Sunday, July 28, 2013

bugs, homework, and the beauty of clumsiness

Summer vacation has finally started for Japanese schoolchildren, and BUGS IN THE WILD HAD BETTER WATCH OUT. Bug-collecting is a popular choice for fulfilling  the "independent study" part of a heavy load of summer vacation homework. Kids armed with bug cages and bug nets will soon be invading the woods and meadows.

I've lost count of how often I've posted about the famous etegami motto, which boils down to "Clumsy is beautiful." It is such a hugely important component of Etegami, and one of the things that makes it accessible to everyone-- absolutely everyone. Some day I'll post pics of the early etegami of Koike Kunio (the founder of Japan's popular etegami movement), and you'll probably say "You're kidding, right?" 

Anyway, compare the bug etegami above to the photo of the actual bug that was my model. See? Etegami is not for showing off how well you can draw. I mean, if you come from a Fine Arts background, or have a natural gift for drawing, you don't have to pretend that you don't. But if you do not have that kind of background, and you actually never drew anything other than stick figures in your whole life until now, you can still do etegami. And it'll be fun.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

weather forecasting

When I was little, the neighborhood kids and I followed an ancient, kids-only tradition for forecasting the next day's weather. We would loosen the shoes or sandals on our feet, and kick one of the pair into the air. If the shoe landed right-side up, we knew that tomorrow would be nice and sunny. If it landed upside down, it was a sign of bad weather looming on the horizon. If it landed on its side, we had to prepare ourselves for a mixture of good and bad weather.

Those forecasts were so much easier to understand than the highly sophisticated weather forecasts I hear on the news these days. And frankly, I don't think the shoe-forecast method was wrong any more often than the current scientific method. I really don't.
(The writing on the etegami says otenki uranai, which basically means "a trick for prophesying the weather.")

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

summer greeting cards

When the rainy season ends, making way for the intense heat of mid-summer, the Japanese customarily send out a special kind of greeting card called the shochuu mimai, to ask after the health of their acquaintances.

Like the New Years greeting known as nengajou, shochuu mimai are postcards, and sent primarily to friends and family members that one doesn't get to see very often. They usually have photographs or drawings that bring summer to mind-- especially refreshing things, like flowing water, a cool drink, a fluttering wind chime, or slice of dewy fruit.

The card posted here is one of the shochuu mimai etegami I painted this summer. This year I stuck mostly to the wind bell theme. The writing on the card is the traditional greeting, which basically means "Hoping this finds you well in the heat of summer." Shochuu mimai cards should be sent so as to reach their destinations before August 7, which, according to the traditional oriental calendar, is the first day of Autumn. Obviously, the hot days continue well beyond August 7, so if you miss your chance to send out shochuu mimai, you can send zansho mimai cards between August 8 and the end of August. The customary greeting on a zansho mimai card is "Hoping this finds you well in the lingering heat."

If you don't want to design your own seasonal greeting postcard, you can buy ready-made ones from the post office. These come with a lottery number printed on the front, so the recipient can enjoy the anticipation of winning some small gift, such as rare memorial stamps or a coveted food product from another region of the country.

I haven't forgotten my dear readers in the southern hemisphere-- I do hope this finds you well during these frigid days of winter.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

dappled things

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.
—Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

etegami give-away, deadline approaching

Just a reminder that the give-away for the etegami recipe cards is in its final week. I'm afraid several people have been disqualified because they didn't pay attention to the guidelines. The drawing is open only to people who are subscribed to the Etegami Fun Club newsletter. If you want to sign up (it's free), make sure and follow the procedure laid out in that post. Also, I'm finding it difficult to contact people to get their mailing addresses. If you want to win a card and you are a subscriber to the newsletter, please send your postal address to dosankodebbie (at) yahoo (dot) co (dot) jp  Thanks!

clover makes me happy

Saturday, July 20, 2013

clover chain

This is work-in-progress for a book cover illustration. There's a lot of symbolism in it that has to do with the content of the book, which I won't try to explain here. The title of the book will be in Japanese, and I don't know yet whether the words will be printed vertically or horizontally. In Japanese, it can go either way.  Hopefully this image will work in either case. On the other hand, I'll probably wake up tomorrow with a totally different idea, and start over from scratch.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

class reunion (2)

Memories of Coffee Milk. This is another etegami in my class reunion series. I painted it  on a double-sized card after I realized that what I wanted to say was going to be too much for a normal-sized postcard, and no witty bumper-sticker quote would do.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

the ramen cart

This etegami was inspired by a TV commercial that has been stuck in repeat-mode inside my head. It's part of a long series of gently humorous commercials for Maruchan Brand instant ramen noodles, which feature an eccentric old ramen-stand proprietor and his young assistant. In this one, they have set up their stand on an almost-deserted windswept beach. A young man is yelling with frustration at the sea. They invite him over to the stand and he sits down. He confesses he has just been dumped by his girlfriend. "That's great," says the assistant. "Hot noodles will heal what ails ya," says the old man.

You can see a video of the commercial here.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

class reunion (1)

I was asked to paint a series of etegami to add some pizazz to a website that a friend had set up to be a communication crossroads for those of us who attended the American School in Japan (Tokyo) during the 1970s. The connecting theme was to be along the lines of "nostalgia" and "reunion." The first etegami I posted was excessively metaphorical, and resulted in being misinterpreted by all who saw it-- which was kind of embarrassing. The one posted here is more straightforward, representing one of those old-style Japanese mail boxes, which had so much more character than the modern ones you see in Japan today. My www of choice is still the postal service, and one of the most important reasons I do etegami at all.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

etegami starter kit listing reactivated

Some of you may remember the Etegami Starter Kit that I introduced last year on my Etsy shop. For the sake of my readers who have just recently fallen-in-fascination with Etegami, I've decided to reactivate the listing long enough to give everyone the chance to get started in etegami with the traditional materials and tools, at a minimal investment with maximum guidance. Click this link for details. I will keep the listing active for at least a week. This may be the chance you were looking for, so grab it while you can!

UPDATE: I have deactivated this listing and will not be taking any more orders for this product this year. Depending on demand, I may reactivate it briefly next summer. Keep your eyes peeled!