Monday, January 31, 2011

Mottainai - Inventory Day

Filing of tax return for 2010 has started.
I have been filing it for a long time, but I still have not get used to; I always get confused.
The reason of my confusion is that the explanation brochure of tax return made by tax office is too complicated while my filing as an independent artist with no employees is very simple.
In any case, my filing starts from inventory taking.

I have to count the paints, canvases, brushes, papers, frames etc. I have in my studio.
Then I usually realize that I have soooo many things enough to survive for next three years. But I buy something and something in the middle of the year, excusing to myself that I may use it someday. Shopping art supplies is a fun for any artists but it seems like a wasting.
I am going to Osaka this weekend and plan to stop by a very good art supply store. Well...It may be also "mottainai" (wasting) if I do not shop there because I do not go there so often.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Gesso and Gesso

Painting Gesso on new canvases is so much fun.
I like doing it; It reminds me of my childhood when I played with mud.

I think most artists have their favorite size or shape of canvas.
In some reasons, I like working on square. I like the shape since I was in college. (It is a long long time ago.) I feel more freedom in the shape of square.
Another shape I have in mind is a circle. Except some woodblock prints, I have not painted on a round shaped canvas, because it is much more expensive than rectangle or square canvases. But I am sure my work will be perfectly matched with round canvas. I hope to try it someday.

Friday, January 28, 2011

My final ritual of painting

I finished a painting yesterday. or I should say that I hope it is finished.
Whenever I finished one, I leave it for a week and look at it later.
In some cases, I realize that the work is missing something and has not finished yet. Then I start reworking on the painting.
In some cases, I confirmed it is actually finished painting and sign on it peacefully.

In many cases, I think about the title after I finished painting. I am not good at naming and that truth make me hate naming more. Only in a few cases, good title pops up in my head while I am painting. But it does not happen so often. Until I come up the title, I have to continue thinking of it. Sigh... My mother used to tell me that I should do my homework as soon as I come home from school..  I hope to hire somebody to think of the titles for my work.
Most of my works are semi-abstract, so I want to give them something  poetic names. I can think of that type of titles in Japanese, but translation is not easy. Sometimes the message is lost. One of the difficult term to translate is "Utsuroi"(literally meaning "transience"or"transition"). Utsuroi is a concept of my work which means the transition of shapes and colors of nature, or flow of time all of which represents the ephemeral existence of our life. "Transience" may be OK, but I do not like the sound very much. Do you have any idea?
At all event,it is nice that I  can have little relaxing tea time while thinking the title after I finished a painting.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Japanese love Hawaii

My aunt called me last night. She has the sweetest personality; She tends to get hot in anything, so whenever she finds something new in which she becomes interested, she gives me a call to make me find more information on that. (She knows that I am good at googling.) It is a kind of fun to predict what comes next. She already quited a fan of Korean actor, then she started ( or I should say I started on behalf of her) a blog for networking with her younger friends and it has not been updated for 2 years. Then her interest had been focused on painting, which made her take three painting classes a week, but the passion of painting has ended when she had a group show with her classmates last summer. She always loves and enjoys her life too much to remember her age.
That aunt said that she will go to Hawaii with her husband and want me to find a good hotel and entertainments. It is nothing to make a small research on Hawaii, moreover, it is a pleasure for me doing that, because I love Hawaii.

quilt on progress

I went to Hawaii only twice. Since the first time I went there for honeymoon, I felt in love with the island. Blue sky, blue water, nice breeze, nice food, nice people...As most Japanese become so after the first trip to Hawaii, my life had been filled with Hawaiian stuff since then. Between busy painting and housekeeping routine, I went to Hawaiian quilting class and made pillows, blankets, or bags all with Hawaiian flower and animal designs. I still love time to sew the quilt while watching Hawaiian video.

I am trying not to write too long, however,...
I think that there are some points that why Japanese love Hawaii more than any other foreign lands; beautiful sea, good food, safety, good shopping place.... but most importantly, Hawaii is the the only part of the America where we can communicate in Japanese. In many places in Hawaii, we can communicate in our language and surprisingly we can even use Japanese Yen in many shops!
In 60's to 70's, it reminds me of a very popular TV quiz show on sunday night, in which the champion was awarded a trip to Hawaii.  Hawaii had been a Mecca for Japanese at the time when overseas traveling was not affordable.
Today, many Japanese can enjoy going overseas, wherever on the globe, but our communication in foreign language (i.e. English!) is still limited. So foreign land like Hawaii where we can enjoy exotic atmosphere without any worries about language, is just a paradise for us Japanese.
Hawaii is the best hybrid of Japan and the U.S.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tomorrow is another day.

had bad flu and stayed in bed for whole three days, struggling with fever and chill.
My husband got speeding ticket on the way back from hospital.
Two light bulbs in our living room died at the same day.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Stiff shoulder

I have an appointment with massage therapy today.
This is a monthly treat for me. I have been suffered from discomfort in my shoulder and neck.
It is truly "pain in the neck"!

