LAST DAY for pre-orders

Already?? This month just flew by. I haven’t been able to upload nearly as much as I’d like to since I’ve been working on the pre-orders for latest book (and the next… few), not to mention moving. To another country. Yikes. But it’s all starting to wrap up now. Today is the last chance to get in an order for the Art Book (see details here: LINK). Not 20 minutes ago I finally finished up all of the edits needed for the book to be print-ready, so tomorrow I’ll finally get to order the first shipment of books for all of you who’ve already purchased one! The day after that (Mon) I’ll be getting the moving truck and then it’s a few days of truckin all the way up to Portland OR. Then, finally, I’ll have a minute to breath… at least until the convention in CO at the beginning of August.

So if you’d like to squeak in at the end of the pre-order and grab yourself a copy, you can check out the link above for details, or go to the straight to the order page HERE.

Inspiration: Mexican Huichol Art

I’ve already talked a lot about Aboriginal Australian art and how much it’s inspired me in my own work. Their art has been inspiring me for most of my life, but just recently I also found the Huichol.

My sister and her boyfriend moved to a small town just north of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in Nayarit about three years ago. After they had settled in a bit I flew down to visit with them (…and the beach). My sister had been telling me about the local artwork and how amazing it was, so one day we drove to the next town over for a weekend market where we were hoping to see some. Sure enough there were several booths set up… absolutely overflowing with color. The tables mostly consisted of yarn paintings and bead work and all of it was absolutely beautiful. I knew I’d found something really special as soon as I saw it.

I wish I could say more about the Huichol (Wixaritari) people, but the truth is I don’t know very much yet. I do know that they are an extremely old culture and struggling to remain intact. They retain their own language and religion, one based in Animism, and the designs of their art are direct reflections of that faith.

Some Huicholes have actually brought their art to wider audiences through galleries and exhibitions. One of my favorites is this:

It’s a Volkswagon Bug and it’s covered, absolutely covered, in over 2 million glass beads.

It’s name is Vochol (VW Bugs are called “Vochos” in Mexico). I’ve known about it for a while, but in one of those amazing coincidences I walked right into it one day! I was flying in to Denver International Airport (of all places..!) and as I was walking out of Arrivals I looked up and there it was, right in the middle of the floor. There was no lighting on it and only the tiniest display with it so it was easy to miss and I almost didn’t recognize it for what it was! I was geeking out and practically drooling all over it in the middle of the Airport… I got a few odd looks…

More traditional (and no less bad ass) Huichol bead art is normally done on carved wooden statues that are covered in Bee’s wax. Each little bead is pressed into the wax with a needle, one at a time.

There is also amazing beaded jewelry.

This is a super long post… but one last thing =)

For more information of Huichol you can check out the Wixarika Research Center.

Fur Suiting, for reals this time

So I posted something about this a few days ago and promised I would explain it. The most basic explanation of FurSuits is this; they are animal costumes.

A little more detail? Okay, so fursuits are most popular in a fandom called “Furry“. The point is to anthropomorphize an animal or creature that a person wants to represent themselves as. The Furry fandom is based around a group of people that, in one way or another, personify themselves in an animal, but it’s not limited to that. Interests within the fandom are extremely broad; anything from a love of classic old Bugs Bunny cartoons, to the spirit animals of Native Americans or the gods of ancient Egypt, to the more technical side of costuming and prosthetics. Personally? My interests are in the artistic aspect. As far as fandoms go, Furries are extremely art and artist friendly… but I’m getting off topic.

To be completely honest, when I first started selling at these conventions, fursuits freaked me out.

Seriously. WTF. Gigantic furry suits with big huge eyes towering over you with who knows who inside… Buuut I guess you can get used to just about anything given enough time, right? After I got over the initial shock I started to really appreciate the craftsmanship and creativity that goes into them. Every year I see something new and innovative that’s really amazing. There are a lot of hobbyists that dabble in fursuit creation, but then there are those hobbyists that have taken it to a whole new level, and even professionals in areas like Hollywood creature creation and animatronics. Two years ago I had a long conversation with a man who had created a fox head that was fully mobile. The eyes opened and closed as could the mouth. The lips around the teeth could even be bared like a snarl, all controlled by sensors placed on the wearer’s face. The ears were fully mobile and twitched and moved about according to a sort of “mood” sensor touching the wearer’s forehead within the mask. The man was an engineer by profession and had created the mask over the past few years as a fun side project.

