Be Mine!

Valentine's Day is coming soon, so I  thought it would be fun to illustrate my own set of  Valentine printables inspired by some vintage valentine's I saw on Pinterest.  (scroll to the bottom if you want to download a copy to share with your valentine's)

As a kid I always looked forward to Valentine's Day,  I would painstakingly stamp, glue and glitter 30 or so cards for each of my classmates! Probably because this was one of the few occasions I was allowed to break out the glitter.

Unfortunately, I don't have as much time to throw glitter around these days...  (I'm just finishing up knitting Christmas gifts) However, I still love sending out mail to my friends and family to let them know I'm thinking of them.

Isn't Valentine's about all the people you love? Your sister, parents, grandma, bff, oldest camp friend, aunt, new sister-in-law, coworker and your husfriend?

I like to think so!

I hope you'll also enjoy sending these in the mail to your favorite people.

valentines_printable_2014

Here is how to do it:

click on the link above

It will open in a new window.

Right click on the image and select "save as".

Open up the image and PRINT.

Croquetas Recipe Illo

Last, but not least...  I wanted to share one of my all time favorite custom recipes, for  Croquetas de la Abuela!  I was absolutely thrilled to illustrate Anna's Grandma's recipe for her family.

Although I speak no Spanish (I took high school French and a little Japanese post college)  I had an English translation and the Spanish version of the recipe to guide me.

I tried to find some examples of Spanish packaging and also looked at ceramics, and embroidery for pattern ideas.  Packaging in other languages is always fun to look at. Sometimes its really obvious what food you're getting and other times it's a complete mystery!  Quite a few times in Japan I thought I was getting something with cheese and really it was mayo.. yuck!

I wanted to bring a lot of bold color to this piece so it felt really festive.  I imagine frying up a bunch of croquetas to share with family at a party since they are bite size.

Here's a similar recipe I found for Ham Croquettes !  I'd like to try making them at home next tim we have a bunch of people over to eat them.  Valentine's Day is fast approaching,  Tomorrow is the last day to order a Custom Recipe Illustration for your honey, in time for Valentine's Day!

So Long 2013!

2013 has been an exciting one for me:

-I worked with new and fantastic clients!  Including some of my favorite publications, companies and artists!

- I took the Lila Rogers class, which gave me some new skills and motivation to license my artwork.

-I moved into our new place, one where we have a small backyard and can paint the walls. Woo hoo!

-I got married to my favorite person surrounded by our awesome family and friends.  All of the hard wedding planning was worth it because the day came together even better than I had hoped : )

- We traveled to Prague, Vienna, Salzburg and Zurich on our honeymoon!

I'm starting off 2014 feeling empowered and inspired!  Hope you are too : )

 

Custom Recipe Illos for Sale!

You may have noticed a new tab on my website saying custom recipes!  Or on my Etsy page... I'm pleased to announce I can now take commissions of your family's favorite recipes.

This is something I've been wanting to do for awhile, because I think these would be a lot of fun to work on.  The above recipe is my Mom's Mac and Cheese!  (One of my absolute favorite recipes!) I think a custom recipe illustration with hand-lettered title is an awesome and personal gift!  I'm planning on printing these at 9"x 12", but since the final is digital I can easily print multiples or larger.  If you have questions or want to place an order email me: Jessica@firstpancakestudio.com  HAPPY FRIDAY!!!

chowda scout

Hello friends! I have an exciting new project to share with you!  It's something I've been thinking about for awhile, so I'm thrilled to see it finally taking shape.    

 

Rhode Island has been my home for the last 5 years.  I never planned on staying here.  In fact I made a desperate attempt to leave by moving to Japan in 2009.  Little did I know how much I would miss Rhode Island while living abroad.  I missed my wonderful friends, American food and my spacious apartment.  When I finally moved back I had a greater appreciation for all of the things I already had here: creative people, beautiful scenery and a delicious array of food to choose from.  

 

There is nothing I enjoy more than sharing a meal with friends and there are so many fabulous places to choose from! This project will celebrate all my favorite Rhode Island grub!    

 

Twice a month I will visit one of my favorite restaurants and illustrate a meal that I love.  I have a few other ideas, but instead of waiting until everything is perfect I'll just get started.  Tomorrow I will post the first piece I've done for this new project which I've decided to call:

Check back tomorrow to see my first Chowda Scout post and let me know what you think!

Attack of the Umibozu!

Do you remember this piece I did awhile back? It's the fearsome Umibozu!  He was part of my Yokai aka Japanese monster series.  Anyways, I was thrilled when Tiny Showcase contacted me to team up with them and print it!