Since a couple of years, my shoulders often got stiff, so I have tried many things, such as massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, and yoga. Playing badminton is also to ease my shoulders.
After many trials, I came up the idea that I have to limit myself from using computer (in order to avoid to watch screen for a long time), and I have to get relaxed not only physically, but mentally; What I mean is that most of shoulder stiffness or bad blood circulation, at least in my case,  are caused by STRESS.
For years, I had too much to do, too much to concern, (sounds like a too modern women?)  and it seemed to me that all of them had deadline to be cleaned up. However, after I got serious headache from my shoulder and neck, I gave up the idea of "I must do this by that time".  I tried to do everything very slowly and not to worry about the time-line. Then I found that most things that I thought I must to do within a time-line were actually not needed to be done by that time. Hard pressure from time or responsibility were actually created by me. After I realize it, my shoulder stiffness is getting better, being relieved from tense.
Most Japanese are very strict on punctuality, and I know it made Japan to be productive efficient country, but probably we can be less productive. It may make us more creative.
Oops, I must run. It is appointment time with massage therapist. Appointment with someone is one of the exception that we have to be punctual.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My studio mate

There are some essentials when working in studio;

They are radio/CD player and humidifier.
I usually listen local radio program entitled "Morning Jam" in the morning. 
I especially love the short session in the program called "Omoroi Kazoku"(my funny family). The DJ reads the selected listeners' posts about funny happenings by their family. Most stories are very funny but heart warming and it makes me relax while I paint.
I prefer to listen radio talks than music, not only because I feel like I am together with somebody, but because I can work more freely and relaxed. It is not always good to make my whole mind concentrate on painting. It sometimes spoils the painting, as a education-obsessed parents take away the independence from their kids. I watch myself not to interrupt the painting to start moving by itself and go their own way (..sometimes it does not go anywhere, though..).
Another studio mate is only working during winter. She takes care of the condition of my oil paintings and my throat not to dry. She is very quiet but hard working, and she even helps me to dry my laundry!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

One day of my studio

I received a package today.
Tons of chocolate?

No. It's a whole bunch of new canvases!

It is one of the best moment that one artist can ever have.
Here are full of possibilities and bright future.
Wish that the time could just stop!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Creating a trash box by newspaper

When you work in studio, you will generate trash, such as tissue papers you wiped paints from brushes, woodchips from boards or pensils, eraser debris, etc. I temporarily put them into a paper box I made, and throw the whole box into a trash bin at the end of the day.

This is very useful especially when you work on table or for kitchen garbage. You can leave one beside your hand, and toss any tiny trash into it.
You can make one with newspaper or useless flyers.

Of course, you can throw your trash into the trash bin directly. I am afraid that it sounds like a crazy idea, but I do not want to besmear or soil my trash bin with trash. ( Again, I know I am crazy.) I think most Japanese does not like to throw wet trash directly into trash bin. Japanese prefer to protect the trash bin with plastic bag that we get from supermarket for free so that the trash bin is always clean. Additionally, person like me prepares a paper trash box so that no wet stuff or tiny dust will not dripped or dropped from the plastic bag covered on the trash bin. It is such a paranoid to make a trash box in order to keep trash bin clean !
I admit that.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Until the rain stops

When it rains, I feel low, but have peaceful state of mind at the same time.
When it rains, I feel like to be allowed to stay in my little nest without feeling guilty.
When it rains, it washes away everything; dirty air, dust, or dirt.
Rain makes me plunge in thought silently.

After The Rain, oil on canvas, 46cmx53cm(18"x21")
When the rain stops, I have to go out to the real world; The world full of refreshed realities. The world brought back from the silence is a bit scary for me, but filled with ray of hope.
Waterdrops from the past wink off reflecting the sunlight, waiting for the time to be transformed into a new life.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mt. Fuji or Rocky Mt.?

I went to a pastry shop in my neighbor yesterday to buy my favorite pie.

