23/50: Portuguese Wall Painting & Yogi Adventures

While valuing everything I have from God (see last post)- his teaching, resources, time, talents- I want to share what I've been given. 

Now that doesn't mean I intend to give away everything I paint! The only paintings I give away are to family for now, until I build up a larger portfolio. This one was a recent painting for my mother-in-law's birthday.

16x20"

16x20"

At work she had a painting from a rotating collection that went through the offices but she wanted something that she would really enjoy looking at, not someone else's collection. I wanted the painting for her to match her character but of course can't encompass all of a person so I pinpointed a couple things about her: 

  • easygoing and relaxed but organized and responsible 
  • loves beautiful colors and being in God's creation.

Compared to a painting for Page (see here), the style is different. His was for a different purpose, more about structure and order. Hers is for enjoyment, for a breather. 

I took a photo of this wall in Portugal. It was part of a staircase tower in the magnificent garden/estate of Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra. We had never seen anything like it- the caves, palace, chapel, wild greenery, mossy stones, I can't do it justice in a sentence. 

[So if you're curious, look at pictures of this incredible place on trip advisor.]

Even plenty of space for yoga like the crane pose with a crane statue...what a cheeseball... I would love to spend days there. A yoga retreat maybe?

Back to the painting. I don't believe practice makes perfect, but that principle applies here. I attempted painting this wall earlier this year, and it's in my first post this year. I didn't end up posting the final version afterwards because it was a mess! In comparison, this new painting came together from start to finish in less than 3 hours. The point is, practice! The practice version (plus years of painting beforehand) wasn't wasted. If only I could remember that every time BEFORE my perfectionist tendencies take over and I'm discouraged after messing something up.

Lastly, something I'm meditating on: 

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing each other in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." Colossians 3:16

What do I dwell on and what kind of words result? (the latter seems to indicates the former)

17/50 : "Same-Same" (but different) & Fool-proof Method to Cook Rice

Anyone who has been to Thailand has heard "same-same" from street vendors. For example,

  • Is this Gucci watch real? Why is it only $30?    "Same-same."
  • Is Adidos like Adidas shoes?    "Same-same."
  • Red soup curry or red curry rice?    "Same-same."

Fun fact: It's never the same-same.

"Similar but different"

"Similar but different"

We took a cooking class and learned that they make rice the same way as Japanese (and many other asian) people, using a finger to measure how much water to use. The teacher asked, "who knows how to cook rice without measuring?" All 3 asians (including me) in the class raised a hand with our thumbs at our first finger joint. 

 Somehow it's a universal measuring system regardless of the length of your finger. I haven't figured out how it always works but since it does I don't question it. Here it is:

  1. Rinse rice until water is mostly clear
  2. Drain rice
  3. Put rice in rice cooker bowl and add water
  4. Check water level: with your fingertip at the top of rice, the water level should meet your first finger joint (distal interphalangeal joint, in case "first" is unclear) 

I had to double check and look up "finger joint" because I've only ever referred to "first finger joint" in Japanese- always to cook rice!

That was a fun memory for me, especially the three asians from different countries learning the same method of cooking rice from our moms. So, it deserved an etegami painting. I took this photo of our rice draining during the cooking class. They use colanders essentially made of a plant, but different- not bamboo colanders like in Japan. They cook white rice but it's jasmine rice, not sticky short grain. Same-same but different.

Try out the finger measurement sometime. You'll never have to measure white rice again. (disclaimer: not for brown/black rice!)

Without painting, I wouldn't notice the 100 shades of brown weaved into one basket! Any natural fiber basket has intricate colors that synthetic weaves don't. While brown is my least favorite color, the variety of tones is a feast for my eyes and a welcome challenge as a painter! I can't begin to mimic the breadth of colors, much less come up with them. The Creator's color capacity blows my mind!

8/50 : Art, vocation, and a terrible painting

First, a brief update since I've been MIA for a month:

  • graduated with a Master's in Art History (Japanese Art History emphasis)
  • travelled to Thailand and Cambodia

Now I'm applying to jobs related to Japanese, writing, history, cultural exchange, and art... decisive as usual.

The point of writing about my painting is for exposure- to fight perfectionism. Sometimes, oftentimes, my paintings suck. After writing my thesis for grad school, I see how painting and writing are the same. As author E.B. White says, "A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper." So forget the migraine, the not-helpful single AC unit two rooms away (how dare I complain about having more than 1 room??), and anxiety about an interview on Friday. I'm not a creative genius. No one is, we have to work at it.  It feels like I've never held a brush or used this ink before but it'll get better. My hands will remember how to control the brush and ink.

