Friday, June 29, 2012

illustration friday (refresh)

What a perfect IF topic for this week, as I have just started a series of etegami about herbs. Herbs refresh us in so many ways, don't you think? Lavender sachets kept in the clothes drawer, fresh basil leaves in a salad, iced mint tea on a hot summer day....
Do you grow your own herbs? How do you use them? I would so welcome your ideas.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

etegami as memory-keeper

"the 35th year"

the sun's #1 disciple
Our wedding anniversary comes at the same time each year, every year. (duh) Anniversaries are made that way, I guess, to help one not to forget (and these days my poor little gray cells need all the help they can get). That was a few days ago. This year, for the first time, I painted an etegami just for him. This year, for the 35th time, he gave me a bouquet of flowers. An etegami will last for a while, but flowers tend not to last very long. So I have made it my tradition to draw the flowers, or at least one or two flowers from among the bunch, as a keepsake of our special day. If I had been doing etegami back when I was raising my children, I could have marked their special days with etegami as well.

What special occasions would you mark with etegami if you could?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

the thought of my name

My art name, dosankodebbie, seems to confuse a lot of people. I am thrilled when my name and my work are introduced on other sites, but the dosanko and the debbie are often separated, or capitalized, or reversed in order. People sometimes address me as "Dosanko" as though it were my first name, or Ms.Dosanko as though it were my last name. Neither is the case. My legal name-- the name I use as a translator-- is Deborah Davidson (boooring). So, naturally, you are wondering why I chose dosankodebbie as my art name.

Dosanko, as most Japanese people can tell you, is a word that means "native to Hokkaido." Hokkaido is the northern frontier of Japan, the beautiful (but cold) northernmost island/prefecture of the Japanese archipelago. Japan has been my home since birth, and the greater part of my life has been lived in Hokkaido.

As a non-Japanese living in Japan, I am usually treated with the kind of courtesy one would show a guest. There is an underlying assumption in almost every conversation I have ever had, with all but a handful of people, that I have a "home" in another country, and that I will eventually return there. Which I don't, and I won't.  My art name is my way of claiming this as home; claiming a right to claim that I belong here in Hokkaido.

Well, that's one mystery solved, right? The words on the etegami are a quote from the poem The Naming of Cats from the book Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S.Eliot.

fish, from the cradle to the grave

I just received the July issue of Gekkan Etegami, the official monthly magazine of the Japan Etegami Society. This month's issue features fish etegami submitted by readers from all over the country. The top photo shows living fish, including the one in the bottom right depicting baby catfish. The second photo shows shrimp and sea bream, both of which are prized for their reddish coloring, and which are served at weddings and other celebratory occasions. The third photo shows a variety of shell fish, and the next three photos show fish and other sea creatures in various stages of preparation leading to being consumed for dinner. The last photo shows what is left of the fish at the end of dinnertime.  Yes, we are taught to pick our fish bones clean. And even bones are a worthy subject for etegami.

I wish I had the time and space to translate some of the more amusing accompanying words.  I'll give you just one example: These dried whole baby sardines are the basis for a nutritious soup stock used in many dishes, but most commonly as the stock for miso soup. These little fish are often thrown out once their flavor has transferred to the soup stock, but if eaten with the soup, or dried and later crushed and sprinkled over rice, their bones provide a great source of calcium. The writing on the card translates to: "Hey you, yes we mean you. How's your bone density these days?"

Friday, June 22, 2012

illustration friday (space)

hashi-oki (chopstick rests)

There was a time in my late teens and early twenties when I seriously considered becoming a professional potter. My life unfurled in another direction entirely, but my love for clay and things formed from clay has always remained. For a while I satisfied that love by collecting earthenware dishes-- forms that delighted my eyes and hands, made with particular clays or techniques that represented different regions in Japan and other countries in Asia. But for a young family that was constantly on the move, pottery was too heavy, too fragile, took up space we didn't have, and was, quite frankly, too expensive a hobby. So I turned my eyes to ceramic  hashi-oki, the "chopstick rests" that are often exquisite works of art in miniature, but are cheap, sturdy, and take up very little space.

handmade ceramic buttons

Fast forward a few decades, and we come to the last year or two, during which I've had the pleasure of getting to know Vika, an artist who makes buttons, pendants, and brooches from clay. She is curious about Etegami, partly because she sees it as "art in miniature," similar to what she is making. She asks me about the aesthetics and processes of my work. From time to time she sends me beautiful buttons that she says were inspired by my etegami. Last year she interviewed me for a post on a blog called Beads of Clay.  I owe her for opening my eyes to a world I had never considered before. The creativity and skill packed into each button astound me. Like hashi-oki chopstick rests, they are affordable, utilitarian, and take up very little space. Even someone like me, who never, ever sews and has almost no use for buttons as buttons, can spend many delightful hours touching and admiring each of these tiny morsels of art.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

the fathers in our lives (2)

snowshoer daruma for my husband

angler daruma for my father

photographer daruma for my father-in-law

Friday, June 15, 2012

illustration friday (secret)

pansy tears

After my last IF post --on the topic of  "Shiny" -- Sadami asked me to post more of my translations of Japanese poetry, and this one, another by the poet and songwriter Misuzu Kaneko,  seemed to fit this week's IF theme:

I will keep it to myself
that the flowers were shedding tears
in a corner of the garden
this morning.

