Saturday, June 28, 2008

I love me some Star Wars

I hope you do too. I almost cry when Japanese people tell me that they've never seen Star Wars. I can't think of one thing that I can't relate to Star Wars. Anyway, soon there will be updates ranging from Ukashima portraits to Oshima location drawings. My brother is also coming to Japan tomorrow! Much love.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Kiddies, Sketches and Oshima

So, top right is my bro Ryan, middle left is Ian and bottom right is your's truly. Even though Ryan has a soccer ball on his shirt, I've gotta brag because I have an elephant on my shirt. I love Elephants. Beyond cute aesthetics, this is actually the photo that I show people when I tell them that I have two brothers and one of them will be coming to Japan. Classic gold.

Getting back to the kiddes, this next set of portraits has two little boys in it. I have never met any children as intersting and as fun as these kids. Their father, who will be drawn on Saturday, drives the ferry going between Oshima and Ukashima, so I talk to him often and was incredibly anxious to draw his family.

The one on the left, Shinji, is in 5th grade and the one on the right, Uta, is in 6th grade. Interestingly, the elementary school only has 12 kids, so both of the 5th and 6th grades are in one class. These boys get along so well and compliment each other prefectly. While drawing Uta, Shinji would put on a circular blue scuba mask and say, "I'm looking at Sean. I'm gonna watch what he's doing." Then hide in a large plastic container with a blanket over it and look at me through the blue scuba mask. We watched Wallace and Grommet cartoons while they were being drawn. They would tell me to watch their favorite part coming up in just a few seconds about every 20 seconds. When the Wallace and Grommet sheep cartoon character named "Sean" came on screen they went wild.

I was so excited when they started to draw me! I wish I had smaller versions of these drawings to keep in my wallet! First up is Shinji's drawing of me:

Next is the drawing Uta did of me:

Before leaving Ukashima I went on a really long walk while it was raining. Carrying an umbrella, I walked for roughly an hour and a half down a road with all sorts of abondoned buildings, construction vehicles and shrines. However, what really grabbed my attention were the crabs! My home base is in Minnesota and I haven't seen crabs until I came to Oshima. They love the rain and were out in full force. I love to watch them and study how they move sideways.

After these drawings were made I came back to Oshima to be with Mako's family for a little while. Mako's momma has a huge interest in English and tries as hard as she can to learn new phrases and Mako makes sure that she gets it right like a Russian Olympic gymnastics coach. During one of these sessions I did some sketching...

I was intending on returning to Ukashima after 3 days so I could continue my project and play soccer with the elementary school kids on Wednesday, but when I called to confirm this with Mako's Grandma she had some sad news for me. Grandpa wasn't eating much and he had go to the hospital tomorrow. There's no hospital on Ukashima so she came to Oshima and Mako and I met here there to give her support. She told us that Grandpa is denying that he's sick and she's just getting a check-up.

I'm intending to go back on Saturday morning. I've got some pictures that I've still gotta get off of my camera, but in the meantime I drew some sketches of the area around Oshima.

I'll leave you with a little monster.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Very Tall Post: J-Town

I think this fella is a good place to start. When I returned to the island to draw the people again I was simply had to start asking people if I could draw them and I found this man. His name is Shinmura-san and I met him while he was using a weed whacker outside of his house. I did not know him. In fact, I've gotta say that until recently I didn't really know anyone besides the few people I drew before. Shinmura-san was a huge step on the way to my goal.

He was a pleasure to draw. After drawing him, I asked him if I could draw the rest of his family and he kinda laughed a bit. This is where I began to learn some very important facts from Shinmura-san.

Chuckling he said, "You can ask, maybe my kids will say yes, but my wife doesn't even like to have pictures taken of her." I kinda shrugged this off as another obstacle to overcome. Yet, as of this posting I've drawn 50 people and displayed most of them, but I've really met around 70 people. 20 of them, usually old women, won't let me draw them as if my pencil would take their soul.

The other fact I learned involves the connection between Shinmura-san and the next portrait. The next man is also named Shinmura-san. Now, if you look at my previous posting about Ukashima, you'll see that there is another person named Shinmura-san. They're all related. Like most of the island. Seriously. This next portrait is the nephew of the Shinmura-san on top. His mother was posted in the previous post.

The strongest ally in convincing a person that you should let them draw you, is to tell them what kind of connection you have to them. I tell people that I'm living in the Kawakami house and then see that I'm not some tall crazy foreigner, I mean, I am a tall crazy foreigner, but just crazy enough for them to let me draw them.

This next man is the oldest person in the village that I've been drawing. He is also of the Kawakami family. I was told that, "His ear is very far away." You could always tell if he was there because you could hear his TV down the block. So, I was basically yelling at him and things still weren't crystal clear.

I was so used to speaking to old people that I actually scared the shit out of the last lady in the next set because I shouted into her house and she was only a few feet away.

Taki-nechan is absolutely awesome. She has two shops in the Tarumi village and has one of the biggest hearts I've ever encountered. She supports the stray cat population on the island too.

