Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The Family of Our Man

Our Man is a bit nervous. See, it’s all very well to show his sketches online to his, er, fan(s), but it’s quite another to meet a couple of artists for drinks this weekend. Proper artists, not piss ones like Our Man. They told Our Man to bring his sketch book. Yikes. After he had removed the shopping lists, he realised it’s a bit thin on his own work. So he has a couple of days to add Proper Art and Such. Hmm. His latest how-to-draw book (Playing with Sketches) recommends practicising by copying the masters at an art museum. But the only proper museum in Abiko is devoted to birds and Our Man didn’t fancy sketching the stuffed ones on the third floor. So he commandeered a weighty tome of black and white photographs (left on his shelves by a fleeing ex-pat) called The Family of Man (hey, guess that title worked in 1955) and ripped off, er that is to say, paid homage to p183 (below). Our Man realises he got some of the proportions wrong and he is a bit frustrated with his lack of technical abilitiy, but while not many of the sketches actually look much like their subjects, they do capture how they look to Our Man pretty much. Which is a start.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The shrine at Mt Tskuba

Your bog-standard torii gate.
Our Man sketched these sights of the Shinto shrine halfway up Mt Tskuba, about 50 km from Abiko, but a world away from the cares of the bunker. The overnight trip was a welcome respite from the shock news received on Friday that a good friend of Our Man’s has been diagnosed with stage four cancer. There is no stage five.

An 800 year-old tree.
This took me an hour to finish. So many lines to put in, but each
 represented an individual piece of timber.  Must have taken the carpenters
quite a bit longer to put the real thing together.
Now wash your hands.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Monk-ey business

Saw this chap at Tennodai Station vying with drinks vending machines for passers-by spare change.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Master copy

There is a bit of method in Our Man’s madness. See, all this faffing about with art and stuff is not just to expand his consciousness or keep the Mitsubishi Corporation pencil division profitable, but to provide Our Man Enterprises with something tangible one day: self-made covers for self-published books that don’t immediately (or at least on second viewing) repulse readers.

So, to that end he thought he’d experiment by copying a master, none other than Geoff Grandfield who created some brilliant artwork for Walter Mosley crime novels back in the 90s for Serpent’s Tail books (pictured below) that are on Our Man’s shelves. You might know him better for his Graham Greene covers for Penguin USA (check them out on his website, they are something else).

A few immediate observations: coloured pencils on sketchbook paper, as lovely as they are, show Our Man’s limitations. Also, even a slight difference in proportions can change a person’s face quite dramatically from a mean brother to a Desperate Dan. This drawing business ain’t as easy as it looks.

Back to the drawing board for Our Man. He’s not sure that he has the wherewithal to master anything more complicated than a 4B Mitsubishi, but he’s inspired by the approach Mr Grandfield has taken and with a slight change in scene and style (less downtown LA, more shitamachi Abiko) Our Man might figure out a suitable style before one of us dies.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

View of the neighbours

“Another one?”
“Yes, get a move on.”
“One? What am I supposed to do with one?”
“Well, you could take it inside and wash it. You don’t get it?”
“Oh, I get it all right. You’re the one who doesn’t get it. Why do you make me go into the kitchen one at a time?”
“They stay fresher that way.”
“That makes sense only to an idiot. Normal people don’t think like that. What kind of a man thinks like that? Put them all together.”
“That’s not the way I do it.”
“You are so annoying. Do it your-bloody-self then.”

Man and woman as overheard from Our Man’s breakfast table one Sunday morning.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Rose Hotel, Yokohama

How best to draw Chinatown, Yokohama? Probably by looking out the hotel window, for a start. But Our Man woke up this morning, contented after last night’s fill of niku-man and Tsingtao beer and was taken with the way the early morning light fell between the gap between the curtains into the corner of the room. So he drew that instead of dragons and red and gold Chinesey things.

Shinzo Abe and the Redoubling of Efforts (TM)

Cut n paste isn't just for journos anymore, now pols can do it with the Shinzo Abe Speech generator. Here's one I made just now. The algorithm's pretty easy:

I will redouble my efforts.
I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. 
I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. 
I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. 
I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. 
I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. I will redouble my efforts. 

What? It's all here.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Sleep for your supper

Not particularly happy with this one. You can't really tell from the way I've drawn this poor chap (whose only crime was of sitting opposite me on the Joban Line) that he was actually asleep.

Once again, those pesky hands are ill-defined. And the proportions of shoulders to legs were off.

