This painting is part of The Hunert Faces Project. Actually, it’s another one of those paintings-under-the-painting (like here and here). I like this image because it’s pretty simple – a portrait and a title – and it fits the project requirements. “That’s it?” you cry, “That’s totally lame! Where’s the creative spice you’re always going on about?” (Maybe you don’t really cry that, but I like to imagine that you’re really into this.) Well, check it out.
Easy Peasy Japanesey
1. The first thing is that it’s a visually interesting portrait.
2. The second is that, technically speaking, the image works well in a painting. It’s a simple image with definite contrast between light and dark, highlights and shadows. This is due to strong lighting from a single direction, i.e. no straight-on lighting, like a flash, that flattens the shadows. (For more technical how-to’s for your reference photos, check out this cheat sheet.)
3. So, where’s the creativity? I thought that three sides of a face was a creative touch on the typical portrait. I’ve seen it done before by some brilliant painters, but who says it can’t be used again? Just one face from three different sides and the title, Three Sides of Megumi. For me, it works. I like it as is. But if you’re the type that needs to take the creativity a little further and wants some more spice, then get ready for me to drop some knowledge: here’s a little language class for you.
Megumi is from the Japanese†. It’s a girl’s name, め(me) ぐ(gu) み(mi), but it’s also written using its Chinese kanji character 惠 (megumi) which means “blessing”. So, “three sides of a blessing”. (Don’t we like to think of ourselves as a blessing in someway?) The meaning is the same in Chinese, though the word is different. And the same kanji character for “blessing” also means “grace”. Or Grace, like the English name – “Three Sides of Grace”. Or three sides of the word megumi. Think about it.
†Japanese is a complicated language which uses three alphabets. Two represent Japanese syllables and one is composed of Chinese characters called kanji which denote meanings. All three alphabets are used separately or combined.
What’s in a name?
Here’s another quick language story. The order in which Chinese kanji characters are combined change a word’s meaning. I knew this guy in Japan – an American, a fellow Texan actually, who I’d hang out with on occasion (birds of a feather and all that). He had these Chinese characters tattooed real big-like around his biceps. He was always showing ’em off, trying to impress the Japanese girls, wearing his tank tops while there was snow on the ground. He’d say things like, “Hey, I see y’all lookin’ at my guns and my sweet tattoos. It’s exotic, right? We ain’t afraid of a little culture in Texas.”
The girls would giggle those infamous Japanese girl giggles that turn boys, both Japanese and foreign, into equally giggly, dopey puppies, and ask him what his tattoo meant. “It means Truth. You know, like Truth, Justice, and the American Way ‘n’ s * * t.”
The girls giggled their Japanese girl giggles and one of them said, “It means Hiro.”
“That’s right, girl. I’m a hero. Heroic like the Truth. Like an American Hero.”
“No,” she said. “Hiro, a boy’s name. You have a Japanese boy’s name tattooed on your arm.”
True story. Mostly true, anyway. I simplified a few things for brevity’s sake. But there’s a lesson there, straight from Texas, if you care to see it: before you start branding, check your kanji dictionary ‘n’ s * * t.
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Photos have been steadily coming in, but I’m still looking for volunteers for my project. I’ve a ways to go, but it’s moving along. And it’s going to get bigger – small things grow and all that. Keep sending in those pics. You can upload them here.