Art Walk 4: Self-portraits

A short note before the Art Walk: I updated the previous post about the cards and calendar. Both are now available for purchase through Principia (link in post). Supposedly the calendar has a collage that includes one of my turtle paintings.

Self-portraits. Every art student has to do them. Repeatedly. Though not my favorite recurring assignment (hence the title art), the topic seemed interesting. Fortunately there are enough acceptable portraits to show, meaning they are decent enough to escape being painted over, recycled, or banished to the Cave of Wonders.

Portraits will proceed chronologically.

Aw, kindergarten art. I’m watching Wishbone (a children’s TV show in which a Jack Russell terrier, Wishbone, imagines himself in classic literary stories). See Art Walk 3 for more elementary school art.

Let’s jump to some real, or rather, more realistic, portraits.

I actually love this self-portrait (high school) because it’s not really about me; it’s about my love of drawing characters and of story. (It appears in Art Walk 1 to show progress in drawing people realistically.)

For the Upper School Teton trip, I got out of regular school to do creative writing, make art, and study nature, but I didn’t get out of doing a self-portrait in the required trip journal.

Next.

If you’re thinking, “What?! Genevieve’s hair was never that short!” you’re right. It’s not my hair; it’s his.

Portrait of Young Man Holding Sword, Giovanni Batista Piazzetta, c. 1735, chalk.

In Figure Studies (college), students were to draw their faces in any existing portrait. Not even my mother recognized “me” thanks to the hairstyle & the massive (man) hand. Though nothing special in terms of my likeness, the conté drawing is included since the premise is different.

I was grateful to be exempt from Drawing I in college, especially the draw-your-face-on-a-big-grid assignment. Alas, grid portraits were not entirely escapable; Figure Painting a couple years later required one (below), but fortunately that project was rather interesting. It was my first time stretching and painting such a big canvas (4’ x 5’).

There is no pure black paint on the canvas; all the colors were made by mixing. A few spots have a little black mixed in, but they are indeed few. The white is blank canvas.

Now for some cartoon & chibi portraits. (Not assigned.) =)

I suppose I should explain the title art at the beginning. The left side is based on Edvard Munch’s The Scream. The right side is from a relay manga in which Genevieve struggled to come up with something to draw (in the comic, not in reality, since the premise was my idea).

Some ways to interpret the subtitle (to keep up my self-imposed title trend/challenge):

  • Simple translation: Self-portraits? Oh, no!
  • Broken bilingual pun: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!(らしい) (rashii): Apparently somebody screamed (about doing self-portraits).*

*Not properly (hence “broken” and “pun”). らしい can indicate information gained by hearsay, like “I heard it will snow,” and “Apparently Genevieve can’t write an Art Walk without referring to J-pop,” but it doesn’t actually work to pair it with quoted speech.

I drew my friends and me often.

This sketch almost made the cut for the “About the Artist” page in Cartage. It reminds me mildly of surrealist René Magritte’s The Son of Man, a self-portrait with the face covered.

Pirate G actually made the cut.

This is in my scrapbook of my trip to Japan and China. Friends and I visited Okunoshima, a.k.a. Bunny Island. Chibi Genevieve is plotting how to “rabbit” folks on May 1. (At work, some people play “rabbit”: whoever says “rabbit” to someone else on the first of the month has won. It is often competitive and sometimes inventive: pranks, rabbit statues, “Rabbit’s” Rules of Order.) May 1 held masterful victories.

That brings us to the end for today and for 2021. There won’t be a special Christmas post, but in lieu, here are musical offerings (listed in order of increasing tempo/energy).

  • From a 12/12 Christmas event for which I played carillon: Noel nouvelet (recorded on my phone in the playing cabin, hence background noises including clacking batons/keys).
  • Canadian folk legend Stan Rogers’ gently humorous At Last I’m Ready for Christmas.
  • A jazzy J-pop song to put the matsuri (“festival”) in “Christmas”: Arashi’s I Can’t Wait For Christmas. Among other places, I particularly like the lyrics at 1:50 and 2:15. Translations: “Let’s give thanks; let’s clap our hands” and “A big future is in your left hand.”

Merry Christmas and, for the leporine-inclined, hoppy new year.

Art Walk 3: Elementary, My Dear Bergeson

Today’s Art Walk has a new theme and timeframe: elementary school.

If you are just starting the Art Walks, welcome. Briefly, this series reviews my art from years past. You do not need to read episode 1 or episode 2 before this one because the content is not chronological. 1 & 2 are thematically grouped to the effect of “Memoirs of a Teenage J-pop Fan Artist.”