Taki-nechan is also the sister of Obachan whose cooking just below here. I stopped using the Burnt Sienna, pen and white paint method of doing portraits here.

I experimented for a day with the tan colored paper with both pencil and pen until I switched to the oldest of old schools: paper and pencil. The first paper and pencil 5 minute drawing was this man:

Matsumura-san is a fisherman that I see almost daily. I was afraid to bother him, but when he found out that it'd only take 5 minutes he complied and it was a great drawing in the morning to get me going. The next man was across the street. It's one of my favorites.

After drawing this group of Ukashima Tarumi locals I got a little bit braver and ventured farther into the village where the houses are surrounded by orange fields on the mountain side. For some reason I decided to go into one house and it ended up being a cousin of Obachan's and she actually used to live there! I drew them for maybe ten minutes and chatted with them for about an hour and a half.

My lady Mako came back to the Ukashima and she introduced me to her other relatives who grow a fruit called "Natsu Mikan," which is like the combo of a grapefruit and a mandarin organe. They poured me some juice from the fruit from their field and it was the best juice I've ever had.

After that we headed to the Yamamoto house, where I drew three brothers who I'd previously met before at the Elementary School where I introduced myself and taught a bit of English. I drew their teacher as well and I'm glad it turned out well because the kids were excited to tell their parents about my project on the island.

This woman wouldn't let me leave her shop without taking 240 yen so that later I could buy a juice from her vending machine. Do any other foreigners think it's funny that a juice is named Calpis?

When I met this next man, he was at least 75 years olds and was as healthy as a young man. He imediately addressed his missing eye and told me that he was born that way. He called it his "little eye." We talked about everything from my brother's situation of being in a wheelchair to having American troops in a base close to the island.

Soon, I'll post some drawings from my sketch books and some drawings that two little boys did of me! I've been working on a new cartooning style as well. Things have been developing so fast that it's been hard to update my blog as quickly as I'd like to. If I don't get back to anyone for a while it's because I'm on an island where they still have rotary phones and every drives a boat instead of a car. Peace.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Yi Soon Shin

Yi Soon Shin is a Korean war hero who fought the Japanese more time than he has fingers and toes and never once lost. I submitted these images as examples of my work, hoping to get a job. He dug the work but was looking for a different style. Best of luck to him and I hope you guys enjoy the images.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Super Awesome Fun Island Time

This is the place where I'm calling my home. It's in the Kuka section of the town and island called Oshima. The bottom floor is a shop where things like seaweed, small dried fish, dried octopus and other sea prodcuts are sold. This shop sells the 7th best small dried fish in Japan!

This was drawn when the sun was just coming up and I saw the neighbor putting out food for the birds... among other things... Has anyone seen the site Neighborhole?

My project for the summer is to draw people from the island of Ukashima, just off of the cost of the island, Oshima, where I'm staying. The population is roughly 260 people and I want to draw as many people as possible. They're incredibly busy and sometimes just giving me a half hour of their time is a feat in itself. This woman is the kind woman who let's me stay at her house and occasionally draw her.

When I wasn't around I was told all sort of things that explain quite a lot about the nature of the island. This woman is roughly 73 years old, so she was born into a completely different world. Many of the women on this island were absolutely afraid to death of having their portraits drawn because many of them were told that they were not attractive and would never get husbands. This woman was told that her family would buy her a house and teach her to sew so she could attract a husband.

While drawing Shinmura-san on the left, a seriously, seriously, srlsy, 2 inch bee appeared and scard the shit out of me. The first thing they told me to do was not to run and of course I ran. Ya Oba-cahn, in the middle, is the sister of the woman above here and just showed up for breakfast at my house and I drew her with bonnet and all. I caught Takoya Oji-chan just as he was getting out of the shower and drew him in his natural environment of sake and cigarettes. He was a complete pleasure to draw and it hurt me to say that I wouldn't be able to drink with him that night.

This is the grandfather of the Homura family who's house I'm living at. I've never met any of my grandfathers, which seems to be a typical pattern everywhere. When I asked the widowed grandmother if I could draw his picture she smiled and said that he'd be happy to see the drawing.

After returning to Oshima for what was going to be a breif break from drawing at Ukashima, I was told that things were too busy on the island and they're like to have some more time before I'd come back. I've been taking up other projects as well in the meantime and hopefully will be able to return either tomorrow or the day after. In order to keep my self from getting out of art shape I did a portrait of Mako as she was just about to fall asleep.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Minnesota to Russia: The MN Zoo's new exhibit.

I used to spend hours at the zoo drawing the animals and had always wanted to make some art for the zoo, so I was really inspired to work on these drawings with my audience being children. My goal was to make a child just as excited as I was when I was at the zoo. I've been way excited to see exhibit since first hearing about it on the MN Zoo website.

I've been interested in Russian motifs since being influenced and taught by my art mentor, Natalya, who is the real Russian deal, and from reading an amazing story illustrated by John Paul Leon and written by Brett Lewis named, The Wintermen. Every one of these letters is different and is roughly about the size of a letter size sheet of paper. For the Russian letters I used different motifs from Russian architecture. I had the most fun with these two letters: