Thursday, February 25, 2016

pranks on cats

You may be familiar with the videos making the rounds of SNS, that show a cat getting scared out of its wits when it becomes aware of a cucumber deliberately placed in its blind spot by some prankster.  I laughed the first time I saw one of these videos, but not after the second or the third or the twentieth. It's really been bothering me.

Monday, February 15, 2016

more etegami inspiration from books

My husband picked up a couple of books by William Alexander from our local library last week. He had never heard of the author, but there was something (the title? the cover? the blurb on the back?) that gave him a feeling these were my kind of books. He was right. The books are targeted to ages 8~12, so of course they were perfect for me. (This is where you either laugh out loud because you think I'm joking, or you just smile wisely.)

The titles of these two books are Ghoulish Song and Goblin Secrets, and, as the titles suggest, they are fantasy books set in and among a time/place/people where magic seems to happen, and even to belong, but mostly when people aren't paying attention.  I read them both in no time at all, but there were two lines in Goblin Secrets that stuck in my mind and begged to be expressed in etegami form.

The first comes from this paragraph: Rownie walked in daylight with a fox face over his own, and some people couldn't see him at all. He was hiding and proclaiming himself, both at once. He didn't know how this could possibly work, and he didn't want to think about it too much in case it stopped working, so he just kept moving. He let the fox mask show him how to move.

The whole section about the fox mask intrigued me because foxes, and even fox masks, have a solid place in Japanese mythology and culture, in a way that gave this story a nostalgic feel. I felt it could lead to an etegami that fit in well with my " life between cultures" -themed art journal, so I gave it a try.

The other line that engaged my imagination was this one describing the marketplace along the riverbank: Another barge-stall showed off small and cunning devices that did useless things beautifully. Don't you just love the combination of those words? And I've always loved cunning works of art that look like they ought to have some practical use, but really exist just to delight people like me.

Well, that was fun. Now to find some more cool stuff to read.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

washi cardbooks for etegami journaling

Since I began posting my baby steps in art journaling, I've received a lot of queries about the washi card booklets I use, so I thought I'd take this chance to introduce them in greater detail than I can on Facebook or by email.  The Kuretake postcard book shown here contains 20 pages of medium-bleed washi cards. Perforated so that they can be removed, stamped, and mailed off, of course. But that's not all. In addition to the perforations at the top, it has perforations on the sides and bottom, so that after you paint your etegami, you can "crop" it down to the standard postcard dimensions, giving your etegami greater focus. You do have to be careful not to let anything important-- like the words-- stray into the margin area that will be lost when the card is cropped.

If you've read my book A Beginner's Guide to Etegami, you know that orthodox procedure for etegami is to paint freely past the border of your card and onto a large piece of paper that you've placed under the card to take the overflow. That is how you get the cropped look without actually cropping the etegami. This  card book gives you an easy way to cheat, especially if you're having a hard time allowing yourself the freedom to paint beyond the border of your standard-sized postcard. I have no hesitation about painting with abandon and spreading my image beyond the borders of my cards, so I'm not sure how I feel about this easy alternative.  But if you struggle against a tendency to draw tight images in the middle of your card, this may be one way to give a freer look to your work. I bought the Kuretake booklet, so I'll use it eventually.

The next two photos show the card book I am currently using. Like the Kuretake card book shown above, this Maruman card book has 20 cards perforated at the top for easy removal. The bleed quality is about the same as the Kuretake card book. The Maruman book is smaller because it is already postcard-sized, without the removable margins that the Kuretake card book has. So it's easier to slip into your bag or pocket if you plan to paint in it while traveling or just rambling in the neighborhood.

I ordered both the Kuretake and the Maruman from Amazon Japan, and have not done any research to see if it is also available outside of Japan or from other online vendors. However, I did receive a comment from a beginning etegami artist who found the Maruman card books at some kind of "super sale" in the US ---perhaps at a major stationery goods supplier? Anyway, judging by the English writing on the cover of both brands, chances are good you can find them outside of Japan.

Monday, February 8, 2016

life between cutures

I've decided to start on a second art journal with a different theme from the first one. On days when I don't have inspiration for one, I can paint something in the other. In fact, I may decide to have three or four journals going on at the same time. This second art journal will probably be on the theme of "life between cultures," a subject close to my heart and experience. But that theme may undergo slight changes as the art emerges.

