I watched a lot of cartoons and movies. I draw incessantly and carry a sketchbook everywhere. I work in animation and self-publish my books. There are monsters in the streets, don't wear red. Mad bulls and monsters hate that color. I still watch cartoons.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

"The Big Three"

Wakako Katayama, Yoko Tanji and Icco Sasai. "The big three."

According to Tadahiro Uesugi. We met three grand artists on the night of the Japan Sketchcrawl. Friends of Tadahiro, illustrators he knows and whose work he raves about. Wakako Katayama, Yoko Tanji, Icco Sasai were seated at the opposite end of the table from me and it took the better part of the dinner before I moved over to them to attempt to interview them.

Yoko Tanji had joined us for the Sketchcrawl day and I managed to see her drawing book. It was amazing. Simplicity in design but powerful images. Truly accomplished designer, she is. She is working very hard these days and I think we tired her out, the evening stretching to near midnight. She and her husband run a "small" studio--they are modest when they describe their ventures as a general rule.

Icco Sasai. Before this evening I had raved to Uesugi about "Ico," a Playstation game I adore. He had given the heads up that someone who did designs on the game was going to show up. Icco, aka Nanako Ohmura, was very shy, she ducked behind Yoko each time I took a photo and when she couldn't escape that she looked down. Later we did manage to exchage a few conversational Q & A (through Kuro and Enrico's translations), me needling her about her work on the game. She eventually drew a diagram of the castle from the game that she was responsible for--the main doorways and either wing that held puzzles and the hall leading to the tower as well as the tower itself that held the elven princess in a suspended cage. I was so glad she drew this for me and I keep it in my sketchbook.

Wakako Katayama was very engaging. Even though we had no language in common to communicate with the attempts were apparently very funny. Everyone was laughing throughout as we both struggled to say the simplest of things to each other. Tadahiro at one point was laughing hard and wiping tears from his eyes. Wakako tried to teach me some words in Japanese ("Kawaii" means pretty. A girl word that I cannot use)and we drew diagrams of Japan showing where she and everyone was from. I had a grand time talking to her and from the looks of it, so was everyone else.

Wakako Katayama, Yoko Tanji and Icco Sasai. I flipped this picture so you can line up artist to artwork. Ain't I clever?.

Tadahiro was not kidding. These ladies are indeed "The Big Three." Check out the links to their sites. I had downloaded images from Yoko and Nanako years ago not ever thinking that I'll ever meet their authors. It was quite the honor to meet all three.

Icco Sasai
Yoko Tanji
Wakako Katayama

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Tadahiro & Kuro Uesugi

Walk in the park to the Uesugi residence. It was starting to snow.

Welcome back. We had visited the Uesugi's over a year ago and last year they came over to see us for the "3 Trees" exhibit. Both meetings were such a landmark event for me and, I don't think I'm being presumptuous, for Enrico as well. Not because of the magnitude of artist that Tadahiro is, though that should go without saying, but because they are awesome people. Damn lucky to call them friends.

Tadahiro and Kuro met us at the station and after a short cab ride and walk through a calm park we were at their home again. Visiting is such a treat, we get to hand them gifts we've prepared over the weeks leading up to the trip and we get to catch up on their lives since we saw them last.

Kuro, ever the capable partner to Tadahiro had baked apple pie. To the side was a spindle. See, she makes her own thread--and weaves them into blankets! The pie was awesome and I asked for another slice. She cautioned me that we were going to dinner and might ruin my appetite. We were to have a French dinner at one of their favorite restaurants. I almost insisted.

The last picture is an unfortunate snap obscuring Enrico. Funny, really. He's a disembodied head on a basket. Fitting for a place that has razor sharp samurai swords on the walls. Top right corner image of cat logo cuffing her young. I asked Kuro about it because it reminded me of Kiki's Delivery Service. Actually, she says, it is the logo for a delivery service. A Fedex of sorts. This company was actually an investor in that very film. Whoa, that makes so much sense.

