(this post will be updated with more pics)This year, I was invited to draw, speak, sightsee and soak up the amazing city of Tokyo, Japan for Central West, Inc Entertainment caricature company, via my friends Kage and Kay Nakanishi.
I met Kage and Kay at the NCN conventions over the last couple of years and they are two amazing people. They have been inviting an American or European artist to Japan to draw for them during the holiday seasons (or other special times) for years. The list includes great caricaturists Paul Gaunt, Chris Rommell, Jan OpDeBeeck, and Court Jones. Staying in the Temple-laiden area of Asakusa (uh-sock'-suh) and working at the touristy mall known as Venus Fort in Odiba (oh-die'-buh), I had plenty of chances to see many different areas of Tokyo. Shibuya (shi-boo-yuh) was busy and crazy, full of youth and trends and fashion, Yokohama Bay was beautiful, with it's ports, navy ships, parks built on the water, unique buildings, and even a tourist mall with a Nakanishi caricature booth!
Everything about Tokyo amazed and impressed me. Kay and his girlfriend Hiromi (not sure about spelling... sorry!) were great in showing me and my girlfriend (Danielle) around in our spare time, and even helping her out when I was working. We visited the Ghibli Museum (for animator Miyazaki) and saw some amazing artwork, despite it being children-oriented. The food was amazing (and I WILL buy a good rice-cooker!) and the stores were unique and impressive.
The skylines were breathtaking - crammed with unique buildings of all shapes and sizes. The weather was fairly consistent, and clear. I could not get over the cars. They were all new. They were all small. With navigation systems, global GPS tracking, great fuel mileage, features that American cars have never heard of, and small, interesting parking garages/lifts/spaces/barriers that seemed far more efficient than anything we could ever think of. I was floored by the cleanliness... never have I seen a spotless subway train, and this one looked like someone's grandmother painstakingly and meticulously scrubbed every inch with a toothbrush.
Everything was smaller, tighter, more narrow, and far more efficient. Pictures on menus, English on signs, and a society that worked well. I feel as though the world I've grown to know society that doesn't revolve around them, but rather they have their place in it, and respe is one where everyone struggles to grab the biggest piece of the pie, whereas in Tokyo most seem to be sharing the pie, even if it leaves them with a small slice - - they understand that there is act that space. It's impressive.
Drawing Japanese tourists was great. They have to be the best customers I've ever encountered. It may have something to do with the fact that I had a sign-board beefing up the "visiting American Champion", but they seem to like exaggeration with a likeness more than any group I've ever encountered. I couldn't push it enough. Exaggeration, distortion, bold gestural lines, and off-the-wall expressions - - - as long as I held a likeness, there was nothing that they complained about, only laughs.
I drew for seven days of the 16 I was there, and each was fairly busy. I promised I would go back and I plan to, eventually.
While I was drawing at the booth, Kay decided to take pictures of the drawings that I seemed 'pleased with' - he could instantly read my face and reactions to my own decisions and executions, and I have to say, he had me pegged perfectly. He seemed to be able to tell from my body language and subtle facial expressions which ones I loved, liked, disliked, and hated, and he took pictures of anything that wouldn't make me angry:
many of these are my favorites drawn in Tokyo. I tried to push most of them to new exaggerations, drawing things and ways that I haven't before.
This couple, like most, took it well. They laughed out loud and took a picture with me.
This composition was very fitting with their face size/shape, but definitely borrowed from friends/inspirators Steve Brodner and Grigor Eftomov.
Like the last one, this was drawn from photos. This was for a wedding 'welcome' board and I tried to be true to the expressions in the pic - you get a lot more personality when you don't gloss over the uniqueness and strange parts of a photo. They loved it.
This gent waited for nearly an hour watching, one morning, then sat for his, only saying to Kay that he wanted it "as funny as I could draw" - I had just seen a book on French caricaturist Jean Milet-Renault, and pulled a lot of inspiration from his extreme description of form and exaggeration.
This young musician waited for a while and was very appreciative. I gave him a little more attention than the average guest, because I could see how he appreciated what I was doing.
Just a cute girl. Sometimes you need to see the 'cute' ones. Exaggeration does not only exist in the ugly, but it merely is to heighten the uniqueness of a face and persona. If one is cute, the caricature should feel 'cute' in the end, even if not classically proportioned.
A drawing for one of the artists of Central West.
I felt that this couple was already a caricature (as cheesy as that sounds) - they sat well, had great faces, made my job easy, and loved every line.
An australian couple - the biggest nose I got to draw all week. I enjoyed speaking English to someone for a change.
I love drawing kids with solid expressions. This one was fun.
This was the beginning of a long string of couples that lasted days. I love the contrast the two faces can offer, compositionally and with expression and exaggeration. It makes the drawing more interesting and frankly, easier to do.
Pushing the exaggeration. She was a bit shaken, but laughed at the drawing.
Young men sometimes wear eyeshadow in Japan - mostly trendy hip guys, but I had my share of magenta eyelids.
This couple was great - one of the few I held back on for likeness/quality's sake. I wanted to focus on cleanliness. It seemed to make them very happy.
Some people just draw themselves, with swooping lines and contours.
Another cartoony kid.
This couple seemed to be a bit stingy, but I saw some inspiration and couldn't hold back. Ironically, the woman loved it the most. I couldn't have predicted it, but loved their attitude.
Renault inspired, with a bit of Kruger-esque angles. I was feeling good at this point, drawing next to award-winning Kage Nakanishi on my last day - what an inspiration he is!
Just having fun with contrast in size, height, expression, and complexion. This was one of my favorites, after...
...this one. The only one that I felt I drew exactly (nearly) what I had intended and in mind. They were great sports, and the guy gestured her face-shape to her after he saw it, cracking them both up. I love Japan!
I've got more pics of Japan, and importantly, drawings of nearly every artist over there, step-by-step which I'll post here soon. Keep coming - I've got more park-sketches coming up this week (lots of them!).
I've got the 'comments' problem fixed, so post away.