Watson’s comment is how I chose to continue the unintentional Ohno (Satoshi)/”oh, no” title art trend (and thereby render it intentional). “Misquote” refers obliquely to the fact that canonically, Sherlock never said, “Elementary, my dear Watson.”

I know exactly the drawing to start. Cue Inigo Montoya: “I am waiting for you, Vizzini! You told me to go back to the beginning, so I have.”

As far as school art goes, this is the beginning. When I drew it, I tried to figure out how to do aerial perspective. (I would not have used that phrase then, but I could tell that things look smaller further away.) See the speckled area on the left? I envisioned the neighborhood in the valley visible from my backyard. The small green dots are trees and the larger green patches yards.

In this picture, also from kindergarten, I like that I can see the process—that I built (drew) the snowman before I dressed it and drew hair before putting on the hood. The second is harder to see, but click to enlarge, & look closely at the hood. Part of it is green because the yellow marker blended with the blue. I also like the snowman’s funny expression. (Perhaps I could have used it as the “Oh, no” for the title image.)

There’s no date or grade on the back of the next one. I think it’s from either first or second grade. (Click to enlarge.)

“Frottage” derives from frotter, French for “to rub.” I arranged leaves, laid a sheet of paper over them, and rubbed crayons on it to make the textures of the leaves.

The next pictures are from my early days as an illustrator, long before Racing Pajamas. My elementary school had a small publishing center (basically a cubicle); students could bring a story or essay, select a book cover, and design a title label. A staple-bound book would be ready a few days later.

This is perhaps a desultory illustration to select because the setting is a bathroom, but if Marcel Duchamp can claim to turn a urinal into art, I can show a kid’s drawing of a loo and draw less criticism. (Pun always intended.) I am impressed with the commode & the toilet paper dispenser; all the components are there in decent proportions.

Other projects involved filling blank, pre-bound books, for instance, the fifth grade immigration project. Students learned about waves of immigration to America in conjunction with family history. We read Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse; the next two drawings are depictions of towns in the story.

Unlike everything above, the next two pieces were done in art class (also fifth grade). The first is a scene made after learning about Henri Rousseau’s jungle paintings.

This puma on scratchboard was from a different unit. The directions of the fur were a good challenge.

Thanks for walking. See you again.

Art Walk 2: Crazy Rainbow StART

After episode 1’s “Turning up with the J-pop,” crafting another title was tricky. This one’s a stretch (“star” + “art”), but it fits this installment of J-pop drawings. Today’s mix also features J-rock artists.

Takizawa “Tackey” Hideaki (L), Imai Tsubasa, Arashi’s Ohno Satoshi.

Click to enlarge images as needed.

Let’s start with the titular Crazy Rainbow art, inspired by Tackey & Tsubasa’s song of the same name. (“Crazy Rainbow Star” is in the lyrics; hence the “star”/”art” mash.) I drew this in Digital Design my senior year. A close-up of the guy was displayed in a county-wide high school art show.

T&T also featured in relay manga, comics in which my friends & I took turns drawing panels.

Panels not consecutive.

I also made T&T shirts (top panel) for a friend & me. My Tackey shirt elicited a lot of pointed comments. Tsubasa’s shirt has no wordplay; tsubasa means “wing(s).” Other outfits are from performances & MVs (music videos): Yume Monogatari and Crazy Rainbow. (Yume Monogatari means “Dream Story” or “Tale of Dreams.” Genji Monogatari is The Tale of Genji.)

The Tackey shirt became a little tacky pillow.

I’m fairly sure I once sketched Utada Hikaru, who wrote four songs for the Kingdom Hearts video game series, but the sketches likely were recycled years ago. Too bad—could’ve included a girl. The closest any of us (my high school friends & me) got to drawing SMAP was Photoshopping their faces onto a can of SPAM. That was not a comment on their music; they were one of Japan’s most loved groups, and Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana is two shakes from a national treasure. (I’ve heard them sing it better, but the link has an English translation.) Speaking of “shakes,” they have a song called Shake (1996)—sort of an old-school boogie.

On with the show. Here are drawings for friends featuring (or based on) NEWS. The left pose is from the weeeek single’s lyric sheet. (See #1 further down.) weeeek was composed by the hip-hop/pop-rock band GReeeeN—undisclosed dentists by day—and recorded by both it and NEWS. The balloons are stickers.