This pastry named "fresh cream pie" is the best selling item in the shop, which is usually sold out in the morning.  Not good looking, but the pie is filled with beautiful custard cream on piecrust and also covered with some layers of the same piecrust piled up like a mountain.
This pie may not be appropriate to serve to guests, because eating this is not very easy and elegant; You have to break down the mountain and pick up the cream with a piece of piecrust. Your fingers get dipped into the custard cream and it forces you to lick your fingers all the time....

However, It is a bliss ! I and my husband enjoy to eat this way. Hamburger, fried chicken, raw oyster on shell, or chocolate eclair etc. should be eaten without fork and knife. Sushi also taste better without chopsticks ( I use ones when I eat out, though..).  Eating wild is a secret joy only between families.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Artist needs exercise

I think that artist is a lonely profession.
We spent most of our time in private studio, without talking to anybody but to ourselves and unfinished canvas in front of us.
No wonder that many artist like to communicate via computer or phone (we need somebody to talk to!) , and no wonder that they do not get enough exercise (we often use only our right/left hand muscles!).

I had been exercising too little since I was thirty something, and it caused me a general sick feeling. Ever since, I do exercise every morning to one of the most famous Japanese TV program "Radio Calisthenics." It literally means radio exercise but is broadcast to music on public NHK TV and Radio twice a day. I do that exercise at  6:25 every morning to stretch myself.
It is a short program and certainly not enough, but the concept of doing this is to wake up my body at the beginning of the day.

However, I need more work out. So I started to learn and play badminton three years ago. Not many knows that badminton is such a hard sports. It is said that the exercise volume of badminton for an hour is competitive to that of soccer. We are always required  to repeat quick motion during the exercise. Even in winter, I get covered in sweat after the exercise.
After I took badminton class for two session at the gym in my neighbor, I become a member of a local club team, where I play it every week. One of my wildest dream is to participate in a official game to wear a shirt embroidered with the name of our team! will take some time...
Daily TV exercise and weekly badminton certainly made my body more energetic and healthier than before. To keep healthy body is a basic requirement of house plant artist like me.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Winter Garden

I like winter light.
Soft sunshine in winter bring us the fleeting moment of warmth and happiness to forget the harsh season.

In The Beginning #11, oil pastel on paper

Trees In The Light II, oil on canvas (sold)

Winter Garden I, oil on canvas
I usually create these winter painting in summer or fall, and other spring or summer like paintings in winter. People always want what they do not have.  

Available upon request or at etsy

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winter Vegetable in Japan

Daikon, Japanese radish is the most popular winter vegetable in Japan.

During long winter, we eat various daikon dishes very often. There are zillions of recipes for daikon.
One of the easiest but with the highest vitamin nutritious value is to grate daikon and serve raw with soy sauce and lemon. Actually I love it most.
Upper section close to leaves tastes sweeter and bottom section close to the roots is usually bitter but stiff.  Therefore, upper part can be eaten raw such as grated or salad (as well as cooked), and bottom part are usually cooked in soup, or grilled on pan.   
In old days  (or maybe still now in countryside), people hang shredded daikon outside in winter time to make freeze dried daikon.

Poor actor/actress are called "Ham Actor" in English and  "Daikon Yakusha" in Japanese.
Yakusha means actor/actress. The reason that the term of daikon is applied to poorness of performance is because no one will ever get sick to eat daikon. (In Japanese, not to get sick by food poisoning and not to become hit have the same pronunciation as "Ataranai".)

"Cut daikon by Masamune" is another Japanese proverb, meaning giving a crappy job to a talented person. (Masamune is one of the most noted samurai sword in Kamakura period in Japan.) I do not think daikon is crappy vegetable, though.

Daikon is inextricable part of Japanese life.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Struggling with Art - Painting Sakura

Painting is not always fun. In fact, in most of time, painting is all about experiment, struggle, and depression (and sometimes a little bit of delight).
At this time like this, I feel how I can ever recognize myself as an artist, or why I decided to become an artist in the first place.

In front of this canvas, I had a full of ideas for colors and concept.
My planned motif for this time was (is?) Sakura, cherry blossom.
This is common motif for Japanese artist since Japanese love cherry blossom in spring from long ago. I am not a exception and so I tried to depict Sakura. Actually this is my third try to paint it.
However, painting Sakura is not easy for me. I am not drawing it representative way; I want to grasp the air of spring by depicting Sakura petals dancing in the wind.

