The yokai Koboku-no-kai (こぼくのかい) are the spirits of old trees which have transformed to resemble humans, complete with arms, legs, and faces. They are usually described as quarrelsome troublemakers who wander about at night causing fights. Despite their bulk, they are surprisingly swift.
Posting a different sketchbook entry each day in November, all preliminary drawings for my Beck’s Bestiary series. Have no idea what I’ll do for tomorrow. Check back and join in the surprise!
Tankororin is a yokai formed from the abandoned fruit of an unkempt persimmon tree. It has large glaring eyes and a thick protective skin. While still attached to a branch, the Tankororin is relatively small (10cm), but gains considerable size when it falls from the tree.
I will be posting a new preliminary sketch from my Beck’s Bestiary series every day in November. So stick around, it should be a fun month.
Here is the Blemmyes, member of a headless African race with eyes and mouths in their chests. They were reported as a nomadic tribe moving throughout Ethiopia and Nubia. Though they were a peaceful people, they were said to be possessed of great military prowess.
This is a preliminary sketch for the Medieval Beasts volume of my bestiary, which will include many creatures and peoples described in the Medieval bestiaries of old, such as the unicorn and the manticore. All that fun fantasy stuff that I love to draw!
Another entry for the book of Fairies – the wizened, wish-granting li’l leprechaun of Ireland. I’m sure you’re all well-acquainted with the leprechaun, but did you know that in his earliest depictions he was bedecked in red rather than green? This was an important distinction that separated a solitary fairy (red) from the so-called “trooping fairies” (green). You learn something new every day.
A murderous goblin resembling an elderly man wielding a pikestaff. He wears iron boots and a cap that has been dyed red in the blood of his victims. Redcaps are encountered in the borderlands of Scotland and England, where they dwell in ruined castles and attack any who venture into their homes.
I’ve been working on a project tentatively titled Beck’s Bestiary – a series of illustrations and descriptions of various beings from folklore and mythology – and have decided to share some of that material here on this site. This then is a sketch for the volume involving Fairies. It’s in pretty rough state, but will eventually be refined and completed with colored pencils. Colored pencil work is a very time-consuming process, so I probably won’t have anything to show for a while, but it all starts here with a sketch to get the ball rolling.
Directed by Yasuji Murata, this short animation is based on a bit of Japanese folklore involving an old man and the supernatural beings known as Tengu. Considered both yokai and Shinto gods, Tengu are winged harbingers of war known for their dangerous and destructive behavior. In the story, an old man encounters a tribe of these feathered spirits and amuses them with his dancing. In reward for his entertainment, the Tengu remove an unsightly boil from the old man’s face. The old man’s jealous neighbor, also afflicted by a facial blemish, pays the Tengu a visit of his own, in hopes that the Tengu will remove his boil in similar fashion.
The short is a fun example of early anime and should be of particular interest to yokai enthusiasts as it gives a good look at the two most common forms of Tengu. It features both Karasu Tengu (Raven Tengu) and Hanadaka Tengu (Long-nosed Tengu), including Sojobo, the Tengu leader easily-identified by his long beard and seven-feathered fan.
Ugokie Kori no Tatehiki (1933)
Here is an interesting short directed by Ikuo Oishi, in which two bakemono (shape-shifters) try to get the best of one another. A wiley kitsune (fox) transforms into a samurai and works against a tanuki (raccoon dog). The tanuki recruits his father to join him in retaliation against the kitsune. Lots of transformations ensue. Keep your eyes peeled for other yokai, such as the tanuki’s impersonation of a nobiagari (shadow-spectre).
The Routing of the Tengu (1934)
Directed by Noburo Ofuji (under the alias “Furo Koyamano”), this 1934 short presents a more comical take on the Tengu, bearing similarities to Fleischer Studios’ Betty Boop cartoons. Interesting to see what the Japanese were developing in comparison to our Disney and Warner Bros. shorts of the same time.
Here is a selection of thirteen vintage Christmas postcards featuring the Krampus. The Krampus, for those who don’t know, is the hairy demon companion of St. Nicholas, who delivers pain and punishment to naughty children. A remnant of pagan traditions that survived in isolation, the Krampus overcame the Catholic Church’s efforts to stamp him out, including the dreaded Inquisition, and has lived on as a staple of popular yuletide culture. So basically we have a long-tongued goat-legged branch-wielding Solstice monster of Germanic origin who was paired with jolly old St. Nick in an attempt to temper his scariness and overcome the church’s objections. Krampus celebrations continue today in many parts of the world, including Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bavaria, and others.
Some items of interest/observations, which I noted whilst assembling this post:
1. The Krampus is sometimes portrayed as having one goat hoof and one human-like foot. I’m not sure what the symbolism is, but may speak to his having one foot in pagan tradition and one in Christianity. Maybe it means he’s not purely demonic or that, despite his wickedness, he serves a higher purpose.
2. The Krampus is frequently depicted with a sack or washtub for carting away wicked children. In the modern era, he was often shown driving a car or motorcycle with a sidecar, which served the same purpose. He usually carries a birch-branch, for beating naughty youngsters, though other times he is shown with a whip or chains.
3. Many vintage Christmas cards which purportedly feature the Krampus, actually carry depictions of Pan or the Devil.
4. The internet really loves this guy.
5. “Gruß vom Krampus” is German for “Greetings from the Krampus.”
Gruß vom Krampus and Happy Holidays, everybody! Regardless of whatever holiday you may or may not celebrate, I’d like to wish you all a safe and happy year-end season. Enjoy your friends and family, remember what’s important in life, and be good to one another!
Japanese print-maker and painter Ohara Koson (1877–1945) primarily specialized in bird and flower prints, or kacho-e. His early woodblock prints are distinguished by the long narrow format he favored, as well as his employment of small margins and muted colors. Though interest in these kinds of nature prints in his native Japan was low during his lifetime, a Western audience was growing and Koson’s work became well-known here in the United States and Europe. (Interestingly, in the 1970s, Japanese scholars wishing to study his work were forced to import his prints from overseas.)
Many of Koson’s most beloved prints feature animals – and not just of the feathered variety – either realistically portrayed or depicted in a humorous light. Here then are ten such examples of his work, the best of which, I think you will agree, are haunting and sublime.
Crow on a Snowy Branch
Mallards in Snow
Two White Geese
Scops Owl under Crescent Moon
Redstart on Cherry Branch
Stag and Recumbent Doe
Two Barn Swallows on Blossoming Cherry
Two Sparrows in Flight
Monkey Swinging from a Bamboo Branch Observing a Fly