If the news were to spread,
and the bees were to hear of it,
they would feel so guilty,
they might return the honey.

poem by Misuzu Kaneko
my translation

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

the first thing on my to-do list

a whale at sunrise

the groundhog

Here are two more etegami (illustrating the same maxim) to add to the Wisdom Series, and now I think I'll take a little break. Maybe I'll do a Foolishness Series. What do you think? I know a lot more about foolishness than I do about wisdom.

Again, thanks to Patricia Ryan Madson for the maxims that inspired this series.

Monday, June 11, 2012

two more for the wisdom gallery

the valentine

the distant peak

Like the four I posted previously, the words that inspired these etegami were borrowed from my friend Patricia Ryan Madson.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

illustration friday (shiny)

"Shiny" brings to mind the blue-backed fish of the sea, which includes mackerel, sardines, pacific saury, herring, and Japanese amberjack. All of them are very, very popular on our dinner table. When ordered in Japanese sushi restaurants, they are commonly called hikarimono, or "the shiny ones."

Here is an etegami showing sunlight catching the scales of a huge school of sardines swimming in the sea. This is a new version of an etegami I painted almost exactly a year ago, illustrating a poem by the Japanese poet and songwriter Misuzu Kaneko (1903-1930).  I've translated it below, but haven't quite captured the rhythm of the Japanese version, or conveyed the unsentimental pathos of the original. I will keep working on it. But roughly translated, it goes like this:

The Big Haul
Beneath a glowing sunrise,
the fishing boats return,
loaded with Ooba Sardines.
On shore, villagers celebrate like it's a festival.
In the sea, sardines hold a funeral
for their tens of thousands of mates.

winners of the june give-away

Congratulations to the lucky winners of the June Give-Away!

Leah from Oddments & Curiosities blog is the winner of "bell crickets"
Sadami  from Sadami's Graffiti blog is the winner of "snake in the shrubbery"
Eric from My Philately blog is the winner of "bee sting"
Christine H from The Daily Postcard blog is the winner of "weaving a rope"

I will send you the hand-painted original artwork from my Japanese Proverbs series as soon as I have your postal addresses. If I haven't reached you by the time you read this, please go ahead and send your address to the contact email on my profile.

And to the other great people who left comments, there will be another give-away around September, so please try your luck again. If you aren't already "following" this blog, I encourage you to do so. You'll be less likely to miss future posts, and besides, it makes me feel loved.....
In the meantime, I appreciate your continued support. oxox

Saturday, June 9, 2012

new hens on the block

This simple etegami was inspired by a photograph I found on studiololo's blog. It shows some hens with beautiful plumage, and the caption explains that they are the newest hens on her friend's farm. I was initially attracted to the lovely feathers, wondering if it was possible to reproduce them in an etegami. But as I continued to observe the photo, my mind built up a whole background story in which these hens played a central role.

The appearance and the posture of the hens made me think of certain young urban mothers in Japan who move into a new neighborhood. These young mother hens are very fashion-conscious. They are desperate to fit in with the popular mothers of the new neighborhood. They wear their full make-up and their jewelry even to meet the kindergarten bus.

In order to make a smooth adjustment into the new community, they have to learn (without being told) all the subtle rules of the playground, and the kindergarten bus, and garbage pick-up, and the "pecking order" of the women's community. It would be enough to make me move to the South Pole. But I have always ignored that stuff, because I am accustomed to not belonging and I can live with it. To many young mothers, though, it's a huge thing. Women have lost their sanity, attempted suicide, even homicide, because of the stress, and this phenomenon is often depicted in Japanese TV dramas.

Friday, June 8, 2012

the wind hums and listens

You never know where a source of inspiration lurks, or from where it will COME OUT and GRAB you (this is where you jump out of your seat). You may remember the illustrated recipe I did recently that was inspired by Maurice Sendak's immortal Where the Wild Things Are. The inspiration attacked me after I learned of his recent passing. Even more recently, I learned of the passing of Ray Bradbury, a much-loved science fiction writer who had poetry in his soul.

The etegami I've posted here illustrates a line from "It Came From Outer Space," a science fiction movie produced in 1953 that is special for being written by Bradbury. The line that grabbed me is in the context of the following passage from the screen play, and is spoken by a telephone repairman up high on a telephone pole in the desert of Arizona. He is explaining an odd phenomenon on the telephone wires:

"After you’ve been working out in the desert fifteen years like I have, you see a lot of things…hear a lot of things too. The sun in the sky. And the heat. All that sand out there, with the rivers and lakes that aren’t real at all. And sometimes you think that the wind gets in the wires and hums and listens and talks, just like what we’re hearing now.”

