Wednesday, January 22, 2014


"Winter Vegetable; Indoor color when flowers are few" 4"x6" watercolor and sumi on Washi.
I joined the local Japanese cultural association; LAILAC which aims to introduce and foster an understanding of Japanese arts and culture to Italians. There was a large fair in December with demonstrations of dance, ikebana, drumming, cooking, calligraphy and a special section set up to show people the art of ETAGAMI; simple drawings of everyday life, usually coupled with a short phrase or comment that are shared with other--usually through the mail.
They are painted on weakly-sized washi using a brush held vertically from the end so perfect control is impossible and the inevitable bleed of some of the ink and color into the paper are part of the appeal.
So, with instruction, anyone who wanted to participate was allowed to draw a quick sketch with sumi and paint in colors using watercolors.  I left mine with the hosts but suscribed to their ETAGAMI exchange, which would pair me up--like a pen-pal--with a Japanese participant to exchange monthly Etagami. They are handling the actual bulk mailings and the only requirements were that the simple phrase to accompany the drawing be written in JAPANESE.

Here's the Etagami I received yesterday from Japan.

I can't read it and haven't had time to have it translated but it is a cheery orange or mandarin.

In keeping with the Season (and because I wasn't ready to deal with another horse) I went to the photo I took a few weeks ago of one of the Red chicories that are so loved here in the Winter.

The image at the top was the Etagami I made to send to Japan. It was my 3rd try (controlling the bleed wasn't easy....) and writing the Japanese using the brush too was as awkward as it must look from my calligraphy.
Here too is the preparatory sketch I did in my sketchbook with the English version of what I hope I wrote in Japanese (Thanks to Googletranslate I was able to play with different phrasings to get something I could write.).

I love watercolors and will be doing more of these. Hopefully I'll get more skilled.
If you Google: ETAGAMI and look at some of the examples,  there are some that are really phenomenal.


  1. Fun! And seems like it would be a nice break from printmaking to do quick (never) one-offs. I think the etagami you received says "sweet and delicious."

  2. Thanks, Annie. Yep. That's the online consensus. I hope the Japanese won't be scratching their heads when they see mine. The word order is so unlike English....These are really fun to do and gesture drawing was always something I liked to do. Plus if I draw food and plants I can continue to avoid the bigger issues of life.....

  3. Lovely work...a nicely contained story in a small square..Thanks for sharing and educating me!

  4. Nice!! Thanks for the ETAGAMI. It's inspiring and I want to focus more!

  5. The mandarin says "sweet and delicious".

  6. Thanks, George. My Japanese class doesn't start until March.....Thanks too for the nice comments Drusilla/Fabbbio (really 3 b's?) and Annie. These are really fun to do. I'm probably going to start doing one a week or something like that.....After all I have washi, sumi and plenty of brushes....