   Tiny Showcase is based in Rhode Island and they feature the work of some of my favorite artists! Their prints are typically small and done in limited edition runs of 100 making them affordable and unique.

Oh and if thats not good enough, Tiny Showcase donates $250 of their sales of each run of prints to a charity of the artist's choice.  I selected the Tomorrow Fund because they offer tons of emotional and financial support to local families of children undergoing cancer treatment.  They helped Robin's family a lot when he was sick, so thats pretty cool in my book!

Little Red Research Project

One of the classes I'm taking is a book class and for our assignment we were instructed to do a 12 page accordion book without words. I decided to use that as my guidelines for a reinterpretation of Little Red Riding Hood. In Japan she is known as Akazukin or Red Hood. The Japanese have lots of bento boxes, candy, hair combs and really cute post-its with Akazukin on them.
I had a lot of ideas about things I wanted to change in the story to make it feel fresh and more Japanese. I wanted the story to be contemporary but include traditional elements. Here's some of the first sketches of the characters. I looked through some Japanese fashion magazines and clipped out clothing I liked for the characters. I really had this strong image in my head of Lil Red in a bamboo forest, mostly because I think bamboo is so otherworldly and beautiful. From there I thought about other things I could change; have her riding a bike instead of walking with a basket.

Next I started thinking about the bamboo forest and the color palette I wanted to go with it.

Here's some bamboo reference I took.

I love yellows, greens and blues of the bamboo.

More bamboo

I painted a few photocopied versions of this before settling on colors for this one. I wanted to work with a limited range of colors for the bamboo but still make it feel inviting and lush.

Finally, I knew I needed to do a character study to get a handle on some of her movements and expressions. I figured it wouldn't hurt to include some background too. I love incorporating pattern into my work and I hate painting landscapes. So... I decided the best way to deal with this is to think of the background as small shapes and patterns. I think it works pretty well with my characters too.

So there you have it, the beginning of my Little Red Riding Hood or Akazukin. Next I'll post some sketches of my wolf, which is not a wolf but a Tanuki.

Why I'm here and not at home eating a burrito...

I don't think I've touched on this yet, but I wanted to come to Japan for a few reasons. Firstly, I am very much inspired by the traditional imagery and the culture. I love the patterns that are used on kimono, paper and ceramics.
Many of which are inspired by nature and the 4 seasons.

I love the color combination in her clothing.

Traditional family crests with modern graphic appeal.
An old saddle. with elegant textures and patterns fusing.
Secondly, I've always enjoyed Ukiyo-e (traditional woodblock prints) and I wanted to learn more about the myths they depicted. Some of my favorite Ukiyo-e imagery has fantastic pictures of ghosts, demons, monsters or traditional tales with animals. I wanted to come here and learn more about the characters in these stories so that I can incorporate them into my work.
Foxes hung at the Fushimi Inari Shrine, each is done my an individual who then writes their wish on the back.

Finally, contemporary culture here is equally inspiring. The juxtaposition of the two is what makes Japan so crazy and fascinating. What I love most about Modern Japan is the way the Japanese borrow and incorporate words, food and characters from other cultures into their own. They sort of end up giving the elements they borrow new connotations.

Here's some examples: Betty Boop eyelashes anyone?

Or perhaps a green tea ice cream setto complete with red bean sauce, rice balls and green tea?

Or would you fancy a game of tug of rope with a pair of Santas? You have to win to get your Christmas presents.

And I bet this little blond girl mask keeps away the crows from this rice field.

I wasn't sure at first how I could incorporate all of these elements into my research project. But, then I got here and it all sort of fell into place. I wanted to continually research traditional folklore and incorporate the characters from those into traditional fairy tales/folk stories from Western culture. An audience from the West would gain a better understanding of Japanese culture and history. At the same time it gives any Japanese viewers a chance to see their culture and history re imagined. So far most of my Japanese teachers and peers seem interested in my project and curious about my impression of their culture and traditions.

Thomas the Tank Engine, but as a bike pillow. A Halloween inspired floral arrangement So yeah.... these are all things that inspire me. Having an opportunity to document what I'm seeing in Japan and reflecting about it is so useful and this blog is giving me a chance to collect my thoughts, adventures and inspirations. I'm not convinced anyone is reading this, but if you are then that makes me pretty happy too!

"And it Burns, Burns, Burns..."

