Sophia Rose’s video collage of Alicia’s books and art, with Alicia’s song 1966

Sophia Rose, very creative herbalist, writer, photographer, designer, life artist, and my good friend, assembled this video collage of art from my books and photographs of me and my communal friends in the early 1970s in Northern California, to a fragment of my autobiographical jazz waltz, “1966.”  You can savor Sophia Rose’s divine herbal and artistic offerings at La Abeja Herbs.

How to Make a Lace Snowflake

12-07-11-AZ-home-decorated tree-details

Here’s how an antimacassar (a lace doily, often affixed to the arms and backs of overstuffed chairs, in bygone eras) can be made into a lace ornament for a Christmas tree. At a crafts store, buy a bottle of stiffening agent. Lay some waxed paper on a table, put the antimacassar on top, and paint the stiffening agent on both sides of it. Let it dry on the waxed paper (and wash the stiffening agent out of your brush!) When it’s dry, it will hang perfectly flat. A small paperclip, unbended into an S shape, makes a good hanger for it.

My friend Randy Carnefix explained how these doilies got their peculiar name. A century ago, many men used an oily hair dressing made in Makassar, Indonesia, from coconut or palm fruit oil, perfumed with essential oil of frangipani (plumeria) blossoms. In an effort to protect their appolstered chairs from the greasy heads and fingers of men thus groomed, housekeepers began placing lace or embroidered pieces of cloth on the backs and arms of their chairs. When styles changed, the antimacassars began to show up in thrift shops.  That’s where I found the ones hanging on my tree.

In Which I Illustrate a Pouch and a Shawl for a Major Japanese Pop Star

A few blog posts ago, I promised that when the shawl and pouch I illustrated for Sony artist Yuki’s 2010 tour were available for viewing on line, I would share them with you. So I am happy to say, here they are!

YUKI and pouch photo from website.jpg

This is the artist herself holding on her head a pouch shaped like one of my birds, printed with part of the illustration I made for the shawl that she described and I drew. It’s lined with lavender satin, and embroidered with metallic gold thread.

YUKI STOLE photo from website.jpg

Here she is, wrapped in her own poetry and the images she suggested to me, in a long and lovely natural gauze shawl. The images on the shawl are from the poem (actually a song lyric) which she wrote in English, and which I wrote in my handwriting into the images on the shawl.  As of today, October 26, 2010, the shawl has completely sold out.

I took these snapshots of the upper and lower halves of the paper layout of the fabric print that would appear on the shawl, before numbering and then separating all of the sheets, scanning each one, and sending the scans, along with a numbered chart, to the manufacturer in Japan to be reassembled and then printed on huge pieces of white gauzy cotton:

YUKI SHAWL-upper half photoYUKI SHAWL-lower half photo

I realized tonight that this is the second time I’ve seen my drawings adorn a Japanese pop star.  The first time was in 2007, when the duo Puffy Amiyumi was photographed for the teen fashion magazine Cutie, one of them wearing a Living on the Earth print dress by designed by Aya Noguchi for her Tokyo fashion company, Balcony & Bed.

puffy in ABL dress-web

Here’s a close-up of the Living on the Earth wool jersey fabric print.  There were three color variations, one with a black background (below), one with a brown background (above), and one with a yellow background.

Aya's wool LOTE print

Here I am, modeling the black background print dress with a matching scarf at Aya Noguchi’s house near Hayama, Kanagawa, on May 24, 2007, as part of a fashion shoot by Switch Magazine.  I am holding my Traveler Pro Series Guitar.

05-24-07-Japan-Hayama-Switch mag shoot-ABL at Aya Noguchi's

Another World, a novel by Banana Yoshimoto with drawings by Alicia Bay Laurel

When I met Banana Yoshimoto in September 2009, I asked her if she’d like my illustrations for her next book. It turned out, she did. Here it is, published on May 30th, 2010, with one of my drawings on the cover and one opposite the title page (the drawing below).

The assignment was this: an ink line drawing of a woman, a cat and a plant. I made nine of them and send them all for consideration. Banana-san and her publisher chose two. Here are some of the out-takes.

The novel is not translated into English yet, but gist of the story, as I understand it, is this:

A young woman falls in love with an artist who is grieving his departed wife. The artist keeps drawing pictures of the wife, who was not really a human, but a cat in human form. His wife cared only about other cats, and thought the kind of things cats think. Eventually, though, he does come to appreciate the young woman and return her love. Along the way we also get an environmental message about making a better world. The title of the work is “Another World.”

Banana-san wrote in the afterword of her book:

It is my feeling that the difficult times we are facing now will continue for a while.

We should trust in our intuitions and instincts and not lose sight of ourselves. Otherwise, we’ll find it too hard to keep living in this world. In such times, I hope this novel of mine will stay close to the reader as a useful tool to overcome such difficulties, even if for a little while. You don’t have to follow the same lifestyle as the characters in the novel. It’s just my wish that you will at least read and feel their emotions that constantly vibrate in sympathy with Nature.