On the more artistic side there are also creations like these.

They are unique designs by a studio called Clockwork Creatures and the craftsmanship and detail in each and every one is absolutely amazing. They remind me of the creatures and designs from the 1980’s movie The Dark Crystal (before CG took over the movie business…)

TL;DR… it can be a little shocking/confusing/creepy when you first see a fursuit, and yah, not all of them are amazing works of art or engineering… but no matter what, there is a lot of time and effort that goes into each and every one and sometimes the results can be really amazing.
EDIT: oh yah… it’s Thanksgiving today, isn’t it? Happy Turkey Day all of you States side =)

Back from the con aaaaand…

I promised a post explaining fur suits yesterday, didn’t I? Weeeell travel back home was a little crazy (early morning international flights are never fun…) and I’m bushed. Totally whipped out from the con weekend. So instead of a full explanation, for now I’ll just leave you with this:

Japan Trip Day 10 (Flight Home)

I have to say, I was feeling such a mix of sadness and relief on my way home from Japan. I had such an amazing time in a country for which I have so much love and respect… but at the same time, my feet were pancakes, my back was starting to feel like an 80 year old’s and I hadn’t had a full night’s sleep in weeks. It was time to go home and sleep it all off. I still had a 14 hour plane trip back to LA (on Korean Air, so it was pretty nice!), then a 4 hour layover and another 2 1/2 hour flight to Puerto Vallarta. I had the most amazing experience while sitting on the plane from Tokyo, though…

I love to draw the people around me on long flights or in settings where people are sitting still and not paying attention. I have to be a little sneaky about it though, since I don’t always get the best reactions from people when they see what I’m doing. I didn’t have too many options for this flight, since I couldn’t really see any of the people around me without leaning over them and staring awkwardly at the people beside me, so instead I drew a woman’s shoulder who was sitting in front and the the right of me, the man’s knee from across the aisle, and then the man’s hand who was seated next to me. I thought I was being sneaky, and I thought that the man next to me was actually asleep, but about half way through my drawing he sat up, tapped my hand and asked (in Japanese) if that was his hand that I was drawing. Oops..! I apologized and told him yes it was. I expected him to do what most people do; look at it for a bit, say it’s nice, then go back to whatever he was doing and hide his hands (or whatever I was drawing). Instead, he turned his light on and began admiring his hands! He kept pointing out the veins, positioning them in the way I had drawn them and saying “Omoshiroi… Omoshiroi desu ne?” (“Interesting… they’re interesting, aren’t they?”). He asked me a few questions and we managed to talk for a while in broken Japanese and broken English, then he went back to sleep (carefully putting his hands back in position for me), and I went back to drawing. He woke up a little while later as I was closer to finishing and again he admired what I had drawn for a bit, then asked to look through my sketchbook. He went through each page carefully, and commented on each drawing, before giving it back to me. Then he reached into his briefcase, pulled out a printout with some graphs on it, turned it over and began drawing. I continued drawing, but I was shocked when I looked over a little later to see that he had drawn my hands drawing his! And it was really beautiful!

He needed to keep the paper he had drawn his on, and he said that he didn’t want me to rip mine by taking it out, so instead we exchanged photos. We each signed our names on the drawings, then I took a photo of his on my camera and he took one with the phone he kept on a cord around his neck. Here’s mine,

and here is the drawing he did of me drawing! The lights in the cabin were all off, so the lighting is awful… but at least you can see it.

Signed by Nobuaki Komatsu.

We talked for a while longer and he showed me pictures on his phone of his wife and the shrine they had just visited, and I got to practice a lot more of my Japanese. So it turned out to be a very nice flight, and even though I was tired, the rest of the travel time back to Mexico wasn’t bad at all (despite being sat in the middle of a group of already drunk middle-aged tourists on their way to “Porto Valarta” from LA…).

Japan Trip Day 9

The next day, our last day in Japan, went a whole lot better. We woke up absolutely determined to finish everything that we had missed our first time in Tokyo because of flight delays. Our first stop was Yokohama, an area not far outside of Tokyo. There we went up the Landmark Tower to the 69th floor, which only took about 15 seconds on the direct elevator, and the view was incredible.