Okay, now by the time our stay in Japan is done we will meet them every day and have dinner with them almost every night, so made good use of catching up. Let's see, after the French dinner (awesome), we headed off to Samurai Bar (Samurai master was not there but Mrs. Samurai was). Another night we went to what is reputed to be the best sushi in Tokyo. A little hole in the wall place barely able to hold a dozen people. The sushi master has had this very same place longer than I've been alive. The sushi (I really should not be writing this at lunch, making me hungry) is out of this world. I tried it all and I'm not that adventurous, but the sushi is mind-blowingly good! I mean, the quality of the fish and other critters served were shopped personally by the sushi master so it danced glorioiusly on the pallete. THIS is why sushi is such a no-brainer. All the other times one can be put off by low quality sushi is unfortunate. Ack! I'm ruined forever for other sushi.

We had such a great time with our hosts, The Tamori's and Uesugi's, they are so good to us. How can a guy not be smitten with this place? As it is Japan is an amazing feast for the senses but on top of that the people are so genuine and hospitable (more on the Tamori's next post).

Kuro and Tadahiro at the bus station to see us off. The shot from the plane window shows Mount Fuji poking through the clouds off in the distance. Sayonara.

At the end of our stay, Enrico and I are more than a little sad to see our little compact vacation come to an end. We trudge to the bus station, luggage in tow, to get on a final bus ride to Narita. As we round the corner we are surprised in a burst of hellos by the Uesugi's! Come to see us off and bearing snacks for our trip. Awww, man, they are so awesome to be thinking about us at every turn. We say our goodbyes there and they promise to come and see us by summer. We get on the bus and wave to them. They both stand there waving to us as the bus pulls away, not move from that spot until the buildings hide them from view. Sigh.

Man, can't wait to come back already.

We found some unscheduled time to browse a bookstore. Didn't find as many goodies like last time but I did find this cover by Tadahiro. I showed it to him to sign. He was elated but also started to say, in Japanese, that I really shouldn't spend the money buying his covers. Kuro translates that had they known they would have just given me a copy. I wanted to be part of the cycle of appreciating his work, I wanted to say. He drew on the cover and signed it. The ink stayed wet and we smudged it, so he did another inside the book. Nice, eh?

Tadahiro Uesugi

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Da Drawings

The Buddha at Kamakura. A train trip and a hike to visit the old boy. He is huge and quite a sight. He sat very still for this portrait.

Sketching on the trip. These are the sketches done while on our merry way. Drawing in trains is surprisingly manageable (man, most of the trains don't even make noise. We might as well have been skating on ice rather than rolling on wheels). Of course one has to be even more nimble with the drawing.

When in Economy and not in a window seat, one has to make do with the view facing front. In this case it was the small t.v. screen which shows the camera view from the front of the plane. Pretty clouds up there.

My train victims. Drawing victims, that is. They now populate my sketchbook and blog (insert stock villain laughter here). The girl at lower left was just one passenger apart from me and I was blatantly drawing her. At one point she curled her nose but did not flick me a look though I was very obviously drawing her. That's resolve, man.

More train drawings. The girl was with her boyfriend and she was obviously enamored of him because of the way she talked and looked at him. Ahhh, young love. Ain't it grand?

Clothes make the man. This guy's attire had some personality, though I had a crappy vantage point. Color would have helped but, hey, I was on a moving train, alright? One cannot be too picky in street sketching.

This girl could easily have won an asian Kate Moss contest. I didn't do her justice in the sketch but I think it's close. She was with her mom at Narita having a snack before the flight. She noticed me drawing her and I think she became more animated after that. Very charming young lady. That coat she was wearing was also quite a statement and not the usual.

Oh, and I did Sketchcrawl drawings, too. I wasn't lazy, or anything. Those images are up on the Sketchcrawl forum. Check out the bounty of drawings done on that day in Japan as well as the rest of the world.

Sketchcrawl Forum

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Trip over already?!

