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.

Monday, January 4, 2016

a barrel of monkeys

Happy New Year to all my blog followers and mailart friends! In Japan, it's already the evening of January 5th. I don't know where the first 4 days of this year went. I hate to think how fast next New Years will sneak up on me.

Every year I get fewer and fewer art nengajou (New Year postcards) and, rather than all arriving on January 1st, as is the custom, they trickle in until mid-January. But I am just as guilty of sending fewer and later, so I am delighted and thankful for all cards that I receive.

Some of the etegami nengajou that arrived this week are shown in the photo at the top. All but one depict monkeys (yes, the gorilla counts) for celebrating 2016, the year of the monkey. The exception is the one at the top, far left, representing a shishi-mai, or Japanese version of a lion dance.

I sent out as many handmade New Year etegami as I could manage, though many were the non-orthodox sort. ... collages of etegami images glued onto corrugated cardboard covered in vintage-kimono fabric scraps, for example. Like those posted in the second photo. The one with the image of a red-crowned crane (very auspicious!) doesn't even have words on the image side, so it doesn't  count as etegami I suppose. Still, it was fun, and I hope the receiver enjoys it.