This series of novels titled “Kingdom” has been written during a peculiar period of my life. It has been hard work, but I do adore my characters.

Also, this is going to be the last novel that my father had read with his own declining eyes, because he has lost his eyesight now. He has seen the sceneries of this novel with his heart; I will hold this fact in my arms for the rest of my life.

Since my childhood, I have admired Alicia Bay Laurel, the author of “Living on the Earth”. I always wished that someday I would also be living in a forest like she does. The reality is that I am still living in Tokyo as an author. Even so, that wish is still there, just like in those long ago days.

When I met Alicia, she told me once that she could draw a picture for the cover of my book. I was so overwhelmed with joy, I didn’t know what to say. In my mind I was pinching my cheek to make sure that I was not dreaming.

She has no equal when it comes to drawing the most appropriate picture for this novel. She is the person who has cast a most beautiful spell on this novel. And I thank her for that.

Art Opening at Mirai Garou

August 5, 2008
The second Tokyo exhibition of the original Living on the Earth drawings and layouts (created in 1969 and 1970), opened today at the Mirai Garou (gallery) in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo. Above, my drawing and design for the invitation.

Ohta-san, the curator of the gallery, requested that I create a current piece of art as a centerpiece for the show, preferably a scene of Tokyo. I drew the view from neighboring Mori Tower (the building next door to the building where the gallery is) looking out to orange and white Eiffel-like Tokyo Tower. Since I often draw goddesses, I was not surprised when Amaterasu, the Shinto Sun Goddess, who is the mother of Japan, floated into the sky behind it.

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Here’s the photo on which I based my drawing.

I missed the opening, since I am preparing to leave shortly for two weeks in Vermont, for events that were booked long before the art show, but, happily, Keisuke Era, from Artist Power Bank and Kurkku, sent me three photos. Above, some of the crowd that came for the opening.

The layouts and drawings in beautiful driftwood frames created by Yuji Kamioka are here displayed in an elegant white room.

The cozy bar at Mirai Garou, with one of my two-page layouts on the wall.

We Plan the Art Show

April 15, 2008. The next morning after our return from Hazu, Kaorico and I breakfasted on kiwi, miso soup with tofu and wakame sea vegetable, green salad with sesame-miso dressing, rice, and two different cooked vegetable dishes. Japanese food is amazing. It looks beautiful, tastes great, and you feel good afterwards. How great is THAT?

After breakfast we visited a local music store to see if someone there could repair the jack on my guitar, which had become unreliable in sound output. No one could. So, for the rest of my tour, I played the guitar into a microphone instead. Back in LA, I took it to a guitar repair shop, and discovered the problem was only dirt in the jack, which the repair guy removed with a cotton swab. Even I could have done that., if I had been able to figure out what to do.

Next I traveled by train into Tokyo. I saw this anti-litter advisory in the Harajyuku station.

My mission for the day was to meet with Keisuke Era and Junko Tamaki, who are organizing an art show of the original drawings and layout of Living on the Earth at the Kurkku complex in Harajyuku. I delivered the work, for which master craftsman Yuji Kamioka would eventually create 178 one-of-a-kind drift wood frames. We would only show 30 pieces in the upcoming show, but we would have other shows in the future, until all the images were sold.

Yuji showed me a sample of the frames. I was delighted.

On my way back to Harajyuku Station, I walked through one of my favorite Tokyo places. Takeshita Street, a bustling neighborhood where throngs of high school-and-college-aged people shop, eat and go to night clubs. It has the air of a carnival, and there are lots of people in costume.

This lovely girl in white agreed to let me take her picture.

Easter on Takeshita Street

A very theatrical storefront.

The bargain rack. One thousand yen is about $10.00

The layered look is much favored here.

Next, I took the train to Shibuya to buy art supplies at Tokyu Hands, a big department store with a big art and craft supply department. The intersection outside of the Hachiko entrance to Shibuya station reminded me of Times Square, with its gigantic animated signs.

The Original Art and Layout of Living on the Earth is for Sale!

Cover layout with bleed borders and the original drawings for Living on the Earth.

Wow, here they are, the original drawings from which all of the books, CDs, t-shirts, fabrics, magazine illustrations and other printed images from Living on the Earth were born. Partially lettered in Press Type, yellowed with age, and stained with rubber cement and correction fluid (ah, the tools of the graphic design trade back in the late ’60’s), they are wabi-sabi, shabby-chic, framable, and absolutely authentic.

I will be having a gallery show at which the entire layout will be auctioned during the months of May and June 2008 at the Kurkku Arts and Environmental Center in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan. 

I created the drawings, lettering and layout for the first edition of Living on the Earth in 1969 and 1970, at the ages of 19, 20 and 21. The Bookworks, Bay Area distributor Book People’s publishing imprint, released it in September 1970 as their second title ever. They sold out the initial printing of 10,000 copies in two weeks. The Whole Earth Catalog’s review: “This could be the best book in this catalog. It is a book for people. If you are a person, it is for you.”