I wish I had more time to draw on our afternoon for Sketchcrawl Japan. We met so many awesome people--now I'm thinking we should have two days of drawing for these international visits. Getting greedy, aren't I? Hikaru Takahashi's photo. He quietly just sketched and snapped photos and no wonder, he's awesome at both.

Man! That was quick. Back at home and about to start the first work day back. It was such fun to be in Japan for those few days and we tried to make sure we didn't waste any of it. Too much to recount here right now but will try to post a little here and there as the week goes by. First off a link to Hikaru Takahashi's photos of the 8th Worldwide Sketchcrawl held in Inokashira Park, Kichijouji. You may recognize a certain illustrator who came to visit us last year.

Takahashi's photos.

Hikaru Takahashi
Hikaru's OK-BBs

Friday, February 17, 2006

Japan 'O6: The Tamori's and Kunitachi

Cleansing Inhale It was raining when we landed and after an eleven hour trip in economy, well, one would need a little break. Our clocks are upside down and as determined as we were not to give in to a nap lest we not adjust to the local time we barely kept each other awake. We were also two hours late to meet the Tamori's, our gracious hosts for the evening and most of the next day. They had arranged for our eventual hotel but for tonight we were staying at their son, Atsushi's, apartment in Kunitachi.

After more train rides and dragging luggage through rush our train stations (feeling like salmon going against the current there) we finally met up with our hosts. Ahhh, it is so good to see Yozo and Mitchiko again. All smiles and hugs. Enrico had introduced me to this family last year on my first visit and even then they already treated me as if I had known them all along.

Well, wouldn't you know it, the rest of the evening was as pleasant and relaxing as one has a right to. Dinner at local Chinese restaurant which seemed to have stayed the hand of time, housing antiques and constructed in old word wood, with food that was a welcome comfort and feast of tastes. The company was great, the mood was calming. Just what a body needs.

There's more to post and pictures, too. But time is scarce right now--as it is we've explored more of Kunitachi with the Tamori's and later had dinner with the Uesugi's. I am writing this on the morning after our second dinner event already, so there is much to catch up with.

So, good to be back.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

SFO Morning

Hurry! No wait. We're okay. I left the house a tad later than I wanted. Made us late to pick Enrico up. The maze wait was long AND there was a van stalled on the bridge. Called Enrico and he opted for the cab. Got to the airport and arranged for our aisle seats. Now we got time. Time enough for a quick post.

How's it going back there at our enclave at work. Don? Ken? Ricky? Okay, boarding right about now. Later!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Off to Japan!

Small sketchbook doodle. Warm up for more sketches of the trip? One hopes

Just harried enough. Going on trips always seems attract all manner of little emergencies that must be attended to. Not like I have a bazillion things to still prepare for. Anyway, we're off tomorrow morning and we hope to post updates of our progress. We've got quite a line up of people to meet and I must say that this is very exciting! AND we're going to do a Sketchcrawl with these folks!

I hope to draw and write while on the plane. Likely I'll be dozing off and failing to read Shannon's book. Or not writing Paper Biscuit stories. And that other project, or that one other concern...oh, well. The laptop will thwart me, I'm sure, and there'll be no Don Shank in sight.

Check back for updates. Enrico's mobile blog capacity can post up to the minute updates so check his blog often. Me? What I lack in speed I make for in style. Or effort. Or good intentions.


Enrico's blog

Wondercon 2006

Brother! My brother, Louie del Carmen,is now a bonafide, self-published author! He and his partner in crime, Octavio Rodriguez, had exibited their respective books, "Random Anomalies" and "'Cano Scribbles" at Wondercon in the new building of the Moscone Center. My brood and I arrived late in the afternoon on Saturday (parking was a breeze, and that's saying something in S.F. with the parking structure right next door and across from the Metreon), found a healthy amount of fans at the entrance and inside the dealer's floor. More than I've been used to in recent Wondercons, I must say. Though, not being an exhibitor I'm not one to go by since I'm there only for a handful of hours.

