have complete control over.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

frost berries

I enjoy many different kinds of fruit, but NOTHING beats berries. Here are three of my favorite berries in Etegami form. I drew the top one (blueberries) with a brush pen, and the lower two (blackberries and raspberries) with a bamboo quill pen. The accompanying words are all quotes from the same Robert Frost poem titled "Blueberries."

tsuyu-kusa (asiatic dayflower)

On hot summer days, the color blue can be so soothing. I picked a few stalks of tsuyu-kusa from our yard to draw for this very reason. The flowers are actually tiny. But close observation reveals how detailed they are, and in trying to capture that detail, I ended up drawing the flowers as though they had been magnified. A literal translation of the name of this plant is "dew grass." It brought to mind (especially in this heat) a verse from the book of Job: They waited for me as for the rain (29:23). I used a bamboo quill pen for the border of the image and for the words. I think the irregularities make the lines look almost as though they were formed from little drops of water.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

illustration friday (artificial)

"We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons." The humorous quote is attributed to Alfred E Neuman, the fictional mascot and "cover boy" of MAD Magazine, but the sentiment is rather sobering.