Growing up in the States means growing up with constant reminders of fire safety, fire drills and Smoky the Bear's voice ingrained in my skull. I don't know about you, but I always thought you weren't supposed to play with fire, let alone run through the streets with a torch on your back. Needless to say it was pretty exhilarating to arrive at Kurama and see the streets a lite with flame. We biked from Downtown where we saw the Jidai Maturi up to Kurama mountain. Most people take the train but since Kurama is a small village and the festival is quite popular you can expect to wait a long time for a train. Someone had advised us to take our bikes and it wasn't an easy bike ride, but it was well worth it. I was especially psyched when we went to leave and we were just able to coast on home.Anyways, we arrived at the base of Kurama, parked our bikes and started walking up the main road towards the festival. The air smelled like smoky pine and all of the houses were decorated or had someone tending a flame outside of them.
Many families opened up their front rooms and displayed old treasures, such as this armor.
The locals gathered around the houses and got these large torches ready while some of the younger children and their parents walked up and down the road with smaller ones. While carrying the flames people would chant "Saya, Sairo" which means "festival, good festival." It's sort of a walking chant like "one, two, one, two."
The men preparing to carry the torches wore loin clothes and these decorative sleeves that mimicked tattoos. A lot of them wore headbands or sashes and some had these skirts. Most of them also had traditional sandals and socks on. It wasn't freezing out but it was the end of October. I wouldn't want to be running around without pants on.
This guy is lighting the small torch so he can ignite the much larger one behind him. These larger torches require at least 4-5 men to carry them and are made from pinewood, probably from the local trees.
I'm not sure how important the original meaning of this festival is to the people living here now, but the act of passing on this tradition to future generations does seem very important. Even as a foreigner this point is evident with the participation of different generations. Everyone from small children to elderly men are given a part to play.
Local people and tourists watching while younger children hold much smaller torches. Many of the younger children were dressed up for the occasion in beautiful kimono.
The Festival starts at around 6 pm and goes on as late as 12.
Close up of men carrying torch by the crowd. The bearing of the torches is done by the strong and younger men.
This is what the torch looks like, its made up of much smaller branches and tied together with these big roots or vines. It smelled delicious.
This man is getting ready to carry a flame, I was trying to get some good butt shots, but he kept moving. Probably because it was cold out.
My buddies and I hanging out by the large bonfires reviewing photos and waiting for the action to begin.
Father and son carrying a torch.
We tried to find a good spot on the street to watch from but we kept getting moved along by the police. Originally the festival was to scare bad spirits or kami out of the area. It is said that the king of the tengu lives on this mountain. The tengu depicted on Kurama have large red noses, they are said to do all kinds of horrible things like abduct children.
Older men carrying rope and flames.
This festival was so different from the one we had seen earlier in the day. Jidai Matsuri was all about presentation and beauty. This festival was so much more representative of the basic beliefs of the Japanese people. It was really fun to experience the Japanese in a situation like this that allowed them to cut loose a little. Honestly, it feels that little of this festival has changed over the years and I think that alone makes it unique.
This guy is balancing the torch on his shoulders and holding on to the roots to keep it there. Wow!
Fire! We need more fire!!!
In case you couldn't tell, I had a hard time photographing the whole night. I somehow forgot that my camera's one weakness is low lighting, especially paired with fast movement. I still managed to get a bunch of shots I was happy with. This one gives you a good sense of how fast some of these men were running by with the torches.
This group is much slower coming down the road and they are struggling with this torch.
Hee hee! I can see his butt!
It was pretty exciting when these guys dropped the torch right in front of us. It was equally impressive how fast others were able to step in and assist. Do you think they practice?
At some point the procession seemed to move up the mountain so we walked further along and watched as other people carried large instruments like this. When they walked it would clang kind of like a bell. There were also very large drums that were played by women and people chanting to the beat.
They started to gather around this bend in the street and letting the torches burn while they held them in place. It was like watching a giant ice cream cone melt, except with fire.
Then many of the torches were stood up on their ends like this. This position was not so great, because it allowed the burning embers to fall and hit the guys holding onto the torch. Does this image can give you a good sense of scale?

The locals were adorned in these orange sashes and this allowed them behind the police tape lines and to interact more directly with the fire.