Working with your hands, or working in general, must be  done with diligence and excellence: Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men (Col 3:23). In Art and the Bible, Francis Schaeffer expands on this and also writes on how to think about contemporary art:

“What is the place of art in the Christian life? Is art- especially the fine arts- simply a way to bring worldliness in through the back door? What about sculpture or drama, music or painting? Do these have any place in the Christian life? Shouldn't a Christian focus his gaze steadily on "religious things" alone and forget about art and culture? As evangelical Christians, we have tended to relegate art to the very fringe of life. The rest of human life we feel is more important. Despite our constant talk about the lordship of Christ, we have narrowed its scope to a very small area of reality. We have misunderstood the concept of the lordship of Christ over the whole man and the whole of the universe and have not taken to us the riches that the Bible gives us for ourselves, for our lives, and for our culture. The lordship of Christ over the whole of life means that there are no platonic areas in Christianity, no dichotomy or hierarchy between the body and the soul. God made the body as well as the soul, and redemption is for the whole man.”

While I say I no longer believe in the myth of the spontaneous creative genius, my actions suggest otherwise. So it was time to begin painting #2 of my series of 10 Nagasaki paintings. Since it has been over a month since painting and I'm down to my last precious piece of Arches watercolor paper, a practice sketch was necessary. When I practice freehand sketches, I always work from the top left to bottom right. Maybe it's because I'm a lefty. One look at the left and right side of this painting make it very clear what difference a few practice strokes can make:

IMG_0703

Started at the top left with this sloppy cross:

Ended on the right, much different than the starting point:

Moral of the story: KEEP PAINTING.

The drafting table is now raised as a standing table (maybe hard to tell since my height doesn't change significantly from sitting to standing) which makes it much easier to paint!

1/50 : Paint and blog it, 50 times in 2015

Time for New Year's Resolutions 2015! [According to every personality test I'm an "Achiever" to put it lightly so I just can't help it.] First looking back, here are my 2014 resolutions written in pen in a notebook I started a year ago:

{BOLD: Resolution 2014 ------> Italic : Result 2014}

  1. Read the Japanese Bible through -----> [only 1500 more pages to go]
  2. Lift weights regularly----->[Yes]
  3. Paint -----> [Twice, maybe]
  4. Disciple/mentor relationship -----> [Yes]
  5. Become a yogi -----> [Yes... but now recovering with a sore neck from falling directly on my head a few weeks ago]
  6. Teach Page words in Japanese -----> [Somewhat]

Maybe the resolutions were too broad. Resolutions 2015 are for the most part related to last year. (Aside from my core identity and spiritual life) I've pinpointed things I love and am finally not embarrassed to admit them. I'll write more about how I see God's character through them in a later post.

  • Painting
  • Good food (all things related: to cook, experiment, & eat; cookbooks, menus, demos)
  • Learning history (currently, specifically comparative studies between Buddhist and Catholic practice & Japanese Christian history)

There are other regular activities that I don't necessarily love, like exercise. I've wanted to be athletic but I would rather roll around and stretch until I can fold into a pretzel...for what purpose? I have no idea. I work out because I want to use what I'm given (health) to take care of my family as long as I am able. As much as I wish I loved exercise, I don't. But it's just like hundreds of other things that are necessary regardless of if they are fun or not.

Finally getting to the point...almost. I'll finish grad school in May, so the "what next" question comes up often. Answer, as photographed below:

  • Short version-Paint and teach.
  • Long version- Continue large scale ink painting series of Japanese Christian history, using and "translating" Western art compositions of parallel historical events. For teaching, if there are positions available, then teach Asian art history at local community colleges.
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Resolutions 2015:

  1. 50 paint-blog entries: practicing ink line work and "translating" Western art into Japanese style
  2. Use Japanese daily at home
  3. Memorize portions of Ephesians 3 and Colossians 3
  4. Submit proposals for conferences and publications
  5. Finish reading Japanese Old Testament
  6. Continue yoga working toward a press-up handstand

There it is. After the long-winded explanation, this travel blog is reborn now as my 50 paint-blog entry resolution for 2015. Here is 1/50. I'm painting a photo I took in Sintra, Portugal this summer at Quinta de Regaleira. I'm still in love with old walls. (See http://emakubo.com/2011/02/13/more-from-italy/ and http://emakubo.com/2010/04/05/paintings-from-cortona/ )

I don't know why I chose to work on such a giant painting to "get back into it." Perhaps my "Achiever" personality?

Here's the painting in progress and a detail shot. Another aspect of this 50 blog post is to stop being a proud perfectionist by show imperfect things. I'm sure there will be "off" days for drawing but with this concrete goal I have to show it anyways!

...plus some photos of my most recent organized chaos of art supplies and research materials. Apologies for the darkness. I'm looking for how to light up the studio space more. Also I only had my 35mm lens around so please excuse the weird angles and cropping :)

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 Coming next: Process/result of building a stretcher frame with my dad's help for a large oil painting I painted in Italy. We have a building date on Thursday. The neglected painting has been rolled up for 4.5 years!