When you go down the Tower you get dropped in the middle of an enormous mall that’s a little maze-like, but while we wandered around trying to find the exit we couldn’t help walking into the Pokemon store that was so loud and full of people you had to yell just to be heard, and the Ghibli store that had just about every Ghibli-themed nicknack you can imagine. We were going to stop by the Ferris Wheel that’s next to the tower as well, but we decided we didn’t really have the time and the Osaka one was much more impressive anyway. We did browse through a little flea market that was set up nearby though. It was mostly young women cleaning out the old cloths/bags/accessories from their closets, and a few people with antiques.

When we made it back to Tokyo, our first stop was Meiji Shrine since we’d missed that on our first day. The shrine is amazing, huge, beautiful and crowded! It’s located in the middle of some of the busiest areas of Tokyo and it’s a major site so there are always people there, but that makes it a great place for people watching. I WISH I’d had more time there. I could have sat and drawn all of the different types of people in that crowd for hours. But we did take lots of photos.

I was taking a photo of the shrine entrance, but when I looked closer I saw that I had caught these two in the side frame and it was so much better then the picture I was trying to take. It’s a little boy and his mom dressed up in traditional dress for a special occasion.

We were also so amazingly lucky; there were two weddings going on at the shrine while we were there. This first photo is of the later wedding, since they were still preparing and taking photos.

Ant then this photo is of the first wedding to take place, as the bride and groom had their wedding photos taken just before the ceremony began. (Is it just me, or is the groom making a really funny face? lol)

While we waited for the wedding procession to begin, we walked into the inner grounds and photographed some of the people walking around. There were kids everywhere, dressed up in their finest.

Then, just as we were about to leave, the wedding processional began. Everyone in the square made a path for them to walk through to the main building.

And the wedding party bringing up the rear (one of the girls got a little distracted by something interesting on the ground…)

And then they were gone! The crowd went right back to being crowded and we headed to the exit to snap one last photo of the all the people in the shrine.

Just a few minute’s walk out to get out of the forests surrounding Meiji Shrine (and a short pit-stop for beef bowls and ice cream), and we popped out into Harajuku. You know that awful Gwen Stephanie song, Harajuku Girls? Yep, that’s the place. Right next to Meiji Shrine, there’s one of the craziest shopping districts you’ll ever see.

We walked around there for a little bit before heading off again, this time for Ikebukuro (another crazy entertainment/shopping district) to try just ONE last time to see the movie we had tried and failed to see three times now. We got to Ikebukuro with no problems, since it’s just a few stops away from Harajuku, but once there we realized just how difficult it was going to be to find the cinema with the incredibly vague directions google had given us. It was like walking into a mini Shibuya… but somehow, I’m still shocked, we actually managed to find our way to the right cinema (there were several). It was tucked away down one of the streets and on the 6th floor of an arcade. Our fourth try finally worked out and we walked into the movie as the previews began, and I have to say, it was SO worth it!! We saw Rurouni Kenshin (るろうに剣心) and I’ve never been a big fan of Japanese cinema before, but this movie completely changed my mind. I would have watched it twice if I could. The funny thing is, everyone was almost completely silent during the whole film, and even stayed (still completely silent!) until after the credits and the light came on. I normally do that because I like to wait for the crowd to move out, and so many movies have extra clips at the end nowadays… but I’ve never been in a theatre where every single person stays. 0_0

By the time we got out of the movie it was getting a little late, so we used the rest of our time to do a little last minute shopping/browsing around Ikebukuro. When the stores closed around 9 we swung by Hamamatsuchou to see Tokyo Tower. We didn’t have time to go up it, but the light show going on around it was worth the trip. I wish I had a photo but my camera just couldn’t handle the night shot. Maybe if I’d had a tripod, but it just turned out an orangey-yellow blob. I did at least manage to get one last photo of the shrine next to the tower. The Shrine is called Zojoji and features rows of small statues called Jizoubosatsu (地蔵菩薩  – じぞうぼさつ). They represent the souls of unborn/still born children and those wishing to pay their respects dress the statues in warm knits and bibs, and place windmills, candy and small toys around the bases.

Japan Trip Day 8

Day 8 was mostly a travel day for us, since we were heading back to Tokyo from Osaka, but we got up early in the morning and headed out to fit just a couple more things in. Our first stop was Osaka Castle. It’s a beautiful structure that pops up over the trees that surround it. I can’t imagine what it must have looked like when it was still in use; it must have been incredible!

The interior has been turned into a museum and each level is different. There are letters written by Hideyoshi Toyotomi himself, clothing worn by the people who lived in the castle, there are even little models mixed tiny live action reenactments (they’re adorable and Lan and I were hooked for a good 30 min even though we were in a hurry). When you get to the top you can walk out onto the balcony, and the view is beautiful.