If you look closely you can see people still holding up the torches as they burn and the smoke is starting to build up.
Fire!
Other people walked around with ladles of water, just in case. They controlled where the fire was burning and help the torch bearers keep an eye on the flame.
It was very crowded in this part of the street but we all stood their watching, waiting to see what would happen next.
It continued to get really smokey and the festival carried on feeling very primal at times with the men struggling together to hold up these large torches of fire.
The street was absolutely littered in ember and bits of wood.
There was quite a lot of smoke and they continued further up the mountain towards the shrine. The crowd was allowed to follow, but only so far. We watched for awhile as the men carried a portable shrine down the mountain as well as other men who were sort of crowd surfing. At this point we were all starting to get cold so we made plans to head back. Unfortunately, the police wouldn't let anyone move for half an hour or so. Finally we were freed and able to walk to our bikes. We biked back down the mountain which was significantly easier then the way up. The lines for the train were very long and I've heard that in can take hours to get back from this festival.
What did I learn? I think we've been approaching fire safety all wrong. The key to being safe with fire is starting kids with small torches at a young age, gradually giving them larger and larger torches. When one is deemed a fully responsible adult then, and only then should they be given a gigantic torch to carry. It's also important that the bare minimum of clothing is worn, this ensures that attention is paid to what they are doing. Otherwise your likely to get a nasty burn... ouch.

Day trip to Nara- Part 2 (Mochi, Temples and Buddha oh my!)

This is part two of my day trip. After leaving behind the deer we got to the heart and soul of Nara: Todaiji. This temple was originally constructed in the Nara period (710-794) and was rebuilt and fixed after quite a few destructive fires. The temple survives to this day but at 2/3 of its original size. Despite that Todaiji is still the world's largest wooden structure.
We arrived at the entrance to the southern gate, inside this gate are beautiful wooden sculptures but its hard to get a good photograph of them because they are behind some heavy duty chicken wire. Here's a close up of a giant foot!

We continued past the gate and arrived at the main building. We washed our hands and faces in the fresh water as is traditional before entering the temple.

 

Here I am posing far away from the temple! Last time I was here with Robin it was so quiet and empty. Not today!
This guy sits outside the temple covered in red clothing. It is said if you have pain somewhere you should touch him on that spot and then yourself and you will heal. I couldn't reach his shoulders or his back or anywhere else that I'm actually sore. I got his knee so hopefully it will help keep my knee healthy.
Little demon guy

Inside the temple is the Daibutsu; Japan's largest and very golden Buddha. The Buddha is made of copper and bronze, he weighs 250 tons and stands 30 meters tall. The photo doesn't do him justice. His hair is all individually made balls and the eyes were hand painted on at the Buddha's dedication ceremony in 752.

Another close up of featuring the golden guys floating around Buddha

There are other large, golden statues in the temple but I'm not sure of their significance.

Maybe this gives you a sense of scale?
This is one of the guard statues also in the temple
At the back of the temple is a hole in one of the pillars. It is said that those who can wiggle through it will be blessed with enlightenment. There's a line of children who are waiting to go through and their parents waiting to take photos of their kids looking through the pillar. This hole is also the size of Buddha's nostril on the statue. This totally cracks me up! I like the idea of small Japanese children crawling through Buddha's nostril to reach enlightenment.
Here's the other side of the statue with another golden figure that is also really exquisite. We left the temple and headed back through the parks of Nara. It was slowly getting dark and the temples were closing as they usually do around 5. As we walked through the streets in the city of Nara we came upon an impressive street scene. . .
The men in the mochi shop was pounding bright, green mochi and yelling loudly. The mochi is pounded in a traditional mortar called a usu with giant wooden mallets called a kine. A crowd was gathered around the shop to watch the men pound the mochi.
Next, the pounded dough was put into a machine that filled the mochi with red bean paste, the small green discs of mochi were then quickly dusted with a powder and sold to members of the crowd. After watching the excitement for a minute Victo and I decided we wanted some fresh mochi to snack on. The mochi guys kept a steady rhythm as one would pound the dough and yells ichi (one). On ichi's upswing the other yells ni (tw0) and he hits the dough. This seems to prevent them from hitting each other and seems very useful when someone needs to put a hand in to turn the dough they are able to do so.

The sun started setting as we made our way back to the train station. It was a pretty fabulous day; I enjoyed the ramen I had for lunch, the vintage postcards I picked up at a little bookshop and all the photos I got of the temple and the deer. It was a long way home ; we still had to catch a train and then bike back to the dorms but we made it back around 11 after enjoying a delicious dinner in a drinking place with lots of tasty food.

Coming up: A sneak peak at some sketches.

Day trip to Nara- Part 1 (Oh Deer!)

Even though we are just one week into the new semester there was a long weekend and 3 day holiday from Monday-Wednesday. I'm not sure what the holiday was for, but I was happy to have extra time to myself and the opportunity to squeeze in a day trip to Nara. My buddy Victo and I were feeling ambitious so we biked from the dorms to the station (about an hour though mostly downhill) and then we hopped on a train! In about 40 minutes and only spending 690 yen ($7.50 each way) we arrived in Nara and walked up towards the temples. Nara is famous for its sacred deer so there are lots of fabulous deer souvenirs everywhere! Here's a poster with a deer and the Sento-kun the Nara mascot. Sento-kun is a Buddhist child monk with a rack of deer antler's sprouting from his head, this is supposed to relate to both Nara's rich Buddhist history and the "wild" deer that live in Nara.

