Thursday, July 30, 2009

detach yourself, sense life

When the August issue of Etegami Magazine arrived a few days ago, I realized I had forgotten to blog about the July issue. But I am forced to press ahead. There are so many interesting things to draw these days, and so many topics I still want to write about on the subject of etegami. The title of the August issue was "Sense Life and Draw with Detachment." [I'm still not clear on what I'm supposed to be detached from. Distractions? Expectations? The desire to excel?] But I suppose another way of translating it would be: Be focused.

The drawings that drew my attention were the ones you would expect in this season of growing things. Flowers in full bloom and newly harvested vegetables. Yes, I could sense the life in these things. They were fairly bursting with it. Then I looked through the pictures again. Drawings of home life. A school bag tossed in the corner of the room. A tiny girl carrying her baby sister (almost as big as she is) on her back. A pair of knitting needles and a half-finished woolen scarf. They were more subtle, and I had to listen harder, but I sensed life in them as well-- maybe more powerfully than the drawings of the flowers and summer harvest. It was an intriguing discovery. The evidence of life is everywhere, not just in the most obvious places. In fact, the August issue announced an etegami exhibit on the subject of war memories. Life was powerfully present in these drawings too. Even in the burning house and the white cloth-wrapped cremation urn. I'll tell you more about this exhibit in my next post.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

my strawberry diary

Four months ago, even before our long winter was over, a strawberry seedling was delivered to my door. It was my first hesitant step toward raising something edible in my garden. I decided to keep an etegami diary of the plant's growth, and recorded the six main stages that I was able to observe. I drew it on the first day it arrived, in its tiny vinyl cup. A few weeks later, I moved it into a large planter and set it outdoors. But then the temperature plummeted and it snowed off and on for many days. I thought I had lost my strawberry plant. It was looking spindly, and the leaves were orange and brown-tinged. It turned out that the earliest leaves were just naturally withering away, and the leaves that replaced the first growth were lush and vigorous. A little later, pretty white blossoms appeared, followed by hard knobby green fruit. More waiting, and the fruit grew plump and red and ready to be picked. On the final day of my diary, I picked the fruit and used it in making ichigo-daifuku, an-filled (sweet bean jam) dumplings made of glutenous mochi rice, with my freshly picked strawberries in the center of each dumpling. My strawberry plant had fulfilled her destiny. And my strawberry diary had come to its end. Why don't you give it a try too? Record the growth of something dear to you with etegami.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

etegami and the civic spirit

In June I had the honor of guest-posting on The Nihon Sun, an endlessly informative website on all aspects of Japanese culture and life in Japan. The theme of my post, of course, was etegami. I was asked to include a tie-in to Tokyo's bid for the 2016 Olympics, which was not at all a difficult thing to do, since etegami is one of the means by which Tokyo, and many other municipalities, raise public interest in civic events. Please visit my post on The Nihon Sun for details.

The photo attached above is from the annual Etegami Contest sponsored by a Hiroshima-based writing brush maker, the Fude-no-sato-kobo. Using etegami to promote a writing brush company may seem an obvious ploy, but what about a hot springs? Last year Gero Onsen in Gifu prefecture called for submissions of etegami related to the spa bathing experience. The winning etegami are displayed on this page. Some of the shops in this spa town even had their shutters painted with images of the winning etegami, a charming idea for entertaining spa guests even when the shops are closed for business.

The ways that regions, organizations, and businesses use the grass-roots popularity of etegami to fan the flames of public interest increase with each passing year. Consider the power of etegami the next time you have something you want to promote.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

let it bleed

When adding color to my drawing, I usually avoid filling up the space inside the lines. You may remember that I wrote about this in the post beauty in blank spaces. Some subjects that are very detailed or very thin, however, actually benefit from having color bleed beyond the borders. A single, thin, asparagus spear for example. Or a bean sprout. Or a cluster of very tiny flowers. One day I decided to experiment and see how much I could get the colors to bleed. Before I drew anything, I brushed plain water over the whole card. Then I quickly sketched these Gerber daisies and painted in the color before the card could dry out. I also wrote the letters while the card was still wet. Bold, sturdy, Gerber daisies were probably not the best choice for this experiment, but I did learn something from the result. I have a feel now for how much water my cards absorb and how this affects the application of both color and sumi ink. In the future, when I come across a subject that begs for this treatment, I'll know what to do.