The castle was great, but the best part was when I was suddenly mobbed by a group of school kids on a field trip. A girl was saying something to me (VERY LOUD) and I couldn’t quit understand at first. It sounded as if she was asking me where the bath was (“ofuro”)… then another girl whispered something to her and she said, “Where are you from?” (again VERY LOUD). I told them I was american in english and then japanese and got a chorus of “Woooooooow!!” and clapping. They practiced their english with me a little more, telling me things they liked and disliked. One girl said, “I am Japan.” then asked to shake hands. It was so cute! I wish I could have talked to them longer but we all had to move on so I shook a couple more hands and waved bye. Lan snapped a photo of the kids while they were asking me questions.

This was the first time any kids had actually stopped to talk to me, but throughout the whole trip we’ve passed by groups of school kids on their way somewhere to a chorus of “Hello! Hello! Hello!”. Almost always little boys, and almost always sounding more like “Herro!”

So we decided we had time for just one more stop after Osaka Castle before we headed out, and it would be the Osaka Ferris Wheel. It was a quick stop; a short train ride and we ran right over and hopped in line. There was almost no one there so we got right on. The view from the top was really pretty and we got to see the whole harbor .

That done, we hopped back on the train (after grabbing some takoyaki real quick) back to our hotel to grab our bags and make our way to the Shinkansen for one last trip back north to Tokyo.Here are some more train drawings and doodles.

The train ride wasn’t that bad and we were still hopeful that we’d make it to that movie we’d now tried twice to get to… but then there was the trek to our hotel… We got in at Tokyo Station, which is a beautiful station but nowhere near where our directions told us we needed to get onto the subway. Of course, we didn’t know that, we just followed the signs… for about 5 city blocks, with all of our luggage. Up stairs, down stairs, outside then back in. Finally we made it to the subway station we were looking for and had to walk another 2 city blocks just to get out of the station and to the hotel in Nihombashi! By the time we got there it was so late and we were so gross and tired we decided to just call it a night. Oh, and here’s the lovely view from our hotel window.

Yah, that’s an office. I could have reached across and stolen some of their pencils if I’d wanted to…

Japan Trip Day 7

Today was a special day trip from Osaka up into the mountains. From Nanba station we bought a train/cable car/bus pass for Koya San that included discounts to most of the temples and some restaurants in the area. From there it was about a two hour train ride through smaller and smaller stations until we were winding through the mountains.

It was a long ride so I had plenty of time to amuse myself by sketching the other passengers on the train.

When we finally arrived we immediately got lost (like we do). We ended up taking the wrong bus and thinking that the temple we were heading for was much closer then it actually was, we just started walking. We ended up walking in a long loop around part of the town and several temples, but it wasn’t so bad considering everywhere you look there’s something absolutely amazing. This post is going to be a little photo heavy… but just look at the place!

Since Koya San is so high up it it was definitely chilly and all of the leaves were changing colors. There were some trees that were so bright they didn’t even look like they could be real.

After a little more wandering around we caught another bus (the right one this time) to Okunoin Temple. This temple is the resting place of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism, and surrounding it is the largest cemetery in Japan: almost 200,000 gravestones dating back over a thousand years. It’s the beginning of the traditional pilgrimage route through the peninsula so the roads are packed with men and women carrying walking sticks and dressed in white cotton outfits with bells.

If you take your time, the walk to and from the central temple could take you all day. There are two entrances, the shorter one where the bus drops you off and the long one that starts in the middle of town. We began at the entrance by the bus station and made out way to the central temple. There is a small bridge near the center of the grounds that leads to the main temple, over which no photos are allowed. It’s a beautiful large building which you are allowed to enter and inside you can see the priests of the shrine at work or at prayers. On the way back, we just happened to accidentally bump into family grave site of Hideyoshi Toyotomi…! My Japanese history may be rough, but even I know who this guy was.

We managed to find the longer path on our way back out and it was worth the extra time. The paths are small, surrounded by enormous trees and gravestones in every direction. There are small yen offerings tucked away everywhere you look; in small bowls set out in from of shrines, placed on top of grave stones tree trunks and stones, and even tucked into the bark of trees. There are also tiny idols that you can find all over the place, often so hidden away you may never see them.

