The Cultivation of Enlightenment • WIP

 A very colorful background (seriously, this paper is gorgeous and I wish I had more chances to use it) which evokes an out-of-focus garden; a pretty bit of chiyogami to cover the ragged bits on the back, which no one will ever see; and the base cut layer for this small commission piece.

The piece, and these oddball flowers (which are absolutely real, by the way) start to take form, petal-by-petal.  All that’s missing is our mysterious protagonist in the bottom corner (Who could they be?  What is their connection to this strange flora?  What ominous and/or benevolent motives guide them?  Do they suffer from pollen allergies?).

Extra points if anyone can ID the weird dangly flowers.

Sakura Blossom Season


⊛  Sakura Blossom Season  
⊛  cut and torn washi and chiyogami paper on wood panel  
⊛  9 x 6.2 in / 227 x 158 mm  
⊛  private collection / commission


Delicacy and power are not two words which are often associated with each other. The blossoms of the cherry tree [桜の木 / sakura no ki] for example, bring to mind fragility and impermanence. Dragons, on the other hand, are all fire and claws, shimmering scales rippling over sinewy muscle, terrible in their magnificence.

Still, there is a subtle and quiet power to the blossom which, having come untethered from its branch, glides slowly on the wind, inevitably and inexorably to the dirt below. It is nature's gentlest way of showing us that all beauty must whither, all life must end, all things shall eventually fade.

The dragon's roar may be muffled by the whisper of a blossom touching earth.

detail: teeth, scales, and hair

sketch: the shape of a dragon

sketch: a cherry tree

Portrait of Lady in Green


⊛  Portrait of Lady in Green  
⊛  cut + torn washi + chiyogami paper / wood  
⊛  13.8 x 10.6 in / 350 x 270 mm  
⊛  private collection


I've often been asked why most of the artwork I create features weird and quirky creatures, spirits, or animals rather than, say, people. There are really a couple reasons for this.

The most basic is that I don't actually sit down with the intention of drawing (when I sketch) beasts. In my mind I'm drawing a feeling or a complicated amalgamation of things that have been bouncing around inside my skull. In the act of translation from abstract idea to concrete paper, these odd shapes are born.

The second reason is more intentional. Our eyes are trained, through experience and genetics, to see anthropomorphic shapes and people everywhere. When we do see these "people", we often empathize with them and want to feel a more personal connection. The first question on our lips is "Who is this, and what is their name?". In much the same way that it can be difficult to see past a real person's face to their interior motives, it can also be challenging to move past the painted portrait to recognize the concept underneath.

Recently, I've come to embrace this challenge and dabble with "portraiture" a bit more. The quotation marks are there because, at least so far, these have not been portraits of actual "people". Like the non-homo sapiens in my work, these are more representations of natural forces, ideas, and emotions.

The Lady in Green, for example, is a woman, certainly. A woman who is growing in self-confidence and recognition of her own power. This growth manifests botanically, organically spreading, rising, and flowering. Even the paper used in her clothing is shot through with actual plants creating that beautiful play of light and dark greens.

The face and hands are from two layers of chiyogami paper. The top is a sakura blossom pattern - another call out to the natural world. Under that is a layer of gold - which, admittedly, I was afraid to commit to at first (fear is often a good sign when making art). Now, the way the light shifts and the face transforms as one walks past the piece is one of my favorite aspects.

Here are some details from the work (which in itself is one of my most detailed works):

Detail: face

Detail: collar

Detail: hands

Work-in-progress: white collar

 Portrait of Lady in Green, framed

Portrait of Lady in Green, framed

Do It In the Lab


⊛  Do It In the Lab  
⊛  cut washi and chiyogami paper on board  
⊛ 14.9 x 10.7 in (approx.) / 378 x 272 mm  


It's been awhile since I've dipped my toe in POP!-py waters, let alone a pop-comic-book-Tokyo-parody. It took one of my favorite Batman villains - and Patrick Washburn - to chase me back into that brightly colored world of modern day references. Originally begun about 2 years ago for American Comics Exhibition 2010 ~Bad Guys~ from SuperVillain to Anti-hero at Gallery Kopis in Tokyo, I only got around to finishing the poster lettering a little while ago.