Reminder: I will be choosing the winners of the June Give-Away tomorrow, and announcing them on Sunday. Keep your eyes peeled.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

wisdom gallery

Bean Pod
Frog Eggs


Thank you, Patricia Ryan Madson, for the use of these delightful expressions.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

june give-away: japanese proverbs

left: "weaving a rope after the thief is already caught" right: "poking at a snake in the shrubbery."

left: "it's for their songs that bell crickets are caged." right: "a bee sting on a crying face."
I had promised you another give-away when June came around, so here it is. I'm giving away four original, hand-painted etegami from my Japanese Proverbs series, the series I painted in 2010, and which became the basis for my 2011 Sketchbook Project titled "A Collection of Japanese Proverbs and Sayings."

I will choose four names from followers of this blog who leave a comment asking to be included in the drawing. If you have strong feelings about a particular etegami, you should mention it, but I can't make any promises. Each etegami is packaged in a clear plastic envelope with my signature on the back and a typed note explaining the proverb. The actual etegami have softer colors than the scanned versions posted here. If you haven't read my earlier posts about Japanese proverbs, or if you've forgotten, do a blog search (see lower down on the right hand sidebar) for "Japanese proverbs" or "Sketchbook Project 2011" and you should be able to find simple explanations of each of the four etegami being offered. The four winners will be announced on June 10.  I look forward to your comments!

Friday, June 1, 2012

illustration friday (hurry)

"Hurry," in Curling terminology, is a command shouted by the skip to tell the sweepers to sweep harder and faster-- in other words, it's used much the same way it's used in ordinary conversation. But Curling is cooler than ordinary conversation. That's my opinion, but you agree, don't you? Of course, you do.'ve.Never.Heard.of.Curling (perish the thought!) check out the Wiki link on Curling.

the fathers in our lives (part 1)

from the June 2012 issue of Gekkan Etegami
Gekkan Etegami, the Japan Etegami Society's official monthly magazine, always features Father's Day etegami in their June issue. I want to share some pages from my copy of this month's issue, to show you how a handmade Father's Day card (especially if it's etegami) beats any commercially-produced greeting card, regardless of your drawing skills. I also want you to see what the Japan Etegami Society considers to be good examples of traditional etegami. Maaaaybe you will find that the works which used to impress you the most --the ones with refined drawings and elegant writing-- are not the ones that the official etegami magazine would feature in its pages. Do you have any thoughts on why this should be so?

I'll post a few of the pages whole, and then zoom in on a few individual etegami to describe them in greater detail.
a child's wooden clogs
The artist remembers her father as being skilled with his hands. For this etegami, she painted a pair of her childhood clogs, one of them turned over. I imagine her father used to repair the ties of her clogs whenever they would break or come undone. The words on the card say "Father, I still have these clogs."

a traditional carpentry tool
This etegami depicts a handmade tool used in traditional Japanese carpentry that the family has kept as a memento of their father. The artist remembers fondly how her father supported his large family with his carpentry skills. The words on the card say "It still conveys the warmth of your hands."

an igo board
The artist's father loves to play igo, the Japanese version of checkers. The words on the card speak of the day her father won their prefecture's annual senior citizen's tournament. She says the smile on her father's face wrapped her whole family in happiness.

freshly-dug bamboo shoot
The words on the card say "Our dinners are delicious and plentiful, thanks to Dad's homegrown vegetables."

dish used on a Buddhist memorial altar
The card says "You died and went to heaven before we ever met, and yet I'm always bothering you with prayers for help. It's thanks to you, Father-in-law, that we've been able to overcome some difficult times." You may wonder how she can send a Father's Day card to one who is no longer living. She will probably set this card on the household altar where the family ancestors are worshiped.

ripe persimmon on a branch
The woman who painted this etegami tells of the day she went shopping for a picture frame for her artist husband. She wasted a lot of time because she had so much trouble making up her mind. She went home and explained this to her husband, who responded with the words she quotes on this card: "I never had the slightest doubt about who I wanted to marry, you said to me. I will always treasure those words."

a fistful of regrets
So far we've seen cards drawn by sons and daughters for their fathers, a daughter-in-law for her father-in-law, and a wife for her husband. Finally, I want to show you a card that a father drew about himself, probably for his son. It shows a fist, and it says "If only I hadn't hit you that day. If only I had given you a big hug instead. If only that day, I had taken you out to play. Now it's too late!" Perhaps his son has died. Perhaps they are just estranged from one another. If they are only estranged, I hope he will send the card to his son. Would you find a card like this at Hallmarks?