This is the first of a pair of recent replications of images from the Nanajuichiban Shokunin Uta-awaseemaki, a medieval Japanese scroll that depicts an imaginary poetry competition between artisans and artists of various types.
This emaki (illustrated scroll) depicts a poetry competition (uta-awase) among people of various occupations. The competition has 71 rounds, and 142 different kinds of craftspeople (shokunin) are depicted, each with their own poem. This image depicts a musician playing a stringed instrument called a “Biwa”, the strings are plucked with a fan-shaped plectrum. As he is depicted with a walking stick and geta sandals, he is most likely an itinerant musician.
You can see that I did a little bit of playing with color and composition, particularly the arrangement of the musician’s accoutrement. The first one is most true to the original scroll, but I like the way the green coloring came out on the second copy.
I want to get better at creating traditional-looking artwork from photographs. I had a couple of photos from our trip to Japan for the 2019 braiding conference, so I decided to try tracing them and making some Sesshu-inspired scroll blanks.
This first one is actually a composite of two photos. I had one photo of the ducks, and another of the distant shore of the pond. I combined these to create a little bit of perspective. I’m really happy with the way this one turned out. The ducks are attractive, and I was able to show the reflection of the shoreline in the water nicely.
I’m somewhat less happy with this one. The turtle and the rock just are not very interesting, and the rocky shoreline at the top is just a bunch of gray blobs. Maybe with some color it could be nice, but maybe not. They can’t all be winners.
I tried doing this one as a gray wash only artwork, but the tree came out looking like a big gray blob on a stick, so I added a myriad of little daubs in four different colors of green. I kind of like it now. The bird is very visible.
I should note that I have expanded my “SCA Emaki” page to include most of my more recent explorations of Yamato-e brushwork.
More Choju Jinbutsu Giga copies, this time with a fox carrying food and a rabbit carrying a musical instrument. I did a number of variations on this one, with different arrangements of the elements, including some of the greenery that is all over the historical scroll.
I tired coloring in the outlines again, and I think it worked out much better this time than last time.
Here’s one with color outlines, and I think this came out great! It’s basically the effect I’ve been trying to achieve.
Continuing in my project to work my way through the lesser-known images from the Choju Jinbutsu Giga, we come to this image of two rabbit washing a deer. This is probably a ritual bath for the animal, preparatory to a blessing by a priest.
This first one is a traditional ink-only rendition in the hakubyo style of the original.
This one I got a little ambitious with the color, I think. These hues are way too saturated.
This one I just did the outlines, but with colored paints instead of just ink. This is not as dark as the second one, but it’s maybe too light. The deer is like a ghost deer.
The Chōjū Jinbutsu Giga emaki is an ancient wordless scroll of “frolicking animals”. It is generally considered to be a satire of the habits and behavior of the nobility. There are four scrolls in the collection, which does get displayed occasionally. The first scroll is the most well know, and the most popular images from the scroll are available as all kinds of merchandise. I bought some postcards and rubber stamps when I was at the Tokyo National Museum in 2016.
This image is one of the less popular ones from right near the beginning of the first scroll. It shows what is probably a ritual bath before the day’s activities.
Yes, I got the image backwards in this first one. My process involves scanning an image, darkening the primary lines on a printout with a marker, and then tracing from the modified image. I use a light panel for all this, and I usually darken the back of the printout. This makes the primary lines easier to see when it’s time to trace in ink onto the final paper. I forgot to flip the printout before starting on the ink tracing. Oops.
I think I got the facial expression on the seated monkey much better in this version. I also did a third copy, but this one is larger and does not leave much room on the paper for the words of a scroll, so it will probably just go into my portfolio.
As pre-elevation ritual for a Knighthood in the SCA involves a ritual bath, maybe this would be a good image for a writ scroll? /shrug
One of my secret plans is to eventually reproduce the Choju Giga (at least the first scroll) in its entirety. It may take a team of people to do it. I need a lot more practice on these less-popular sections, though.
The paintings are not actually diseased, of course. The original scroll is called the Yamai no Soshi emaki, which is “Scroll of Diseases and Afflictions”. This is a pretty unpleasant scroll overall, but there are some nice details. I particularly like this image of a calm maidservant carrying her mistress’ burden.
I’m clearly back into the swing of painting by now. The inking is smooth, the color is even, and the shading is good. I even put little escarbuncles on the package.