When we finally made our way out of the graveyard we realized it was a little late… and we still wanted to make it to the movie that we missed the day before! We had to sit and wait (shivering… it was cold) for about a half hour before the bus came, then it was back to the cable car down to the train station and back towards Osaka. Unfortunately for us it took a good 2 1/2 hours for the train to get back. We had completely misjudged our movie time again and missed it for the second time.

Oh well, there’s still time!

Japan Trip Day 6

Today we got up super early. We knew we were leaving for Osaka in the afternoon, but we wanted to squeeze just a little more time in to see more of Kyoto. We hopped a city bus and about 45 minutes later we were at Kinkakuji. Another very well known, iconic temple, and well worth the trip.

The upper floors are covered in gold leaf. This is because (at least as I understand it) the upper floors hold the actual shrines, and the gold leaf is to represent on the exterior a reflection of what is held within. I haven’t had any time to color adjust any of my photos, so it’s a bit difficult to see just how beautiful this shrine really is, but here’s a link to a much better image if you’re curious.

After a short walk through the grounds there are lots of food vendors, so we each bought a few snacks. There were even special Kinkakuji Dango with gold flakes! They were delicious. (The other ones there are chocolate covered)

After we’d munched a bit we walked out of the shrine and… got more food! There was a very cute little Udon shop just across the street and we just couldn’t help ourselves.

After we’d stuffed ourselves we hopped back on the bus to our hotel, then hiked over to the JR terminal to hop back on the Shinkansen, this time for Osaka. I remembered to snag a photo this time =)

We were really hoping to get to Osaka in time to go see a movie that we had both been looking forward to (るろうに剣心 RurouniKenshin), but it was a bit of a scramble just to find our hotel and then the theatre… It was actually connected to Shin-Osaka subway station which is massive and crazy. So we found the theatre to hopefully see the movie the next day, then found a little Okonomiyaki place nearby. YUM!! Okonomiyaki is one of my favorite things and Osaka is the place to get it.

Japan Trip Day 5

Haha, weeeell it turns out internet isn’t always as easy to come by here as I thought it would be, so I missed a couple days! I’ll just have to back track a bit… so I’m already on day 8, but I’ll go back to day 5 and go from there.

Today (Day 5) was all about the shrines! We had a goal to see four of the larger shrines in Kyoto and we made it to three of them today; Fushimiinari, Kiyomizudera and Yasakajinja (the shrine at the end of Shijo Street in Gion). The first, Fushimiinari was the one I was most excited for. It’s the head shrine dedicated to Inari, a fox god of wheat, money, business and luck (among other things). It’s most famous for it’s iconic Torii gate paths, each one donated to the shrine by a business hoping to gain Inari’s good favor.

The path to the entrance to the shrine is lined with thousands of plaques covered in the names of the businesses that have donated.

Then the road opens up to reveal the enormous entrance to the shrine.

Just inside the main entrance are rows of stores selling shrine souvenirs, mostly fox inspired (I got a little bobble head Inari charm! Maybe it will give me a little luck…). There were also lots of tanuki, snakes and manekineko

A bit further in the grounds open up, until you come to the main attraction: Paths to the inner grounds lined with literally thousands of Torii gates.

Then there are the charms when you get to the inner grounds. These are always a really fun part of the shines; they are charms made by the shrines for anything from recovering from an illness to passing an important exam.

And one last photo from Fushimiinari: Inari holding harvest wheat in his mouth.

Our next stop was Kiyomizudera… but it was a little bit of a fail on our part. We didn’t realize that the Kiyomizudera that we had heard about and seen so many images of was actually the observatory and the main shrine area, which is far less interesting, is much closer to the city. So we made it to the main shrine and there was nothing there, and by that time it was too late to get all the way to the observatory! Well it wasn’t a complete waste of time; as we were leaving the grounds, we saw a few of the local monks appear from inside the off limits area and walk into the main temple. A few minutes later a couple very young (and very late I think) monks ran into the main temple building as well, and moments later the daily chants began.

We stayed to listen for a while, then headed off to visit Yasaka Shrine before it got too late. Yasakajinja is the shrine we saw the day before, but it was already all closed down for the night. During the day there are vendors that line the path into the shrine that sell all sorts of things; antiques, clothing, and lots of yummy food. There are also (of course!) more charms being sold by the men and women of the shrine complex.

So it was a very full day of shrines complexes and trains and running around. The plan for the next day was to wake up early early, book it to just ooone more shrine, run back to the hotel then board the Shinkansen for Osaka… but that will be another post!