All in all I was happy to be walking around and shopping for a change. How liberating! Enrico and I have no new books for the show and decided to forego this con in exchange for the novelty of being pedestrians this time. Pedestrians who make a bee line to Stuart Ng's! Man, I love these guys. They always carry books I would love to rave about (more about those finds on a later post. Pressed for time here). And they are the nicest people over there. I found myself just hanging around there over and over again making sure I'm not missing something cool.

I wish I can put more pictures of folks but I've run out of time. Time to prep for the Japan trip. I'll post more from Wondercon later.

I've nothing much to report other than it was a good time and I'm glad that this convention is here and continues to fill a crucial convention gap for us fans and exhibitors. San Diego has grown into insane proportions, perhaps so large that us smaller artist/exhibitors are being drowned out in all the noise and clutter of the giant players who are pouring into that convention in ever increasing magnitude. That's progress and quite welcome, so don't get me wrong. That kind of success is unheard of for a comic book convention. I mean, it's a comic book convention! It's amazing as it is that it's exploded into the mainstream the way it has.

Very recognizable duo, no? But let's make a contest of it, shall we? Who can name this unique and lovely power couple? Prize? Well, the chance to play is prize enough, right?

But then again, that's what we have Wondercon and Ape for. If the sociological experiment plays out the way I think it will, all this will organize itself naturally , leaving Wondercon to be more of a creator based convention (remember Pro con used to precede Wondercon?) and Ape being the independents' San Diego. We'll see. Kudos to the organizers for staying the course and plugging away.

Stuart Ng
Random Anomalies
The Cano Spot

Monday, February 13, 2006

Happy Darwin Day

I used above painting, culled from the net, last year for this same occasion. Not a painting of mine. Though I've always wanted to just dedicate a year to paint, out on a lonely outpost where the light is fantastic and subjects abound to render. Sigh

February 12. Charles Darwin. As in "darwinian", referring to natural selection and such. I was busy yesterday and failed to do my annual Darwin day post. We don't do Valentine's day, preferring to have demonstrations of my affection and gratitude to my wife via flowers or gifts at random days throughout the calendar year. Take that, Hallmark! But back to the man of the hour.

Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England, on February 12, 1809, at his family home, the Mount House. He was the fifth of six children of wealthy society doctor Robert Darwin and Susannah Darwin (née Wedgwood).

His work eventually will make dinosaurs very real for little boys wanting to be scientists, and didn't I hear somewhere that Dubya wants to give science a push? Good for you, George. Very intelligent of you to incorporate this design for the future of science in this here country. Heck, we might even import some help.

Bush also has called for an increase in the annual allotment of visas available to highly skilled foreigners, something advocated by Silicon Valley companies but opposed by many U.S. tech workers.

While many H-1B visa holders become permanent U.S. residents, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, said he's considering proposing legislation to either reallocate some existing permanent resident ``green cards'' or add new ones to give preference to ``the best and brightest'' foreigners who want to come to the United States.

See that? Selecting "the best and the brightest." Rather poetic, dontcha think? If ol' Charles Darwin were alive today even he might have received an invite from dear George himself.

Wiki on Charles Darwin

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


One of my favorite photos from the last Japan visit. Looks like a nature show set up. "The Shinjuku crab lay in wait for careless prey. Salary man on his way to work is oblivous to the craftilly camouflaged crustacean. In a flash it will be over and Shinjuku crab will hunt anew. Perhaps a Pachinko housewife for dessert?"

All engines are go! We're cleared for take off! And all such launch lingo. After a series of fluctuating fates (work schedules right in the way, work schedules get pushed back; missing passport, found passport; wife can go, now wife has to stay...etcetera), Enrico and I got permission to take a week off. What do these two do when let out of the pen? They hie off to Japan, that's what!

The 8th World Wide Sketchcrawl, February 19, 2006!

Yep, you heard me, in Japan! Where in Japan? That's still being worked out but watch this space for more info. Those of you who will be conveniently situated to be there anyway please come and join us. Those of you who've been diligently going out on the appointed days to draw wherever you are in the globe are enjoined to have a grand day out drawing! We will be looking forward to seeing and sharing how the rest of the Sketchcrawling world faired on that day on the forums and blogs as always--we're never without access to Dubya's internets. Check these links often for updates.