The gang back then (“old NEWS”):

  1. Koyama Keiichiro
  2. Masuda Takahisa (Massu)
  3. Nishikido Ryo
  4. Tegoshi Yuya
  5. Kato Shigeaki (Shige)
  6. Yamashita Tomohisa (Yamapi)

Superimposed is a relay manga panel. Originally NEWS had 9 members. The comic’s premise was that the membership would be further cut, renamed NEWS IN BRIEF, & made to perform in underwear (NEWS in briefs). The punchline pointed to Ryo as next to go since he was also in the group Kanjani8. Kanjani + jyaa (“bye,” “see ya”) = an example of putting the “pun” in “punchline.” Perhaps we were prescient: Ryo indeed left to focus on Kanjani8, and the 3 main players in the comic—Koyama, Shige, & Massu—are the remaining members.

The wordplay here comes from Yamapi’s solo Daite Senorita, the theme song (which we joked about often) for Kurosagi (lit. “black swindler”), a drama adaptation of a manga; Yamapi played the main character. Japanese & Korean use “drama” to refer to live-action TV shows regardless of fiction genre (like the drama department at school, referring to theatre generally). Asian dramas can be comedy or slice of life as well as, well, drama.

Some readers might recognize this pastel drawing.

This is Yamapi in another drama, Nobuta wo Produce (“Producing Nobuta”), in which an unlikely pair of high-school boys try to help a shy girl overcome bullying. Yamapi, Kamenashi Kazuya (from the boy band KAT-TUN), and Horikita Maki (an actress, also in Kurosagi) played the main characters. The guys sang the theme song, Seishun Amigo (link: guitar cover with the KamePi vocals added).

A girl appeared after all!

Next, J-rock stars Gackt Camui & Miyavi.

This is from an unfinished comic. Gackt, Miyavi, and a serious musical classmate competed in the video game Guitar Hero.

Gackt is one of those musicians who can probably play any instrument he’s given. Usually I drew him in an outfit similar to that in the Kimi ga Oikaketa Yume (“Dreams you pursued”) MV because the style is more identifiable than visual kei and other weird costumes. Possibly also because that was (is) my favorite Gackt song. The link is a live performance with English subtitles.

Conversely, I rarely drew Miyavi in the same outfit twice. In the comic, it changed in every panel—a reflection of his can’t-sit-still behavior, which he has outgrown. I don’t think he’s outgrown dyeing his hair every color of the (crazy) rainbow, like in this performance of Kekkonshiki no Uta, a well-wishing wedding song to the girl who married someone else. (At least nowadays his hair is mostly one color at once.) Besides many musical genres—rock, metal, blues, pop, &c.he’s known for his guitar-slapping style. (Here’s a snippet to see those fast fingers more closely.)

Another sketch with the two rockers. The composition came from a NEWS photo.

Dear patrons who have my book Cartage: A Graphic Short Story, can you find the Camui cameo? If you find Gackt, post in the comments.

I would feel remiss if I talked about J-rock without mentioning BUMP OF CHICKEN. I did a quick sketch—which doesn’t fit the “blast from the past” focus of the Art Walk, but now there’s a visual. (This is an art blog, after all.)

Masu Hideo (L), drums; Fujiwara Motoo, lead vocals & rhythm guitar; Masukawa Hiroaki, guitar; Naoi Yoshifumi, bass guitar. “Motoo” ends in a long “oh” sound, (not “oo” like “two”); there are multiple ways it could be written in English (“oo,” “oh,” “ō”).

BUMP OF CHICKEN is an indie/alternative rock band from Chiba (east of Tokyo) & has an identifiable sound & lyrical style. Many of their songs have been used for anime & video games. Actually, all the artists I’ve mentioned in the Art Walk episodes have had songs used (or themselves have starred) in anime, drama, video games, commercials, etc. Japan’s media industries are more integrated than the US’ in that way. Example: BUMP wrote/sang for this promo video for candy company Lotte’s 70th anniversary. Anime studio Bones animated it. Many English-speaking fans assumed this was a trailer for a new anime, not an ad!

Bonus jukebox selections:

Episode 3 will feature something completely different.

Art Walk 1: Turning Up with the J-pop

Back in November, in the midst of sorting oodles of doodles, I suggested an artistic walk down memory lane. 4 months & 4 million sketches later (exaggeration), it’s here. Welcome to the Art Walk. Expect to see elementary school art, punny stuff, and J-pop art(ists).

Notes: Long post ahead. Some images still mysteriously stretch. Clicking opens them at their proper dimensions.

Long-time readers & friends might have expected me to say Japanese comics or video games, not Japanese music (though I have much of those, too). Selections from the J-pop collection, circa my last 2 years of high school, are included because

  1. During this time, I started regularly using real people & photos as models.
  2. I significantly improved at drawing realistically. One doesn’t go from this (top image) to that (bottom) overnight.