One of my favorite comic books is Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai. Even when he’s working in black and white, he usually adds graphic interest to the clothing of characters by embellishing the fabric with repeating graphics. I decided to use this effect, adding little cherry blossoms to the maid’s kosode.
Here I added little ikat patterns to the kosode, and gave the package a tie-dye coloring. This started when some of the blue from the robe ran over into the wrapping cloth, then I tried to cover it up with some red, which just made it look like whatever was in the package was leaking blood. So, I had to do still more work.
This one got a reasonably smooth gradient coloring, made by mixing up some yellow paint, then adding orange, then adding red. I’m happy with how this turned out. The coloring is pretty smooth, too.
When Sharon and I went to Iga, Japan for the braiding conference in 2019, after the conference was over we spent a few days in Kyoto to see the sights. One of those days we walked over to the Kyoto National Museum. They were having an exhibition of most of the panels that used to be part of the Satake family version of the “36 Immortal Poets” scroll. this scroll was infamously broken up into individual hanging scrolls about a hundred years ago, and this was the most complete exhibition since that time.
Since I knew that eventually I would want to get back into scroll painting, I bought the book of the exhibit. This is first of my copies from this book, a portrait of Yamabe no Akihito. He is considered to be a poet only slightly less great than the famous Hitomaro.
This one is OK, but not great. The coloring is uneven and the shading is not very good. The original has terrific shading. I wish I’d thought about all the little details in his writing box (suzuribako) before I got started.
This one is much better. The coloring is almost completely even, and the shading is great. I even added the “medallions” to his hitoe underlayer that are visible in the original. Although, I seem to have forgotten the brush next to his foot.
This one I colored in red, and made the medallions into escarbuncles in honor of my home kingdom of Aethelmearc. The coloring and shading are good, and I like the way the escarbuncles came out.
When I started tracing emaki images for scroll blanks, the very first one I did was from the Eshi Zoshi emaki. This emaki recounts the rise and fall of a young poet appointed to the court. I decided to do some “back to the well” blanks as part of my current work, just to see if I’d gotten any better over time.
The outlines are good, but clearly, I had forgotten everything I ever learned about coloring this image. This one went straight into the “scrap” folder as soon as the paint was dry.
This one’s OK, although the skin tone came out a bit dark. I added some Hojo mon to the zabuton pillow for some reason.
Now I’m back in the swing of things! Good inking, good coloring, and I even added some light shading to give it a bit more dimensionality and texture. I’m pretty happy with this one.
These three scroll blanks are traced from a frame captured from “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” a 2013 animated film Studio Ghibli. This film is beautiful, and has a large number of beautiful images in it.
This modern animated film is based on an anonymous 10th-century folk tale called “Tale of the Bamboo Cutter”. It follows the life of a mysterious baby girl who is found in a shining bamboo stump and raised to be a princess by a poor childless couple.
For almost a decade following its release, this was the most expensive Japanese film ever produced, possibly due to the art style that is based on the Yamato-e style of old Japanese illustrated scrolls (emaki). In 1999, director Takahata published a book called “From a Painting” in which he explored traditional Japanese art and its ties to his animation.
In this image, the devoted maidservants of the Princess ready her cart for travel.
This one, I think I laid the color on a bit heavy. It’s vibrant as heck, but you can’t tell that the maid’s gowns are four different colors.
This one’s a bit lighter, but still too heavy. I tried a different green on the cart, and embellished it with bamboo leaves the way it is in the film, though.
This one is so much lighter, and you can really see the different hues on the robes. I’m starting to get the hang of using really watery mixes of paint to wash color into the paper. The paper is super-absorbent, so you need a light touch to keep from creating blobs of color. Super happy with this one.
Sometimes, you just have to go back to basics and see if you’ve actually improved or just think so. I pulled this figure detail from the Heiji Monogatari, which details a series of civil wars in ancient Japan between the Heike and Genji clans.
This one, I just gave a light ink wash to his robe. (Plus a little detail color on his arrow fletching.) Hey, that looks all right.
This one, I used light color washes on his clothing, and a bit of peach pink on his flesh. At some point, I flipped this image left-to-right in my library. His sword is on the wrong side.
One more with watercolor washes. Maybe I can actually learn how to do this? If the outline for the soldier looks a little crude, he is fairly small in the original scroll, and I only have a very bad black+white image in my reference. These images will make good scroll for minor archery recognition, I hope.