Monday, May 23, 2011

illustration friday (soaked)

A rubber-soled, cheap canvas shoe that anyone living in Japan immediately recognizes as the type children use as indoor footwear while at school. The red-rubber tip indicates that its missing owner was a girl. The style and size tell us it was probably worn by a very young child, attending kindergarten or early elementary school. The child most likely came from a rural area where old basics like this are more readily available than trendier styles printed with popular anime characters.

The shoe is soaked with sea water. It was the only thing the tsunami left behind when it took the child. The words translate roughly to: What the tsunami left behind.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

cantaloupe words

The latest in my slowly-growing series illustrating this thought-provoking (anonymous) quote.

Monday, May 16, 2011

blank washi postcards now in my etsy shop

Many of you have asked me how to order etegami materials online, and I've written several posts sharing what information I could dig up on the subject. Some of you have found what you were looking for, some have improvised and come up with great solutions, and many others have continued to be frustrated by the difficulty of selecting and ordering the right kind of paper.

So, I finally broke down and decided to start offering blank washi postcards on my Etsy shop. Today I posted two different brands of Hongasenshi, the cardstock that I personally recommend for Etegami. I don't know the language that Western artists use to describe paper, so all I can say is that I like the way these two brands of paper interact with ink and paint.

I'm hoping that you can use the writing brushes and paints that you already have, or that you can find a supplier for them with less difficulty than it has been to find the right kind of paper.

Go here to learn more about the washi cards I am offering on my shop. If you could order directly from the paper suppliers, it would end up being much cheaper for you, since my prices reflect the postage, Japanese sales tax, and handling fees that I have to pay when I order the supplies. But at least this will be an easier way for you to get your washi cards. : )

Friday, May 13, 2011

illustration friday (safari)

This image was inspired by a travel show about Tahiti that I just happened to notice on TV this morning. What perfect timing! Oh, by the way, there's someone inside that suit & helmet-- I forget what the suit is called. Have you ever experienced an aqua safari?

happy as clams

I had intended to paint a different kind of shellfish for an Ainu folktale that I'm illustrating, but I got sidetracked by some happy childhood memories and started painting clams. The words are a quote from the "Old Settler's Song (Acres of Clams)," a Northwest United States folk song written by Francis D. Henry around 1874.

Monday, May 9, 2011

illustration friday (beginner)

tdac cookbook ready for pre-order!

You know the They Draw & Cook website that I rave so much about? Last year my illustrated recipe for Grilled Pacific Saury was chosen to be among the 107 illustrated recipes to be published in their upcoming cookbook. That's the book shown in the video above. See if you can catch a glimpse of my illustrated recipe done in the etegami style as they flip through the book.

But it isn't just because my work was included that I'm so excited about this book. As a collection of art it is WONderfully fun--- and as a collection of recipes, you'll absolutely swoon if you enjoy cooking (or eating) as much as I do. The cookbook is now ready for pre-order on

Thursday, May 5, 2011

humanizing the quake (children's day)

Like February 3 (bean-throwing festival) and March 3 (doll's day festival), May 5 is one of the "seasonal divisions" that we celebrate during the year in Japan. We call this day Kodomo-no-Hi (Children's Day), the day on which we express our hope that our children will grow up physically strong and courageous against adversity. One of our customs is to run huge carp-shaped windsocks called koi-nobori up a flagpole set up outside specifically for that purpose.

When I was little, the festival was for boys, and people hung as many koi-nobori as there were boys in the household. Nowadays everyone in the family gets represented. Sometimes villages will stretch a rope across a stream or between two buildings and hang enough koi-nobori to represent the whole community. It's an amazing sight when the wind blows, making the koi-nobori appear as though they are swimming vigorously against an imaginary river current and leaping over imaginary rapids.

Today, thanks to the assistance of volunteers from all over the country, special Children's Day programs were held for the children in evacuation centers all over the Tohoku region. I don't know if there has ever been a Children's Day that meant as much to me as it did today. I trust that these kids will successfully maneuver the trials that they face, and that they will grow up to be strong and courageous adults.

The Japanese words on the etegami at the top say "we are all connected."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

humanizing the quake (belly laugh)

A phrase that we often hear in Japan these days is "Let's help bring back the laughter," or "Let's bring smiles back to their faces." It refers, of course, to the people whose lives were turned upside down and inside out by the recent quake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor troubles.

Miki Ando, who won a gold medal in last week's ISU World Figure Skating Championships (yaaaaay!), said she was pleased to win the medal, but what mattered most to her was helping to restore smiles to the faces of disaster survivors in the Tohoku region. And she really meant it. The sentiment is shared by every last one of us.

I've always been attracted to proverbs and sayings about laughter, and one of my favorites is the one illustrated in today's etegami. The words say "boiling tea with one's belly button." The complete concept might be explained as a situation in which one is laughing so hard that, if you put a kettle on your belly button, you could boil water for tea because it would be quivering so much. May such belly laughs soon return to North Eastern Japan.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

illustration friday (lesson)

I recently read a hilarious essay about an uproar that took place over a certain American television commercial featuring toilet paper. The details aren't important, but apparently the uproar was of the extreme-feminist variety.

This reminded me of a type of toilet paper produced in Japan some years back. It was printed with English language lessons. The idea was that you could study English while sitting on the toilet. This product was the rage for a brief while, but some people expressed concern that it would give girls an academic advantage over boys. People are such amusing creatures.