Tuesday, April 15, 2014

10 days with my Mom in Japan

It seems situations like this comes when least expected: Late Friday night in January, my father contacted me saying that my mom caught a type of pneumonia and was rushed to the hospital and was in critical condition. This was the first time my mom was taken into a hospital for emergency reasons.

I found the quickest plane flying from Boston to Tokyo and headed back for 10 days.

So much was going through my mind these couple of days and the most natural way to stay calm for me was to sketch. Here's an early morning sketch waiting for my Plane at Boston airport.
10 days in Japan



2 connecting flights, 4 trains and 24 hours later, I was at my mothers hospital in Tokyo.

She was conscious and recognized me right away.
I held her hands and she gripped my hands back.
She could not talk though since a large volume of air was being circulated into her lungs since she could no longer breath on her own.
She wore a respirator mask that I recognized right away - It was a mask I designed at a company I used to work before. I also noticed that the size selected for her was too large for her and easily slid down her face. I later asked for a smaller mask which the doctors were able to get from a separate hospital which fit her better.



10 days in Japan


My dad had been staying at the hospital with my mom sleeping on the floor.
I joined him since there was space for another small camping type bed.
Each day he typed my mom's vital status into his ipad and emailed it out to my uncle who is a doctor, and my brother who lived 3 hours away in Kyoto.
 10 days in Japan


Each evening, my uncle (my mothers younger brother) came to visit for a few hours.
My mother could not talk but was able to nod and also write a little bit on a piece of paper to communicate.
Watching my uncle was impressive: he always smiled, massaged my mother and only talked about things that were positive.

10 days in Japan


My mom liked to talk.
Growing up, my mom did 90% of the talking in my household of my dad, my brother and I.
It felt very strange that she could not say a word.

10 days in Japan


Each morning at the hospital, I went to the restaurant in the basement to eat. They had a 'western' style breakfast and a 'Japanese' style breakfast. I tried both but preferred the 'western' style with the thick toast, scrambled eggs, and salad.10 days in Japan


10 days with my mom flew by quickly.
Here's my last sketch done of her before heading back to the airport.

The green 'Daruma' doll in the sketch was something I found in her room.
Daruma's are used in Japan when making a wish - the first eye ball is inked in when making a wish and when the wish comes true, the 2nd eye ball is inked in.
This Daruma already had an eyeball so who ever brought it here must have already made a wish.

I truly wished the 2nd eye ball can be inked in.

I said good bye to my Mom and told her I'll be back in the summer to visit her.
Tears came down her eyes and tears came down mine too.

During the 10 days I was here, her vital status improved greatly - but for some reason I felt this was going to be the last time I got to meet her.

I'm not sure why I felt this way.


 10 days in Japan with my Mom


I had fried oysters from Hiroshima (famous for oysters) at the airport before heading back to the US.
10 days in Japan

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Searching for the ideal Sketchbook (Part 3 - Wrap up for now)

I'm currently on my 8th Stillman and Birn Alpha series sketchbooks since I wrote about my search for an ideal sketchbook 1-1/2 years ago. I thought this would be a good timing to wrap up what I found out.

Note that all the sketchbooks were purchased by myself and the only one I received as a free sample was the "Beta" series book which I'll also talk about in the end.

Sketchbook

Explaining in a nutshell, I really like the Alpha series sketchbook - it works well for me and fits my needs.

I talked about this in the previous thread but the only thing I personally find missing is the elastic band that was on my Cachet Sketchbook (and seen in others such as the Moleskine).
A while back when speaking with Michael from Stillman and Birn, he mentioned that they really thought about adding this option but moved away from it due to cost which is completely understandable. I'm sure there's a bunch of sketchers who have no problems without the elastic or even prefer to to not have one.

As seen below, I've continued to add the elastic on myself which works well, looks quite professional, and is quite easy to add on too. I just ordered a years supply of the Alpha Series and documented the process in adding the elastic here.

Adding an Elastic band to my Sketchbook


The sketchbook does take water color quite well, but it does buckle and expand the pages.
For me this doesn't bother me much since the pages do scan quite well with minimal adjustments to remove any unnecessary shadows created from the buckling.

You might notice one sketchbook in the middle in the photo below which has minimal to no buckling. This is the "Beta" series book and all others are the "Alpha" series.

Sketchbook Comparison

Last year Michael sent me one to try out. It was a sample he created for a customer in the format of a wire bound 10" x 7" landscape which I really like and only use.

A side by side comparison really shows the difference.
Sketchbook Comparison
Buckling of the pages were minimal to none and when scanning in the pages, I rarely had to remove any unnecessary shadows from the scan since it created none. This was a huge time savings.

One aspect that makes the buckling minimal is the thickness of the pages. Alpha series has 50 sheets and the Beta series has half the amount of 25 sheets and the weight of the entire book felt quite similar when holding them.

I'm glad I got to test the beta series out and really enjoyed it.

For me personally, I can live with the buckling on the Alpha series and since I go through the pages quickly, I like having more pages (50 sheets) instead of half that amount. And the decision makes it easier for me since the landscape 10" x 7" wire bound format only exists in the Alpha and the Ivory color paper version of Gamma. (This Beta series sample was just a test one they created)

So I just received my order for 6 Alpha series which should easily last me 1 year.
It's a sketchbook that works well for me and it makes me happy using it!

Adding an Elastic band to my Sketchbook

I just received my order of 6 Stillman and Birn Sketchbooks which should last me 1 year and therefore worked on adding on elastic bands to meet my sketching needs.

Here are the tools I used:
Adding an Elastic band to my Sketchbook


Step 1: Mark the drill holes
I held onto a sketchbook cover from my previous sketchbook (Daler Rowney Cachet) to make marking the holes easier. You can easily add holes without this template. (It's roughly 3/4" from the edges)
Adding an Elastic band to my Sketchbook


Step 2: Drill the holes. I used a 7/32" drill bit but it depends on the what type/ width of the elastic you purchase.
Adding an Elastic band to my Sketchbook

Step 3: This is a very basic black elastic band (1/4" wide) I purchased from a store such as Michael's. I would cut off a piece and adjust the length later on in how it feels.
Adding an Elastic band to my Sketchbook


Step 4: The elastic is inserted from the outside of the book and is adjusted accordingly to how it feels when the elastic is used to close the book. Excess elastic is cut off.
Adding an Elastic band to my Sketchbook Adding an Elastic band to my Sketchbook Adding an Elastic band to my Sketchbook


Step 5: Once the elastic adjustment is made, I put a dab of glue into the hole and would tape off the elastic ends with a white masking tape. Adding an Elastic band to my Sketchbook Adding an Elastic band to my Sketchbook


Step 6: That's it! Let the glue fully dry off before using the elastic.Adding an Elastic band to my Sketchbook