Sunday, February 26, 2012

illustration friday (capable)

"A lying tongue hates those it crushes, And a flattering mouth works ruin," it says in Proverbs 26:27, warning us that the tongue is capable of incredible damage. Another danger of an uncontrolled mouth is illustrated in this etegami collage from my Japanese proverbs series. The words translate roughly to "Once they have left your mouth, your words are out in the world (and can't be treated as though they had never been spoken)."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

spring give-away

It's time for another give-away! I hope I'm not the only one excited about it. ;p

As you know, I've been experimenting with very simple etegami bookplates. Eventually I want to list them on my Etsy shop, but before I do that, I need feedback from you. I have eight (8) sets of etegami bookplates to give away this time. They are printed onto self-adhesive sheets. You just peel off the backing and press the bookplate into your book.

There will be four different bookplate designs in each set: the salmon, the cicada, the stag beetle, ....and the fourth will be picked randomly from the remaining designs. Just leave a comment below, indicating that you want to be considered for the give-away. I will put your names in a paper bag, shake it up really well, randomly pick 8 names, and announce the results on my blog on March 3. In return, I ask for frank, private feedback on the bookplates after you receive them and have had a chance to try them out. Any questions?

Monday, February 20, 2012

ex libris 2

This is the direction I seem to be going with my bookplates (so far). I may end up going in an entirely different direction. Thank you dear readers for all the helpful suggestions. Keep them coming. So far I'm concentrating on Ainu motif-inspired designs. I think I will keep some of them black&white, color some of them with traditional etegami paints, and color one or two with colored gel pens... which I've ordered at great cost, but which haven't yet arrived.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

ex libris

I have long been fascinated with bookplates, although I've only just begun experimenting with making my own. Here are my first tentative designs based on traditional Ainu motifs. Should I add color? Or should I leave them as they are?

According to Wikipedia Jp, the concept of bookplates was first introduced to Japan in 1900, in a literary journal called Myojo, and the Japan Bookplate Society (for the study and collecting of bookplates) was established in 1922. I have never seen a Japanese book with a bookplate. Usually they are marked with inked rubber stamps.

Monday, February 13, 2012

doll's day festival

According to Japanese tradition, the next seasonal divide after Setsubun is the Hinamatsuri (Doll's Day festival) on March 3. In English translation, it is often called Girl's Day festival, because the festival is all about health and the cultural virtues that Japanese parents wish for their daughters to attain as they grown up into women. Virtues such as elegance, graciousness, and familiarity with the classic arts are symbolized in a stepped display of dolls depicting the imperial court. The dolls and intricate little props, which are often heirlooms going back many many generations, are carefully removed from their boxes and wrappings and set up on a platform some time before March 3. But they must be dismantled and re-packed as soon as the festival day is over, or (some say) the daughters risk growing up to be old maids.

At the top of the stepped platform sit the two main dolls that represent the emperor and empress, dressed as they would have been in the Heian period (794 to 1185) when the imperial court was at its peak. Little girls dress up and have tea parties, while their doting relatives look on and take jillions of photographs with the doll display in the background. It is difficult to resist the popularity of this festival (even if you would want to), and we fell into the spirit of the festival too, when our daughter was a little bitty thing of about two or three. Like most other Japanese festivals, this one is associated with specific foods having symbolic significance that we only get to enjoy at this time of year. I confess that is always my favorite part. ;p

The etegami at the top shows the Empress doll, and the writing is a line from the Hinamatsuri song, a children's song that is always sung to death at this time of year. The etegami in the center of the image below shows two simple hina dolls on a peach blossom-shaped cushion. Peach blossoms are an integral part of this festival, and the festival itself is often called "Peach Festival."

Thursday, February 9, 2012

the etegami train project

What began as a project to re-charge a struggling rural railway is now in its 6th year. Called the "Etegami Train," it is a yearly call for etegami from all over Japan, though submissions from overseas are also welcome. This year's call is for etegami reflecting one of the following three themes: (1) encouragement for the victims of the March 11 Earthquake/Tsunami disasters (2) promotion of tourism to destinations in Gunma prefecture (3) promotion of the Etegami Train project.

Submissions must arrive by February 20, 2012. They will be displayed in the Joshin Railway train car for six months beginning March 1, 2012. The photo above shows last year's Etegami Train exhibit. If you go the the Joshin Railways link and scroll to the bottom, you should be able to see a slideshow of last year's submissions. (I don't know how long the link will work.)

After the Etegami Train exhibit is over, the submitted artwork will be displayed in local community centers and retirement homes. Submissions must be sent in an envelope and accompanied by an un-used 80-yen postage stamp. (Although they don't provide this info, I'm assuming that if you are submitting from overseas, you will need to enclose an un-used 110-yen stamp.)

There is very little time left, but if you wish to participate, send your etegami to the following address:

Kazuko Inoue
Tomioka 1413-7
Gunma-ken, 370-2316 Japan

Although some exceptions are allowed, I recommend that you stick to submissions that are ordinary postcard size (approx 4 x 6 inches). I'm sorry this information is so late. Remind me to tell you about this project next year, so you will have more time to prepare for it.

Monday, February 6, 2012

a week to valentine's day

These are some of the etegami I painted for this year's Valentine's Day. The topmost one was inspired by, and quotes from, the poem "Valentine" by Carol Ann Duffy. These etegami represent many different kinds of love -- romantic, familial, friendship, and God's love. They, and many others from previous years, are available as printed postcards on my RedBubble gallery if you're interested. : )

Friday, February 3, 2012

setsubun (bean-throwing festival)

Every year on February 3, Japan celebrates the seasonal division between winter and spring (they obviously weren't thinking of Hokkaido when they divided up the year). This day, which we call Setsubun, comes with a lot of delightful traditions, one of which is the bean-throwing ritual called mame-maki. Etegami at this time of year often make some reference to this ritual. I've posted two of the many etegami I painted to mark this year's Setsubun. The Japanese writing on the one showing a pod of green peas says "Spring is closer now than it was yesterday." The one showing a pod of hibernating Daruma-shaped beans is the latest addition to my daruma series, and is meant to make you smile.

Mame (pronounced mah-meh) means "bean," and mame used as an adjective means a small or compact version of a thing. For example, mame chishiki, an often-used phrase, literally means "bean knowledge," but is used for trivia or quaint little facts about something. And mame denkyuu (literally "bean light bulbs") refers to tiny light bulbs like those used for Christmas tree lights. So, what does mame zen mean? Or does it mean anything? Or does it even matter?