Oh, how you must suffers for Our Man's art.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Kita-Senju Underground

Discovering that a) people don't tend to stand still long enough for a proper sketch, b) hands and faces are hard to do c) sketching is less pervy than photographing. But still feels a little creepy to me to do in public. Our Man will persevere.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Local colour at the Tokyo Metropolitan

Our Man read in the inspiring Playing with Sketches by Whitney Sherman that people do actually go to art museums and sketch other people's stuff.

So that's exactly what Our Man and Our Youngest did today at an Egypt exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. The sphinx was the first of the day and was a bit rushed (the sketch of it, not the, er, sphinx) but we enjoyed doing the dog vase (that our Man was reliably informed by Tokyo's preeminent J-politics blogger was one of four to contain the innards of the mummified pharoah.) There were a couple of mummies, but with no seats, Our Man didn't think he could do their caskets justice, especially with the ever-present gallery guards who had marked Our Man out as a trouble-maker.

It started with Our Youngest who had the audacity to bring an eraser along with her sketch pad. Just as her rubber hit the paper, the guard was at my ear.
"No erasers in the gallery."
"No erasers in the gallery."
"Oh? What?"
But I didn't push it with the youngest there. It wasn't our art gallery after all. Lord knows what terrible damage eraser shavings might do to the gallery Hoovers.
So we moved on to a fresco of an Egyptian queen that we thought we could mimic. She looked cool and you could just make out the red of her skin, a couple of thousand years after the artist and subject's world had disappeared.
It was quite moving.
So we both thought we'd have a go at colouring in the sketch.
"No. Please stop. You cannot do that."
"What now?"
"You can't use the, er…"
"Eraser? We're not using an eraser."
"No, no. You can't use red pencils. No colour please."
"No colour."
"No colour? Why not?"
"It's dangerous. It might get onto other people's clothes."
"From my pencil?"
"Yes. It's very regrettable."
"Yes, especially this being an art gallery."
"It's funny that we can't use pencils to sketch in an art gallery, I mean this is an art gallery. Doesn't that strike you as funny?"
"You can use a pencil, a grey or black pencil but not a coloured pencil."
"That's still pretty funny."
She didn't laugh.

We finished our sketches over a vivd-red strawberry snow cone in the gallery cafe.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Unfinished lines

Why, look at that. It's a snap of a modern (prefer "modern" to the term "BMW") Mini Cooper in classic British racing green. Well, it will be when our Man finds his green pencil. It will probably be the main artwork on a kiddies English language textbook, if it makes it to the finish line.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Last of the Abikans

Or alternatively, The First of The Cross-hatchers. Cross-hatching is nothing to do with cross-dressing, as far as Our Man is aware. Cross-hatching is the art of etching pictures by drawing diagonal lines and then drawing more diagonal lines at right angles. Draw them close together and it adds shading. Rip off famous book designs and you have the bare-bones of a decent book cover. With a bit more practice. And talent. 

Our Man has been dying to write a book called "The Last of The Abikans". Sometimes the best stories start with the headline, as Our Man recalls from his days with the newsroom savages.

“There have been daring people in the world who claimed that Fenimore Cooper could write English, but they are all dead now.” 
― Mark TwainFenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Fireworks over Abiko

So here’s Day Two’s sketch. It was so average I felt the need to turn it into a negative and make out that it’s symbolics or something. You know, night, and all. But the fact is I rushed it while waiting for the fireworks (those would be the scribble in the right-hand corner). Mind you, I was absolutely destroyed by my nine-year-old daughter who given the same time frame - about five minutes - came up with this masterpiece:


And the fireworks weren’t bad either.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Cheese Garden

Our Man’s latest wheeze is to learn to draw properly. He bought two books on the subject. One recommended using his eyes a lot and the other suggested sketching everyday and keeping a blog about it. So Our Man commandeered a 4B pencil, a 100-yen sketch pad and found something to draw for Day One. He’s already got a blog that isn’t doing much of anything at the moment. Don’t ask him how many days he can keep doing this. Or what exactly a cheese garden is. But he liked the packaging.

Collectors` editions

A real person actually emailed Our Man the other day.

Hard to believe, I know, but it happened. And he (for it was a he) asked if Our Man had a link to the  ebook of How to Write About Japan.

The short answer was "no."

The slightly longer answer was "Yes, if you give Our Man a couple of months to tidy the files up and release with a couple of other essays and do it all under his real name."

Our Man will never make it as a salesman, clearly.

Or a publisher.

But this chap might.