My Tokyo-dwelling fans will have no problem recognizing the parody and, perhaps, getting a chuckle from the cultural collision. Those of you who haven't experienced the pleasures of the Tokyo Urban Metro Subway system may need a little more guidance. Since we all know that lengthy explanations of humor only serve to make it funnier.

From 2008 through 2010 - a span of 3 years - each month Tokyo graphic designer Bunpei Yorifuji created another one of these brilliant yellow and black manner posters, instructing us passengers on proper subway etiquette.

 Tokyo Metro Manner Poster by Bunpei Yorifuji

Tokyo Metro Manner Poster by Bunpei Yorifuji

Often hilariously funny and true to life, I used to look forward to every new poster - even after the obvious rude behavior had all been covered. The thought of creating a parody poster crossed my mind pretty early in their run, but the right opportunity didn't crop up until the supervillain exhibition.

Bunpei Yorifuji talked to the Tokyo Reporter about the inspiration behind these posters in a great little interview.

For the whole run of 36 posters, check out the Gakuranman blog.

Bunpei Yorifuji's website and assorted work.


Plus some other places to see the posters, just in case: The Verge, Rocket News

Mr. Freeze has always been my third favorite Batman villain (Two Face takes spots one and two). 

Of all the many incarnations of the character, the original Batman: The Animated Series version will always be my favorite. The sense of loneliness and alienation, coupled with the determination to turn tragedy into strength - even if tainted with ruthlessness - always made Victor Fries one of The Bat's most sympathetic and human foes. Who among us has not wanted to feel a love and longing so intense, the rest of the world be damned?

Just remember, if you must revert to super-villainy, please refrain from freezing other passengers unnecessarily.

Final Drawing

Details (click to enlarge)

Among the Petals a White Serpent


⊛  Among the Petals, a White Serpent
⊛  10 x 8 in • 254 x 203 mm
⊛  cut + torn washi + chiyogami paper / wood panel


First and foremost, an extremely belated あけましておめでとうございます / Happy New Year!

Also, A slightly less-belated Happy Chinese New Year! It's fortuitous that I only missed the latter holiday by a few days - it makes my posting of this piece seem almost like it was planned.

Coming off of a year full of dragons, it felt natural to slither right into some snake art. Drawing-wise, there are a lot of similarities. Long and sinuous bodies, scales, curves... eyes. Of course, there are quite a few differences as well. Japanese dragons have hair while snakes are happily bald. Dragons have claws and fingers; serpents have a tougher time with forks and spoons. The biggest difference is one of scale (pun unapologetically intended). Dragons are massive while the Japanese rat snake, upon whom our reptilian friend here is based, could easily hide under your sofa.

In Japan the white snake is considered to be a carrier of good luck - a person who finds one will be lucky for life ( 1, 2 ).

Like many Japanese New Years symbols, they herald the coming of good financial fortune. I plan on displaying this guy all year round.

The ume plum blossom 「梅」 is a harbinger of Spring, and thus a common theme on New Year's cards. The pinkish ribbon intertwined with the snake at the top marks this piece as a part of my recent (and future?) solo exhibition, All Runs Together. It is a band of energy, of light, of life or soul which runs through all of the pieces, connecting them into one infinite and eternally evolving whole. But more on that later.

Visually, I had a lot of fun here. As with many of my Chinese zodiac pieces, I wanted to do something a bit more graphically flat. The scales are borrowed from a real Japanese white snake, but instead of curving around the body run straight, as if they continue on into infinity in every direction. The plum blossoms are inspired by Japanese pottery patterns with their simplified, representative shapes (the centers are torn bits of many different chiyogami patterns). Look hard, and you will see the kanji character for the snake: 巳. There are actually 2 kanji for each of the zodiac animals; the typical everyday version, and the one more commonly used for the zodiac (as seen above).