SUI GENERIS punk rock bike shop home-brew art/craft love

Mainichi Hanafuda: iris ribbon

Here's another red banner without writing. Design-wise, I aim for simplicity with the junk cards and try to make them fairly similar. With the point cards like this one, I am starting to throw in some extra elements and mix it up a bit. I decided to include a couple of iris buds on this card to distinguish it from the others in the suit.

And that's it for irises. As I become more comfortable with the format, I am starting to branch out from the standard images on hanafuda cards and experiment with my own style. This is especially evident with the cards I working on for the next suit, which I will unveil tomorrow!

Mainichi Hanafuda: iris "junk"

Here we have the other half of the junk irises. Did you know that in Japan, irises are regarded as a symbol of success? I learned this from the description under a nice print of irises in my Hokusai book. In that same print, a grasshopper is walking down the leaf of an iris. Perhaps a grasshopper is the invisible animal in yesterday's card?

Mainichi Hanafuda: iris animal?

It's weird, but not all the "animal" cards in a hanafuda deck are actually illustrated with pictures of animals! The iris suit serves up the exception to the rule with this card. What we've got here is a dock or plank of some kind over water.

In the same way that white space in a sparse sumi-e painting can evoke the presence of water or clouds, I like to imagine that the animal in this suit is suggested, rather than presented graphically. Perhaps the animal is a fish, or a tiny bug? Notice, however, the red clouds on top of the card. This element is also present on most of the other animals' cards.

Mainichi Hanafuda: iris

All the previous suits have been 'flower cards,' of course, but they're not subjects I tend to think of as flowers: plum's a tree, grass is grass, and clover's more of a weed? Today we begin the iris, a suit that's identified clearly by its prominent flowers.

Plus, unlike wild clover and pampas grass, this is a flower I recognize from around here, so I had personal observation to bring to the design. I made more of a break with standard hanafuda cards here and used photo reference only for my iris blooms. They turned out with a bit of a stained-glass look to 'em.

This is one of the two junk cards in the iris suit. The other two cards are a banner and an animal, but not what you might expect.

Mainichi Hanafuda: clover ribbon

This clover card holds a banner like the one in the plum suit, but there's something missing! Why isn't there writing on this one, you may wonder. I will tell you. There are seven red ribbon cards, and only three are inscribed with a 'poem.' The other four, like this example, are blank. Mystery solved!

The 'poem ribbons' have the potential for better scoring combinations in some hanafuda games, but these blank ribbons are also valuable when matched with others like them. So! That's the last of the clover, and that means we're through with a quarter of the 12 suits in the deck.

Mainichi Hanafuda: a boar in clover

Like the nightingale for plum, the boar is an animal card in the clover suit. I was unhappy with my source images for boars until I found this awesome engraving(?) plus poem from Ovid? I know the 'f's are pronounced like 's's, but a phoenetic reading is more fun because it sounds like I've got a favadge lifp.

I made my boar cuter by giving it a big piglet-eye and squashing it down to stumpy card-width size. Although the boar in the print is attacking Adonis, the boar in my hanafuda deck is satisfied with the destruction of flowers. He looks keen on trompling through my carefully-constructed clover patterns until they're all askew.

Mainichi Hanafuda: clover "junk"

This is the second "junk" card in July's clover suit.

An economy of branches, each trim pattern represents a stylized interpretation of Japanese wild clover. It doesn't suggest clover to me, since when I think of "clover" I'm more likely to envision the four-leafed variety. But hopefully it would to a Japanese person. Japanese people? Does this remind you at all of the wild clover of your home island?

Mainichi Hanafuda: clover

Today, we move back one month to the July suit, clover. It's fun to draw branching geometric shapes! Originally, I thought the clover suit was one of the worst in the deck. It looked pretty boring. I dug through lots of photos of wild clover to see how I could embellish on the designs I found online, and finally ended up doing something that looks a lot like normal hanafuda cards anyway.

Maybe I just learned to appreciate the look of it. I did make some changes, though: the clover buds are smaller in proportion to the leaves, in comparison to the other decks I've seen. This would make a great pattern for the drinking glasses in your grandma's cupboard. I hope you like it okay, because we have three more days of clover after this one.

Mainichi Hanafuda: geese

A flock, or three, geese fly over the hills of pampas grass. Geese were chosen to represent the August suit for Japan, but they would also be appropriate for a Minnesota hanafuda deck, if there was such a thing. Jenna and I spent last weekend in the country. As I was tending the fire, I heard for the first time this summer, some geese discussing a southern vacation. Soon they'll be honkin' all overhead until they've passed through here and arrived at Florida for the winter.

The geese are one of nine "animal" cards in a hanafuda deck, a category which includes the nightingale from the plum suit. They are called "tongmul" in Korean. I guess in Japanese you would call these cards the "doubutsu." Whatever you call them, there are seven to go, and with two of twelve months done we begin a new suit tomorrow.

Mainichi Hanafuda: "junk" grass

If the junk plum cards looked somewhat similar, then these pampas grass junks will look almost identical. But, examine them closely and you'll see that the lines are quite different. I hand-illustrated each individual card, even when I could've faked it and it would be purt near impossible to tell. That's just how I roll.