 

On our walk towards the park and temple we passed many stores featuring deer signs, and displays.

Even the textiles on some of the buildings featured a deer motif.

Souvenirs and gifts ranged from stuffed animals, socks, deer headbands, cell phone charms, puppets and most importantly cookies to feed the deer. Do you see the stuffed Stitch in a deersuit? Amazing right?

We finally made our way from the city up to the park. It was very crowded, probably because it was a holiday. The deer were free to roam the park, but many of them seemed to lurk behind the fences. This gave the deer a chance to get away from the crowds. The deer are considered wild animals but in truth are very tame. I didn't see any children get bitten by the deer at all. However, I saw some children chasing and throwing cookies at the deer. Here's a little girl with a female deer. Is it me or do the deer look a little different from the ones we have in the States?

It was pretty hot out (mid 80's) so most of the deer were pretty subdued sitting in the shade and some were hanging out in small ponds trying to cool down. This deer spotted a boy with a cookie for him.

"tabetai, tabetai!" means "eat, eat!"

 

The deer weren't much smarter than my two Labradors. This one walked around with a cookie on his butt for at least 5 minutes. I also noticed that the deers horns were clipped or cut off the male deer; maybe to prevent them from fighting or mauling visitors. This deer must be a young male because he still has his horns.

A lot of the deer seemed very tired and no matter where they chose to sit they were constantly being visited by small Japanese children bearing cookies they wanted to feed the deer.

I liked watching this little boy try to talk the deer into eating a cookie.

Here's me with a deer friend.

It's a pretty good life for a sacred deer of Nara. After we made our way past the deer we ventured on to see the main attraction of Nara: Todaiji. Coming up in part 2: Todaiji and other Buddhist stuff. Also coming soon: beginning sketches! yay!

Kyoto at last!

So I made it. I'm here and Japan is as weird as I remember it. The trip over was long and exhausting, but so far I don't feel too messed up by the time difference. Already I've gone out for karoke, eaten some yakisoba, and shopped at the 100 yen store. (hyaku!) So really I've experienced some of the best parts of Japanese cultures. It's good to be back here understanding more of the language, but I'll feel a lot more comfortable when I have a cell phone, bike and can answer basic questions more gracefully.

The weather is extremely hot and for some reason people dress with lots of clothing on. I haven't gotten a photo yet but they wear full sleeves and pants (sometimes scarfs too!) in 85 degree weather. I really enjoy being in the country side and seeing the rice fields, vegetables and the mountains are quite beautiful.

I went on a walk with one of the other English speaking exchange students. We both marveled at the rice fields and gardens most of the families seemed to have.
I am quite impressed by how efficient a lot the city transportaion is but I dont want to spend 1,000 yen on a roundtrip to downtown.... Which is probably why most people bike.
We saw some beautiful fish and turtles at the Takaragaika pond.
We stopped at a grocery store on the way and I bought some nutella and tangerines. The tangerines are sour and a good deal at 289 yen. The nutella was more expensive but what else would I eat on my weird Japanese toast?
Upon trying to leave the park we took a different trail and ended up at the top of this hill. It was unplanned but lucky because we got some nice photos of the city.
So here is my home for the next 6 months. It really hasn't sunk in yet...

Happy Easter/Spring/Passover!

Happy Spring! It's finally starting to feel like spring in Providence. Last weekend, Claire visited me and we decided to dye Easter eggs. We blew them out and then tried this marbleizing technique recommended by Martha. Some of them worked better than others, but overall we had a fun time. After we finished them I decided to put them on my wall in this wonky shadowbox I made.

So what do you think came first? Chicken or the egg? 

This one looks like a disgruntled employee stuck in a mindless job. Hmm...

 

Awwww.... Yeah I know, it's super dorky that I put the effort into making these eggs, arranging them and then photographing them. But whatever, I had fun.... I know I'm a dork.

Wow how did that horse give birth to that chick? immaculate conception.. or genetic tampering.

Happy Easter and Passover to everyone! I look forward to going home tomorrow and catching up with family and friends. I wish I had some sort of Passover photo to balance this out but I don't. I'm going to make some Matzo ball soup soon so maybe I can take some photos of that. Here's a Matzo ball recipe that looks goood: Matzo ball soup