The helpful handtowel samurai

A little thing I did during my September 2009 trip to Japan. I was relaxing in my room after a hard day of relaxing in the various hot springs at Oodaru Spa Amagisou, drinking cold beer and chomping down sembei crackers while watching Japanese tv. There was some sort of live action & stop-motion commercial featuring this guy, in which he instructed a visiting tourist about the proper way to eat soba noodles (by dipping them in the accompanying sauce with your chopsticks). He used his toothpick sword to cut her soba. It was far too cute not to draw.

This reminds me of another commercial I saw during my stay. I think it was for Asahi beer? An adorably graying middle aged guy walking with swinging arms to the corner combini to buy his daily beer, singing about how much he loves a cold one after a day’s work (“ma-i-ni-chi ♪ ma-i-ni-chi ♪ ♪ … suki ni nattchao yo”), which the girl behind the counter mistakes as a love confession. Wish I could find it online somewhere, there was something so charming about his cheery face and little song.

Kanshinbashi bridge

Kanshinbashi bridge

Another 3×5 inch “I’mma paint this bigger someday” watercolor study. Not a great scan, but it’ll have to do for now.

I’m starting to get a good workflow with these. I just set up a “photos to paint” folder, much easier to flip through when I get the urge. Only has my Japan 2009 trip photos in it so far, but that’ll change. I’ve taken hundreds of pictures over the past few years with this aim in mind.

I picked this one out on Friday night and spent a little while tweaking it in Photoshop, adjusting levels and changing the colors to bring it closer to what I wanted. I deleted some elements to improve the composition, and because I knew I’d be doing this too small for them to come across. Then I did a quick pencil sketch to warm up, get a sense of the values, work out perspective and do a little more compositional editing in the process. Then I drew it again on watercolor paper and busted out the paint!

I took lots of notes this time on the color mixtures I used, techniques that worked well, and things I wanted to improve on the second time around. I also tested my colors out on scraps of paper, with even more notes about things like dilution strength and drying times.  I’m going to file these all together with this painting, to refer back to when I go to do the big version.

I like these little paintings: I can get them done in the course of a couple of nights, which is satisfying, and I’m not terribly worried about screwing them up. They also force me to simplify, since there’s not as much room for detail. But I do tend to go crosseyed after a few hours of working on them, and I kinda miss all that detail. I’m trying to coax myself into painting bigger.

How I spent my summer vacation

I took the month of June off from my job to focus on art.  The plan was to make a bunch of new works, throw together a web portfolio, and move forward with turning this art thing into a business. But you know that saying about plans and how they gang aft agley…

The forward motion still happened, but not quite the way I’d imagined. I realized pretty quickly that it’s hard to make much art when your desk is buried under and behind a towering stack of boxes, and your supplies are scattered throughout a bunch of other boxes piled up in the corners. I’d moved into my tiny new apartment three weeks into the first semester of art school, and between assignments & day job I never had time or energy to deal with all the post-move clutter. After a week and a half of unwinding, I was itching to tackle it.

It seemed like procrastination at first – Oh what, I said to myself, you can’t draw if you’re not at your desk? You can’t paint without a certain brush? – but procrastination’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s actually necessary. As roundabout as it seemed at first, this turned out to be the perfect next step. Opening up and sorting through those stacks of boxes turned up all kinds of useful supplies and inspiration files and old art I’d forgotten about. Consolidating it all led to rearranging 95% of my furniture and creating a usable studio. After that phase I threw myself into selling off  a bunch of things from those boxes I didn’t need any more. That not only cleared up some much needed room, it helped fund the necessary supplies and shelving for the studio space I’ve been building. And let me tell you, finding workable space in a 220 square foot apartment – half of which is my bedroom – takes a hell of a lot of creative thinking and energy. But the more useful and comfortable I made the space, the easier the rest of it became. It was a good thing I followed my procrastinatory urges – they made me realize I needed to get all my systems ready before I could move forward, and that this was the perfect opportunity.

I even managed to get in some much-needed relaxation too. I’d just come off a busy six months, the first major push towards the “Make art for a living” half of my goal. (The other being location independence – there’s a method to my tiny apartment madness.) I’m about to ramp things up even more, doubling my course load while still working full time, so I wisely alternated crazy productive days with fabulously restorative lazy days: sleeping in, filling the dual camel humps of video games and shounen anime (things I love but don’t have time for during school), taking meandering walks around town, and just sitting in my balcony garden drinking in the long glorious sunsets. I don’t know about you, but it can be so hard to allow myself this necessary recuperation time. Part of my brain insists I must be creatively on fire and working at all times. But I work way more efficiently – and happily – when I’m well-rested.

Anyway! Here are just a couple of the paintings I did during this month off. Watercolor on paper, each about 3×5 inches. Click to embiggen.