Modern suits seem to have eulalia that all look more or less like this. But avast! it was not always so. It's funny because I may refer to these as 'traditional' hanafuda cards, but here's a real antique: two cards in the same suit from the 19th century. On those cards, you can see individual shoots of grass in the foreground. Contrast that to the drastically stylized image in a modern deck, and you can see what a difference 200 years makes.

Mainichi Hanafuda: the moon

This is possibly my favorite card in the entire hanafuda deck, and one that's even more striking with a darker grass color. The "junk" cards in the pampas grass suit--like the one I displayed yesterday--are perhaps the least striking in the entire deck. But when the rounded hill of grass is contrasted with the bright full moon, it makes a striking image. This is one of two distinctive point cards in the suit, and a timely one, since August is the month represented here. (The full moon was on August 9th this year.)

I'm especially proud of how this one turned out because I drew the moon freehand. Circles and long, consistent curves are tough to draw, and that's pretty much all this suit is. I think my experience inking speech bubbles for Bob the Golfer came in handy here.

Mainichi Hanafuda: grass

You're getting a 3-day advance on this daily feature, since I'm leaving town with my wife to celebrate our 2nd anniversary. Those of you with extraordinary willpower should read the next two entries one day at a time to preserve the pace. New posting will resume on Monday.

In the first four days of mainichi hanafuda, we looked at February's suit, which is plum. Everybody likes plum blossoms! But what's this thing supposed to be? Compared to the plum, it isn't pretty at all; it's just a hill of pampas grass, or eulalia. On most of the hanafuda decks I found online, this suit didn't even look like grass, it just looked like a big, round, black lump. And because this suit appears as an indistinguishable mound in most decks, Korean players have been known to refer to it as the "poop" suit.

Surely it deserves better! I found some source images with better color balance, and saw the lines that suggested a grassy hill. It's still not as flashy as the bright plum blossoms, but I daresay it's much nicer than a mound of poop.

Mainichi Hanafuda: nightingale

Most sources I found identified the bird in this suit as a nightingale, although it was called something else in one place I looked. In Japan, the most common birds that I saw around plum trees were actually pigeons. But I used a nightingale for my photo reference on this card, so that's what I've got in my hanafuda deck.

The way it shows up on my monitor, this is one neon nightingale. It looked dimmer in Photoshop, so I might have to play with the colors a bit and dull it down to match the rest of the cards... or I suppose I could brighten the other ones. I'm laying out the designs in a business card template so that I can print them out when I'm done and actually have my own deck of hanafuda cards. In Japan, you can supposedly buy a Nintendo-brand deck at any 7-11. Maybe my sources in Japan can confirm this rumor. I hear that the best high-quality cards have a drawing of Napoleon on the backs for some reason. What's that all about?

Mainichi Hanafuda: plum "junk" #2

This is the other junk card from this suit. Notice how it's similar to yesterday's design, but a different pattern. You can also see a "full-on" blossom in this image. Variations on a theme are what make this type of work interesting; the changes in each card must be subtle enough that they can still be recognized as a piece of the whole suit. That's a particular challenge with hanafuda, since they don't use identifying numbers or symbols like a Western deck of playing cards. That's part of what appeals to me about the look of hanafuda. But, it makes hanafuda games a little trickier to learn, since first you have to learn what each of the cards mean!

Each suit is dedicated to a particular flower, but also represents a month of the year (thus 12 suits of 4 cards each). February is the plum suit because, you may know, the plum trees bloom in or around the month of February. Except in Minnesota where I live, February is the darkest and coldest month of the year. February is also the month of my birthday, and therefore a fortuitous one for me to start out with.

Mainichi Hanafuda: plum "junk"

A standard Japanese hanafuda deck contains 12 suits of 4 cards each. Most of the suits contain 2 valuable cards that can be used to make high-point combinations, and 2 "junk" cards. Yesterday's red-banner card was special, and today's is one of the two junk cards in the plum suit. I enjoyed illustrating these plum trees, because it was one of the subjects I learned to paint during my Sumi-e class at Kansai Gaidai. Of course, it's a different technique and a much smaller scale, but I think they turned out very attractive all the same.

Speaking of Kansai, you can get to a beautiful plum orchard if you go to the Hirakata-shi Mr. Donut and keep walking away from the city until you find a wide wooden stairway that goes up the side of a hill and into the forest. I would go there to sit and think sometimes before my first class of the morning.

Mainichi Hanafuda Challenji!

I've decided to take on the challenge of illustrating a full deck of Japanese Hanafuda playing cards. My goal is to draw one card per day, and as long as Blogger's software cooperates, I will be posting a new card here every day for you to see.

The first card I drew is from the February, or plum suit, with a ribbon "poem". The text isn't really a poem at all, though. Supposedly it's meant to read "akayoroshii" which means something like "red is good!" However, on all the cards I've seen, the character that should be "ka" for this reading looks like nothing so much as "no." The "yo-ru" are stylised and flow together. Maybe one of my Japanese readers has additional insight on this mystery?

Blogger's image uploading is broken for me, so I'm using Flickr for images now. I hope that works for everyone. Blogger willing, I'll post another card, and more fun facts about Hanafuda cards, tomorrow.

Far out!

Will return shortly... new project due to be announced...
EDIT: Blogger is inverting the colors of my images. Does anyone know why this is?