Enrico's wordpress blog
Sketchcrawl Forum

We'll be joined by a stellar set of artists from Japan, I hear. Tadahiro Uesugi for one. How about that? Yoko Tanji. Whadaya say? There are more names Enrico mentioned to me but I think we'll hold the news release until we're more certain. All I can say is I an star struck by the personages who might attend. Wish this was being filmed. Maybe we can do something about that. Too much...overloading.

Anyway, we're leaving next Wednesday for Japan and will be back Tuesday the following week. Man, I wonder if I can rent a bike there to ride...hmmm.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Cycles, it's all cycles.

Never had a bike sized to me. Jason at Montano Velo on Piedmont Avenue ordered this bike after taking my measurements. Once put together at the store it was further adjusted to me while riding it. Compared to all my meager riding experiences, this bike rides like butter.

Bicycle, that is I used to ride road bikes several lifetimes ago and was adequate on it. Tackled distance and moderate climbs; cramped up on a dirt road, last of the group to hobble onto the rest stop; took on the traffic of the reckless streets of Manila and Makati on the way home from my the brothers' apartment. Gave it up when I came over to the U.S. I've been here since '89.

This last week I bought a road bike. Kevin Nolting (cyclist and film editor at the studio) told me that it'll all come back to me in no time. I had concerns. I once knelt down as I pinned up a sequence onto a board expecting the padding of office carpet only to have my patella pound full force onto a metal push pin laying on its side. I twisted in pain for a while on that floor ten years ago. The left knee will always have sharp pain from then on. Stairs would feel like steak knives cutting on the knee. The right one started to have sympathetic pain.

I rode today and I was gasping within seconds. The knee also reminded me it hadn't gone away. The small cemetery at the end of Piedmont Avenue offered me only fifteen minutes to ride before they close the gates. I managed to dash off a quick sketch. This is it below. I really wanted to couple riding the bike with drawing outdoors. This is my first sketch while riding and it felt good.

Mountain View Cemetery. Quiet and no cars. The sun was setting, this one mausoleum had good orange light. Not enough time, I had to watercolor it after I got home.

It's getting dark. I head out to the flat streets and will have to turn back to go home. I didn't. I'm riding into work with James Dashe tomorrow and I wanted to get a feel for the terrain and traffic. I got over one rise and was on flat roads again. I decided to pedal to work. It's not far, but for a sedentary artist who's not ridden a vehicle needing human exertion it was a challenge. But I made it.

Getting that done was good. I'm already planning how my day can accomodate more time on the bike. I didn't even notice the knee.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Claudio Acciari strikes again

All these Acciari's were done on the site's local drawing applet that lets you draw right online. No photoshop, but good enough. Again proving that it's not the tool but furshlugginer artist weilding it.

He is a serial Oekaki poster. That is, he has this compulsion to tag many an Oekaki board with his lovely creations. Like he's an internet Zorro of sorts. Don't know what an Oekaki board is? Hmmm, well...Let's see. See the Wikipedia entry explaining what this is here.

Check mine out and see if you can pick out the Acciari's. Here.
Search more here.
Here's another.

He is an animator by trade and an excellent designer as well. We worked on the same movie long time ago but never got together--lord knows we probably had a lot to gripe about then. Caught up with each other where else? In Dubya's internets. Or is it Al Gore's? Claudio, inexplicably enough, does not have a website of his own. I've needled him about this and he says, "Soon." I cannot wait. In the mean time...

Acciari Gallery. Thanks for the tiny url, Lee-roy.

Another one care of Alessandro Carloni here.

And while I'm at it, Alessandro is no slouch either. His website of awesome sketchbook loveliness here. Enjoying the view? Check out his links and it opens up to more awesome drawing talent. Enough to give a guy a complex. Love them all.

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