Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Four Tales of Children Born from Plants

FolktaleCountryMode of Child's Delivery
Timun MasIndonesiaCucumber
Meng Jiang NuChinaGourd
Kaguya HimeJapanBamboo Stalk
MomotaroJapanPeach(Added on 1/1/13 per jnguyễn 's suggestion)

In one version of Timun Mas (Golden Cucumber), a giant gives a childless farming couple some magic cucumber seeds. In another version, it was a childless widow who accepted the giant's offer of help. The farmer(s) carefully cultivate the plants, which yielded a large cucumber. On cutting the vegetable open, the prospective parent(s) was/were delighted to find a baby girl inside. But the giant's help came with strings attached...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Genie of the Moon

Genie silhouetted against Moon
Inspired by the description of the black genie of the moon in Shaman, Saiva and Sufi: A Study of the Evolution of Malay Magic by R. O. Winstedt: some ancient layer of Malay beliefs before the introduction of Saivism, the white spirit of the sun, the black spirit of the moon, and the yellow spirit of sunset may have been important, seeing that they have Indonesian names (mambang), have been incorporated into the Malay's Hindu pantheon, and have survived under Islam as humble genies...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Merfolk from Around the World

3 mermaids

Been planning to do this Flash animation for a couple of years, and in fact conceptualized the mermaids series - Jengu, Duyung and Kadal Kanni - with the idea that they can blend into each other (hence the identical poses and similar compositions)

But after I first completed the illustrations, I postponed working on the animated presentation; I kept revisiting the illustrations, tweaking them and making enhancements over a period of time.

Finally decided to put illustrating on a hiatus and devote some time to this Actionscript 3.0 and timeline animation project. I'm pleased that it is finally done. Now I can reboot my brain and go back into illustrator mode. :-)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cliff houses from Africa, Asia and North America

As you can tell, I am fascinated by similar themes that occur across different cultures :-)
Bandagiara Escarpment
Detail of Wikipedia image by JialangGao
Bandiagara Escarpment
Country: Mali
These cave dwellings and burial chambers were carved by the Tellem people prior to the arrival of the Dogon people in the 14th century. The Dogon ethnic group built villages along the walls of the cliff.
Detail of Wikipedia image by Pfctdayelise

Country: China
Some archaeologists believe that these cave dwellings were built in the 7th-10th centuries by the Xi ethnic group as a refuge from the Liao Dynasty of the Khitan ethnic group.
Square Tower House, Mesa Verde
Detail of Wikipedia image by Ben FrantzDale

Mesa Verde National Park
Country: United States
Mesa Verde National Park contains a large number of cliff dwellings built by the Ancestral Puebloan people, forebears of the modern Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and Arizona.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Djinni's Tune

Genie on sandy river bank
Inspired by, but NOT claiming to be an accurate representation of, the story behind The River Tune from the album Segu Blue by Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba.

According to the album literature, Bassekou Kouyate's ancestor, the griot Jelimusa Wulen Kouyate, met a djinni playing the ngoni on the bank of a branch of the Niger River. The griot asked the djinni for a gift: the instrument and the tune that the djinni was playing.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The supernatural adoptee in West African folklore

Those of you who have been reading the myths behind the last two illustrations probably noticed the similarities (and differences) between the story of the Pineapple Girl and the story of the Calabash Child. Both tales contain a childless couple, a magical child transmuted or transformed from plant material, a villain (or villains) who insults the child's non-human origins while the parents are away, setting off events that disrupt the once happy family. While reading up on these two tales, I came across other West African folktales that have a similar theme.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Calabash Child

Gourd transforming into toddler
Inspired by, but not claiming to be an authentic representation of, the Igbo folktale The Calabash Child, retold by Buchi Offodile in The Orphan Girl and Other Stories, West African Folk Tales.

The industrious wife of a childless Igbo king (Eze) managed a farm. One day, she met a little girl among the calabashes that she cultivated. Before the queen's eyes, the child changed into a calabash and back again to a child. Delighted that her prayers for a child had been answered, the royal wife persuaded the child to go home with her and become the king's daughter.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

2011 retrospective

I have been reworking some of last year's illustrations over the past few weeks. Some of the changes were relatively minor tweaks based on critiques for the recent Pineapple Girl and shapeshifting canid series. A shout out to the my fine artist and illustrator friends who took the time to make detailed observations, and provide thoughtful, useful comments. You are an awesome bunch. Thank you.
Most recently I finished updating the mermaids series. making enhancements to the color and shape design.
Southeast Asian mermaid
Latest version of Duyung
Southeast Asian mermaid
Summer 2011 version

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pineapple Girl

Child turning back into pineapple
Inspired by, but NOT claiming to be an authentic representation of, the "Pineapple Child" folktale from the Ga people of Ghana. (This is the second illustration in a series inspired by folklore about plant material transmuting into human form.)

One version of the folktale is retold in West African Folktales (collected and translated by Jack Berry) as "Adene and the Pineapple Child."

An old woman counsels a childless couple to pick a talking pineapple and take it home. Three days later, the pineapple transforms into a beautiful baby girl, whom the couple adopts.

The parents raise the child with love and care. All is well until one day the child is left at home while her father and mother are at the farm. Adene, an older girl who lives with the family, taunts the child about her non-human origins.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Removing unwanted kinks in Adobe Illustrator's gradient mesh

Here is what worked for me on Adobe CS4:
  1. Select the gradient mesh
  2. Select the Add Anchor Point tool. Now the invisible 'helper' points that cause the kinks will become visible.
  3. Add 2 anchor points, one on either side of the 'helper' point that you want to get rid of.
  4. Select the 2 points you just added. (When you use a selection tool, the 'helper' point will become invisible again. Don't worry, it's still there.)
  5. Hit the Delete button. (When you delete the 2 points on either side of the helper point, the helper point will also be deleted.)
  6. Now select the gradient mesh again. You will see that the kink is gone.
Background and acknowledgments:

Monday, January 9, 2012

White Fox Woman

woman changing into arctic fox

Inspired by, but NOT intended to be an accurate representation of, the Inuit folktale The Fox Woman. (This is the third and final illustration in my series inspired by folklore about wild canid spirits that shapeshift into human form.)

In the original tale, the fox sheds her skin to take human form, and resumes her fox skin to leave when her human husband complains about her.

Another retelling of this Inuit tale is available in World Folklore for Storytellers: Tales of Wonder, Wisdom, Fools, and Heroes.