Here we have a daruma doll representing one culture (Japan), and a matrioshka doll representing another (Russia). It really doesn't matter what countries they represent, just that they are different.  Though we hold passports from the same nation,  my husband and I were born and raised in different countries with vastly different cultures, so it might as well be called an international marriage.

But it isn't marriage that I want to depict in this art journal. What I want to depict is the experience of being part of, and yet not being part of, the land and culture in which one is physically placed. I bet many of you are in the same situation. Maybe you have depicted that in art, or maybe you would like to. If you do, please share it with me.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

focusing on a theme for my art journal

I think I'm starting to get a feel for art journaling.  At least more than I did when I decided to jump into it a few days ago. As I look at the work of experienced art journalers, I find that the journals that interest me the most are the ones with clear themes.  And since the page before this one (see last post) depicts a chameleon musing on mental and physical health, I was trying to choose between a reptile theme and a health theme. In the end I chose both. Now, you may be saying: What the heck is this creature? No reptile that I ever saw!

I'm glad you've never met this creature. Really. Because this is a kappa. Kappa are creepy youkai that live in ponds and streams, and if you get caught by one of them, you will get the life sucked out of you. Read the grotesque details here.

A Kappa has a depressed "dish" on its head that it keeps filled with water. If the water gets spilled or evaporates away, the kappa loses its strength, and maybe even its life. Keep that in mind if you ever get caught by one. There are some hints in this article about how to trick the kappa into spilling the water in its dish. This peculiarity of kappa is what inspired my choice of words, and connects in a wordplay-sort-of-way to the theme of health.

The idea for this etegami came to me when I was watching a health show on TV this morning about the dangers of dry skin and dry mouth. And you know how I Luv Word Play.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

giving art journaling a try

Do any of you keep an art journal? I never have, and when I first noticed the term "art journaling" popping up on the social network sites, I didn't think it was for me. I don't need any further stimulus to paint every day, and I'm fine with scribbling ideas for new work on the backs of envelopes or in the blank spaces of bills or receipts. I did keep a diary as a child, and I have kept writing journals of various kinds as an adult, but they have never been for art.

Then, a few weeks ago, I got it into my head to join an Art Journaling group on Facebook. They have strict rules about only posting art that is obviously part of a journal. So I looked and looked for a notebook made up of washi postcards so that I could stay true to the purpose and methods of etegami. The closest thing I could find to what I wanted, was this ring-bound Maruman notebook of gasenshi cards with a very low level of bleed. Each page is perforated so that it can be pulled out and sent by mail as a postcard.

My paper of choice is hon-gansenshi with the highest level of bleed available in Japan, and much of what distinguishes my etegami is only possible because of the cards I use. In the beginning, painting on the low-bleed gasenshi cards in my new notebook was a painful experience, requiring a serious compromise in the way I use my brush, and a lowering of my expectations in the results.

 I also tried using a white gel pen to outline this butterbur sprout, thinking I might have better results with it than with sumi ink applied by brush. But the image was so hard to distinguish even after adding the color, that I ended up drawing over the white lines with a black gel pen just to make it visible.

And this morning, I used a thin-tipped black marker to outline a chameleon, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the paper responded better to the marker ink than it did to the sumi ink in the earlier green pepper etegami. It actually allowed the marker ink to bleed a little, giving the lines just a tiny bit of that wobble that every etegami artist aims for.

The other issue I have with this low-bleed gasenshi is that it doesn't allow the gansai (mineral-based watercolor blocks) colors to bleed into one another the way I like it to. But I'm learning to adjust. In fact, I'm learning to appreciate what the paper can do, and not blame it for what it can't do. At least I can start posting my work on the art journaling site. I'll stick with it until I run out of pages in the notebook. Can't say yet what I'll do after that.

Monday, February 1, 2016

there's something about grasshoppers

On the Grasshopper and Cricket    

by John Keats

The Poetry of earth is never dead:    
  When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,    
  And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run    
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;    
That is the Grasshopper’s—he takes the lead      
  In summer luxury,—he has never done    
  With his delights; for when tired out with fun    
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.    
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:    
  On a lone winter evening, when the frost     
    Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills    
The Cricket’s song, in warmth increasing ever,    
  And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,    
    The Grasshopper’s among some grassy hills.