All the effort I put in so far was in vain. On the canvas, all the pink and pale blue and brown paints are just scattered without any harmony. They are just breaking out here and there and I have no control on them. There is nothing worth I can show you today.
So I left the studio earlier yesterday. I will leave the painting until I can see it calmly and realize what to do with it.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Do you think e-book will supersede p-book?

I love to read read books.
To be more precise, I love all the things created around it when reading books.
Uninterrupted private time, with favorite music and aroma of coffee in the late afternoon with no plan to do.
I used to go to coffee shop to soak myself into that atmosphere, and reading in the situation is still my most relaxing time. 
Each turn of page, I sip coffee, and I deeply get into the world of the book I am reading.

E-books have been published a while ago and sales of portable terminal for reading e-books, such as iPad or Kindle are  increasing year by year. It is said that the sales of e-book will supersede that of paper books. Recently an Japanese TV program reported that senior generation buy more e-books than young generation, because it is easy to magnify the words and we do not need big book shelf anymore. Also, e-book can built in the music matched with the book contents, or the video of author. E-book certainly have advantages which p-book can never have.
I talked about that with my father in law who is also love reading any kinds of typed letters including newspaper and flyers. And we concluded that we still prefer p-books , because,
"E-book does not have THAT atmosphere!"
That's all that matters at least for us two. When I read digital letters on computer, I do not feel like I am reading something. I feel like I am just tracking down the information.
I maybe buy portable tablet for e-books someday, but I hope that future will be distant and hardbound books will be continued to be sold for the fans like me.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Starting New Painting

It is always fun to start working on new canvas.

I am going to make some of clouds/sky series paintings and this is one of them.
On a canvas underpainted with a few layers of white and orchre, I made brief outlines with white paints,

then, applied pale blue and gray.
So far, so good.
I have no idea what it will be at this point as usual. It may be like daytime sky or that of dusk.
I will just allow my brush as it goes, and use any color as I feel right.
After few layers, the painting usually start to set up a situation for itself.
Until that happens, I just have to repeat my image trial with some colors and compositions, and  wait and see.

Friday, January 7, 2011

New Year, New Born Babies

One of my first assignment in this year is signing up the new works.

These are my new born twins I created in the last minutes of last year.

From my studio window, I can see sky every day.
One thing particular about sky/clouds in Japan I realized is that it is often very neutral and subtle in color. It is almost never real blue sky like that of California which I dreamed of when I was a child. For better or worse, sky above my head never be like that. I assume that moderate and humid weather here affects many things in me; my pallet colors, my personal character, or way of thinking.

Sky was not my motif until recently. It was not just my interest.
But since I moved to the present studio with big window facing to south, I started to see the subtlety of colors of sky and realized that many natural factors  affects them. The color is changed by just a minor factor in a minutes. I appreciate that ephemeral life of colors.

Available on Etsy soon.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Made In High School

I bought a canned Buta-Miso,ground pork seasoned with miso.
Buta-Miso were originally made as preservative food in Kagoshima prefecture, but were gradually sold as souvenirs.
I bought two kinds of them; One (I ate up already) was in a fancy bottle and made by a food company. Another was filled in a cheap can and made by, surprisingly, high school students and it tastes better !!!

From about a decade ago, some Japanese high schools started to put more effort into operating restaurant or selling food items by their students. Those high schools have courses for students who want to be chef and sometimes invite professional chefs to teach class.
From basics to highly sophisticated techniques, those student are hammered into by the chefs. They are also taught the food business and management as well. Therefore, selling whatever they made is a part of their course. One restaurant named "Mago-no-Mise" (meaning "restaurant by grandchildren") operated by Soka High School in Mie prefecture is getting too popular that all menus are sold out in the morning hours. In most cases, high school made food are safe, less expensive, and good taste. Good for everybody!