3. Of all the revisited drawings, they excited me the most. After multiple curatorial culls, there were still too many to share in one post, & half were of Arashi. (Lol.) Solution? Two posts, starting with an Arashi exclusive/homage. Oh Yeah!

Pronunciation note: please say “AH-rah-shi,” not “ah-RAH-shi.” Perfect. (Now, America, let’s work on karaoke.)

Some fun facts:

  • “Arashi” (嵐) means “storm.” Members: Aiba Masaki, Matsumoto Jun, Ninomiya Kazunari, Ohno Satoshi, & Sakurai Sho. (Family names are first.)
  • They sang at the enthronement celebration of Japan’s new emperor in 2019. (Ray of water, 3rd movement, by acclaimed composer Kanno Yoko. In the linked video, she is conducting.)
  • Per the IFPI, their 20th anniversary compilation was 2019’s top-selling album globally, outselling Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Ed Sheeran, & 방탄소년단 / BTS, the current princes of K-pop (Korean pop).
  • Their songs have been used to promote the Olympics (on Japanese TV), including Kaze no Mukou e (“Beyond the wind”) for 2008, Power of the Paradise for 2016, and Kaito (“Kite,” composed by Yonezu Kenshi, another popular musician) for 2020. If the Olympics proceed this summer, I hope it is somehow included. The world should hear it; it’s beautiful.
  • Did any of you see Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima, the companion film to Flags of Our Fathers? Nino played Saigo.
  • Do any of you like Bruno Mars? He wrote Arashi’s first all-English release, Whenever You Call (2020).

Let’s begin. めましょう! Hajimemashou!

For more alliteration, add “from an adolescent artist’s archives.”

The episode title comes from the chorus of Arashi’s 2019 single, Turning Up. I’m elated they finally made a music video that includes a weather forecast.

Sometimes I used music videos for references. Here’s an example, the “Ni no umbrella.” (MV: Kotoba Yori Taisetsu na Mono, “Something more important than words”).

For Christmas & birthdays, I often gave my friends drawings of their favorite singers & characters. Here’s a birthday card, straight out of the Happiness music video. Happiness was released during my senior year of high school (and skyrocketed onto the favorite song list). It’s been regular in concert repertoire ever since.

Back: Sho (L), Aiba, Jun. Front: Ohno, Nino.
Pronunciation tips: “Ai” in “Aiba” is like “I”/”aye.” “Jun” is similar to “June.” The “Oh” in “Ohno” is a long “o” sound.

Even though I messed up when I inked (Jun’s hand & Sho’s face), this is one of my favorite things I’ve drawn for someone. Having fun drawing it, my friend’s delighted response, & wordplay made a good mix.

Back of card. Wish is another Arashi song.

We had fun making J-pop puns. To name a few,

  • Ohno / Oh, no. (Obvious, overused, yet never old.)
  • It’s Sho / show time!
  • SubArashi~! Subarashii (“soo-bah-rah-shee”) means “wonderful.” SubArashi can describe an awesome song or performance or, facetiously, Arashi on a sandwich or in a yellow submarine.
  • Sholo: A Sho solo. Or this.
Hitomi no Naka no Galaxy is a somber song from their first 5 years.

Good times fo’ Sho! (For sure.) Like when my friends & I went to my little brother’s middle school play & and all giggled when he came onstage with Matsumoto Jun hair.

Here’s another birthday drawing. I think the pencil draft looks more accurate than the final, but for similar reasons to the Happiness card, it’s another favorite thing I’ve drawn for someone else.

This stylized Ohno accompanied another gift.

One more. This draft is from an independent oil painting class my senior year. I used an image of Nino, Aiba, & Jun for the poses & tried to change their faces so they wouldn’t look like them (though “not Aiba” particularly still resembles Aiba).

I liked the drawing, but I was not satisfied with the painting. Consequently, I was shocked to learn the school administrators had chosen it for an award! There were 2 senior art awards: one merit award & one legacy award that meant the school bought 1 graduating student’s artwork. (I won both.) Bench Buddies / “not Arashi” / whatever I titled it was the legacy selection. At the awards assembly, the head of school announced that it was selected because it expressed camaraderie and simple joy. At least the reason was decent.

Thus a little bit of J-pop is preserved at Principia.

That’s the end. Thanks for coming this far. I hope you had some fun; I did. I will try to make the next Art Walk episode shorter. じゃあまたね. Jaa, mata ne. (See you later.)