At 3:21 pm Tokyo time on January 5th, 2013, I finished my final drawing for the 112 expressions flashcards I was commissioned to draw more than a year ago. At 3:58 I was done erasing my bluelines. I took a break, after which it was sometime just before midnight when I got the remainder of the new set scanned in and ready to be colored.
Now I just have 84 images to color in about 45 days—during which time I also have rehearsals for a play, the lines of which I have yet to begin to memorize. The days are looking fun.
I hear normal people relax on their days off.
These weren't just simple object flashcards like 'cat' and 'dog' and the like (which I already have anyway)—they were expressions such as 'Can you ride a bicycle?' and 'Does your mother like cake?' The agony of the last year has been first thinking of how to represent each expression pictographically, then trying to actually realize that in execution without making a mess of it. Even when I had an idea, there were times when I would just freeze up, terrified of botching the next concept, or just disinterested in the bland idea I'd conceived. My worst point came when I was just five flashcards from the end and I seized up for an entire day, unable to bring myself to draw. It was actually a relief to make myself cry drawing 'Why are you sad?'
There were points where I had to spur myself on thinking of Michelangelo locked in the Sistine Chapel—though I'm of course no Michelangelo, but the agony rolling around just trying to create at all costs ate away at me, and I spent those last nights simply unable to sleep, both terrified of facing the next image and terrified of not finishing on time. I understood what it meant to be a tortured artist, trying to squeeze something brilliant out of my figertips at every moment. Sending photos of completed cards to friends helped, and gave me a sense that what I was doing had a place and purpose.
In the end, I was five days later than I had planned to be. Color awaits. But color is easier. On the computer, I can color and recolor infinitely. Only time is my enemy.
The Finished Sets
So what do 112 flashcards look like, plus the 9 that turned out to be unnecessary as the content shifted over the year? I'll post them below.
The idea is that there are recurring sets of characters that the students get familiar with over several years—and new characters who are added as time goes on. Simple scenarios are made appealing by using the Richard Scarry technique of placing cute animals in everyday human situations.
I'm hoping to take these to Design Festa in May—my agreement with the school means that I can't sell them as sets except with their name attached, which is fine by me. I just hope we can raise our profile a bit, and I can maybe sell some postcards and, perhaps, smartphone covers, if I can sort that out.