Buta-Miso itself is not difficult to cook.
In fly pan, first stir minced ginger (2 table spoon) with some vegetable oil.
Then add ground pork (or minced pork, 150g), sugar (100g), minced onion (half), miso(250g), graded onion (1 table spoon), and sesame seeds (2 table spoon). Stir until pork is cooked.
If you have Mirin (sweet sake) , add 1 table spoon.
Best much with rice but also good as dip sauce for vegetable sticks.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

On the Origin of Species

One day I imagined how life started on the earth.
The earth was covered by just a lot of ultra-micro stuff , like dust, water vapor, virus, gases, etc.
They were combined by accident, fall apart again, and maybe re-united. I do not know how long it took. But finally they generated some seeds which fall onto ground, and became the origin of life. Small white spots in green are symbol of radiance of tiny life.
Thinking of such, I created some works.
In The Beginning #1

In The Beginning #2

In The Beginning #9
 "In the Beginning" is a series of oil pastel paintings based on my imagination for birth of life.
It is consisted of 15 painting and  I put the thought into each of them.
They are 17.5cm x 17.5cm (7"x7") small, so I tried to stay simple composition to depict in each painting. Also, I used lots of green colors since I think they are source color of vitality. I hope that they will inspire viewers' imagination on life.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Back to Studio

It is first day of studio work of this year.
I have finished two paintings at the end of last year, so I can start with new canvas.

It is always makes me happy to start working on new white canvas. It is full of possibilities and ideas.
I have complete freedom of color and composition in front of blank canvas.(Of course!)
Until I finish first layer, I even think I am genius!
However, this happy dream does not last long...
After several layers, I lose such freedom and become tense; I start realize something is wrong in the painting, maybe tone of the colors or composition, but I do not know what to do with it. Full of frustration continues weeks or months.  I start to feel fear if I could ever finish the canvas in front of me. Then I change, paint again, and think, and re-change, re-painting , and re-think.... fall into a bottomless swamp.....

However, experience tells me that I can get out of it soon or later, sometimes with good outcome in which case I feel bliss of being an artist, and sometimes with a sense of futility in which case I resent myself for bad job.
I always judge my work is good or not. This is bad behavior of mine.
One of my mentor artist said to me that artist should not be judgmental on her own work and it is not she who judges the quality of the painting, but others having different views on that paining like audience, critic, or history will establish the value of it. So artist should not worry about if the finished work looks good or bad to herself. Since I hear that, I became to get out of my stress earlier than before. I think that is a good phrase.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Mystery of Japanese Cooking

One of the most popular dishes for New Years Holidays is cooked black beans.
People eat these black beans ( in Japanese "Kuro-mame") wishing healthy life (mame means healthy in old Japanese) in coming year. So I also cook these black beans every year.

There are many recipes for cooking black beans, and Japanese black beans usually comes into the form of dried beans, therefore in most cases cooking it takes 2-3 days.

On the night of the first day,
1. wash the dried black beans (400 grams)
2. boil cooking liquid consisting of water (14 cups), sugar (300grams),  soy-sauce(1/3 cup), salt(1/2 table spoon), baking soda(1 table spoon) AND....

I use artist quality iron nails which I use for stretching canvases!

This is essential ingredient in this cooking. If you do not have ones, you can make them instantly by spraying small amount of vinegar on  nails and leave them 3 days. Rust on iron nails (actually tannin included in them) make the beans very black like velvet.
Without the rusted nails, the cooking liquid is just pale color and the beans will ended up with ugly brown. You must wash the nails lightly and wrap and tie them together with white cloth or thick paper towels so that the nails does not get scattered.
cooking liquid without rusted nails
Now you are ready put the black beans into the boiled liquid. Stop heating right after adding the beans. (Do not cook them now !)

3. Leave the pot overnight.

In the morning on the second day, you start cooking.
4. Cook the bean until the liquid is boiling again.
5. Take bubbles and scums on the surface
6. Add 1/2 cup of water to stop boiling
7. Cook at lowest heat for 6-7 hours, make sure that the beans are always immersed in the liquid. If the liquid is not enough, you can add 1/2 cup of water at a time.
8. Stop heating and leave the pot overnight so that the beans absorb the liquid.
You are done!

In the morning of the third day, you will find the very beautiful black beans ready to eat.
7 days in fridge. (or cold place is OK, since it contains lots of sugar.)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Coming back to home

I was away from home to my in-laws parents house in Nara for new year holidays.
We took ferry to Osaka port and it was very enjoying to stay overnight in boat.

The boat left Moji port to Osaka at 19:00.

I like travel by boat as long as I can stay  a bay locked by land ; Open sea is a bit scary for me (although I like to paint ocean). When I watch the water, I feel like to get drawn into it, especially when viewing night sea.

But in this trip to Osaka, we cruised inland sea, so it was just fine for me.

The room we reserved was big enough (at least for us) equipped with two beds, table, pot and cups for tea, washing basin and most importantly TV. I and my husband enjoyed watching it until late, just putting all the busyness we had at the year end out of our mind.  I think we deserve it!