I am delighted to announce my newest book! A Psalm for When I Wander is a poem about God’s guidance and the third book I have written, illustrated, and published.
It is fair to say this book was 9 years in the making. (Representative of the 9 spheres of heaven?) The illustrations were painted in 2014 for a different project that did not come to fruition. Because they had been made to accompany a specific manuscript (not mine), I considered well what to do for a new text that could stand with the illustrations as a complete, independent work. It became clear that the text should not be a narrative depicted or explained by the art, not so prosaic as “One sunny day, the little white goat wandered away.” Rather, the text and the art should complement each other.
Complements exist in other literary forms. I thought specifically of haiga, a Japanese form that unites poetry, often haiku, with art that often does not literally depict the scene or event in the poem. (In fact, it’s better if it doesn’t.) Traditionally, the poems were paired with simple ink paintings. More types of art are paired today.
Given the illustrations’ pastoral qualities, the only thing to do was to write a poem and prayer about God as shepherd. It took shape over the course of a few months and was inspired by a longer medieval poem. So as not to spoil the delight for those who enjoy discovering on their own, that work shall here remain unnamed.
Aside from a few spots that I edited slightly, the artwork remains unchanged from 2014. To see some of the illustration process, have a look at these past posts (which cover other projects, too):
Back in March, I mentioned 3 projects, one short-term (covered in that post), one medium-term, and one long-term project. Here’s the update on the medium-term one, a new book. I wrote (and edited recursively) a poem to accompany the existing art and made a few adjustments to some of the illustrations–all of which always takes more time than imagined. Finally, after a pause and reviewing with a fresh perspective, I am in the process of finding a company to have it printed. There will be a grand unveiling post when it is ready.
I am also sporadically working to finalize a Pandagram design for Pangrams, a panda playing tangrams. When that is settled, I will only be two captions away from producing a new, international-themed Pandagrams card pack. (Japanda and Pangrams are the two still in need of satisfying sayings.)
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.
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.
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.)
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”):
Masuda Takahisa (Massu)
Kato Shigeaki (Shige)
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.)
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.)
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!