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.


Hannah said...

longest. blog post. ever.

i am way jealous of the fun you are having. why couldn't you have fun here in the states?? HUH??

Anna said...

you're pencil lines are so expressive! So is your pen and ink work! I think I like those portraits better than the ones with the wash on them, but those are nice too.

Also, if you're taking photos as well as drawings, I'd love to see them!

dchao said...

I'm so glad that you're in Japan exploring and talking to so many people. <3
And I'm glad you're sharing it with us too.

Evan Tickles Palmer said...

So i'm gonna praise you just like everyone else, because you deserve it. And now I'm going to give you two suggestions for when you get back that I hope you are already considering because if you aren't you are crazy.

1) you need to try to gather all of this together for a solo exhibition. I guarantee you that a lot of galleries will be interested in this.

2) your blog would be perfect for a book. Your writings supporting the drawings are probably one of the most interesting things I've encountered in a while and I will be sad when you are done. all you really need is an editor.

If you need help on any of this, I will be more than happy to lend a hand.

Ailea said...

This is so exciting!
It must take a lot of guts sometimes to go find people to draw, and they all look so awesome.

Thank you so much for sharing, reading your posts is always something I look forward to. And everything that Evan said.. DO IT!

Lumi said...

Do you know why it is called Calpis? I didn't until I looked it up on some random site that explains some weird Japanese naming.
Apparently, Calpis is a word representing one of the five heavenly tastes in Buddhism. Unfortunately, us westerners think something completely different. But it tastes rad, does it not?:'}

Lumi said...

This is Cat, btw, if you couldn't guess!

Sean Lynch said...

I think it's lame of me to reply on my own comment board, but I don't know how else to. I've gotta say thanks to everyone for taking a look and leaving your comments!

To Evan: Your help is more than welcome! I'll keep you posted.

To Cat: I knew it was Cat! You have a very distinct style! Also, thanks for the Calpis lesson! I guess I can't laugh at it anymore...

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