The Fox’s Wedding

paper mixed media tableau of two kitsune spirits in kimonos getting married

In Japan, I am told that when the sun is shining brightly through the rain, they say “Today is a good day for foxes” or “Today is a good day for a fox to get married.” Such days are supposed to be dear to kitsune, the mischievous fox spirits of Japanese legend.

A couple of years back I determined to try and do a piece based on the idea of a kitsune wedding. But all my efforts to make a digital painting or drawing left me unsatisfied. Finally, I hit upon an unusual idea. I would make paper dolls from origami paper and stage a diorama where the foxes marched in their wedding procession. A red candle served as the curved red bridge that so many of us think of when we think of Asian imagery, and a rippling blue and gold scarf made a lovely river. I folded origami trees, painted a sunny yellow background and placed old soapstone fish in the river beneath the bridge. My paper foxes were aided by pipe-cleaner skeletons to stay upright, and one bold little fox held aloft a ribbon banner fixed to a chopstick. And so my fox wedding was born!

I photographed my fox dolls in different situations, doing another series of photos of two girl foxes carrying a lantern through a dark forest. I’ll post more photos of my fox photo-session later, along with this other series “Enchanted Forest.” But for now, I hope you enjoy my wedding foxes on their special day! …a sunny, and rainy, day.

O-Iwa and Iyemon

from the first big kaidan, a noh play about a faithless murdering husband and his vengeful wife.

O-Iwa, the woman with the bird skull, and Iyemon, the terrified man drawing his weapon, are a diptych I did for my Patchwork Dragon solo show at Winzerwald Evansville Wine Tasting Room. I decoupaged origami paper, typing paper and joss paper (ghost money) on wood. Incidentally, while I wanted to use “ghost money” paper in a piece about an Asian ghost legend, I did NOT use the actual ghost money itself, white paper with a silver square in the middle. It can be insulting or alarming to use those publicly as some people think it is ill luck to look at them. Finally, I augmented each piece with black and white ink and comic zipatone. Below the images is a short description of the story these pieces are based upon.

O-Iwa and Iyemon are an iconic husband and wife from Yotsuya Kaidan (四谷怪談), the most famous Japanese horror story of all time. The story is rather long and complicated, but in short Iemon/Iyemon, the husband, became tired of his devoted and loving wife O-Iwa. Wanting to marry a richer and more influential woman, Iyemon poisoned O-Iwa shortly after she bore their child. O-Iwa did not die but became horribly disfigured, and ultimately took her own life. At Iyemon’s wedding, her vengeful disfigured ghost appeared right in front of his new bride. Enraged, he drew his sword to slay the spirit, and in so doing ended up killing the bride.

I created the ghostly O-Iwa with a bird skull as a substitution for her horribly disfigured face. Many of the pieces in Patchwork Dragon involved skeletal imagery, so I wanted to retain the theme as well as portray O-Iwa in a way she’s hopefully never been seen before. Ghostly blue flames (kaika) creep up the side of the screen next to her, while threatening black flames hover on either side of her and swarm around Iyemon’s scabbard, foreshadowing the horrible mistake he is about to be led into. The screen on the two pieces lines up perfectly so that when hung together, O-Iwa is clearly seen as advancing on the horrified and guilty Iyemon.

Sadly, this couple was separated! I only have Iyemon left now, frozen in the eternal fear his abominable actions have condemned him to suffer for all time. If you wish to have him, contact me and we’ll talk.

Rhyme and Reason and my Kids Book obsession

a picture with a fairy castle in the clouds made out of paper collaged onto an old page from The Phantom Tollbooth

This is a little quasi-3D piece I did for two very close friends as a Christmas present a couple of years back. I used a deep frame I found along with a scan of a page of one of my favorite children’s books, The Phantom Tollbooth. This page introduces the twin princesses Rhyme and Reason, rulers of the kingdom of Wisdom. After the princesses were imprisoned in the Castle in the Air, the kingdom of Wisdom fell into chaos. Since my two friends remind me of these princesses, the page seemed ideal. I scanned it to get that nice yellowed color (it’s from the 1960’s).

I made little rolls of paper to act as supports for the clouds and part of the balcony of the Castle in the Air, and cut everything else out of origami paper which I then drew on with white and black ink. My friend Amy Wilke of Paper Raven Art + Design does this kind of thing all the time, a lot better, and would probably wince at the methods I used. But I managed to achieve something workable.

On a side note, I adore children’s/young adult books and still buy them for myself often. Books like The Phantom Tollbooth and The Faery Flag are chock-full of interesting ideas, while no one who’s ever shuddered at Stephen Gammell’s illustrations for the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trilogy or seen the breathtaking art of a Leo Lionni book will soon forget it. If I ever do a children’s book, I will consider it a high point of my career and not some sort of emergency financial concession.

Miao Yin

the girl with the green eyes from big trouble in little china hypnotized

I elected to do a dual portrait of the beautiful Miao Yin, “The Girl With the Green Eyes” from Big Trouble in Little China for the upcoming Big Lebowski in Little China show this April 19th!

I’ll be collaging gold and red paper elements, beads and perhaps some fabric onto this, but I wanted to give you a little preview of the digital underpainting!

Online reader for 2010 Sketchbook “Down My Street”

two demons or lords of xibalba emerge from the parts of a car engine, resembling something from a painting by hieronymous bosch

At the time I made this post my book had not been uploaded to The Sketchbook Project’s digital library yet. I’ve updated the link in the original post, but I wanted to feature this work again since I haven’t spoken about it here since 2011. My sketchbook “Down My Street” helped me get back a great deal of my artistic momentum and it also helped me practice writing a compelling, coherent narrative over a long format. As one kind reader put it,

Hello there. There’s some lovely work on this site, but your sketchbook is probably the most absorbing one I’ve seen. I found the imagery and the stories fascinating, and liked the way you put notes at the back. It made reading it a second time, a different experience.

Thank you, Raccoon906!! Your art is awesome!

itchy… ̡̢̡̢̛̛̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍̎… ̔̕̚̕̚ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿.re..d! ̡bå̢̡̢̛̛̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍̎.ll.. ̔̕̚̕ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿oons… ̡̢̡̢̛̛̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍̎… ̔̕̚̕̚҉ ̡̢̡̢̛̛̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍̎… ̔̕̚̕̚҉ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿… ͡҉҉

pollen is like itchy red balloons in my head.

itchy red balloons by sandpaperdaisy