In April 1971, Vintage Books/Random House released the second edition, which became the first paperback ever on the New York Times Bestseller List. Publishers Weekly had never seen a book design like this one before, and published a handlettered review with illustrations from the book to note this. Dozens of books with derivative book designs, illustrations and themes appeared on the market within a year, and continue to appear to this day.

I am preparing to sell the original layout as an archival manuscript (I retain the copyright of the content), and thought you might like to see what the artwork looks like now, after 37 years in the same little blue suitcase inwhich I delivered it to The Bookworks in the spring of 1970. It’s moved to Hawaii from California with me twice.

The pages in the center of the book aren’t as yellowed as the cover and front pages, probably because they weren’t as subject to the acidity of the packaging in which they were stored. The rubber cement used in layout work in those pre-computer days left stains, as did the white correction fluid.

When I updated the information in Living on the Earth for the Villard/Random House third edition in 1999 (which, with minor changes, was also the 4th edition in 2003), I clearly could not re-use the original layout, so I took apart two pristine copies of the Vintage/Random House second edition and used the pages to lay out the revised edition, still using Rapidograph pen, scissors, rubber cement and correction fluid as I did in 1970.

One of the most noted updates in the revised edition was the layout on marijuana and hemp. I realized soon after moving to Maui in 1974 and inhaling the extra-strong product available there, that it made my nasal passages swell shut, obliging me to breathe through my mouth and wonder how long until this uncomfortable side effect would wear off. So I quit smoking pot. When I updated the text twenty-five years later, I had to find and interview someone who still grew it commercially to improve the instructions. I also learned the usefulness of hemp, even without the medicinal effects of tetrahydrocannabinol.  Hemp preceeded petroleum as the material of choice for manufacturing almost everything useful. Canvas, which propelled ships across the ocean, derives its name from cannibis. Some environmentalists think we’ll be back to using hemp on a large scale after Peak Oil.

Living on the Earth was initially shelved in the Library of Congress under Home Economics, Handicrafts and Outdoor Living, but the 2000 Random House edition was categorized under Spirituality and Healthy Living, and the 2003 Gibbs Smith edition as a Reference Book. All of the above, would be my guess. I didn’t create it for a publisher. I made it as a gift to my fellow communards at Wheeler Ranch. However, the Universe had other plans.

Update as of 2021:  Many of the original page layouts, framed in handmade driftwood frames created by master craftsman Yugi Kamioka, some with mat boards bearing my new additional illustrations, have been sold at a series of gallery shows in Japan.  The cover layout hangs in the tea ceremony house of rock producer Takeshi Kobayashi.   Fashion designers Kaoriko Ago Wada and Aya Noguchi, both of whom produced fashion lines printed with the pages of Living on the Earth, have framed pages hanging in their homes.  Novelist Yoshimoto Banana bought framed pages, too, remembering how much she enjoyed the book in her childhood. 

Artists Who Influenced My Style

When I was growing up in the ‘fifties in Los Angeles, my family had lots of art, books, and art books. I pored over them, studying in particular ink line drawings of that were both naive and sophisticated, both organic and surreal. Here are eight artists whose art influenced my drawing style:

Henri Matisse showed me how to love color, women, plants, animals, and objects in a bebop sort of way.


Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince was probably the first spiritual book in my personal library.


Hokusai taught me to worship volcanoes and yearn to experience life in Japan. He mingled ordinary and extraordinary visions, flat planes and depth of field.


Sister Mary Corita Kent showed me the beauty of cursive script as a graphic element. My mother took art classes from her at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles.


James Thurber’s work appeared monthly in our home in the New Yorker.


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec showed me that distorted figures are far more evocative than photographic-perfect ones. He loved the night, and who wouldn’t in fin de siècle Paris?


I’ve long loved the cartoons, illustrations, wit and political views of Jules Feiffer, especially his famous interpretive dancer.


And last but not least, the great visionary, William Blake!

Painting – ‘Illustration to Milton`s L`Allegro and Il Penseroso’ by William Blake

Art Opening in Silverlake

Last Saturday January 13, artists Hoshi Hana, Andy Robinson and I attended an art opening at a storefront gallery at Sunset Junction in the boho Silverlake district of Los Angeles. The gallery didn’t have a name, but it was next door and connected to a boutique named Pull My Daisy after a poem written in the late 1940s by Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, from which a 1959 film was made. Hoshi Hana took all of these pictures, as my digital camera is on the fritz. Thank you, my dear!

S. Lee Robinson has hung many a show in her 22 year career as a painter, and this retrospective contains one or two paintings from each of her shows.

Meet S. Lee Robinson, as wonderfully warm as she is talented. Hoshi Hana and Andy know her from Gallery at the End of the World, a cooperative gallery of which they are all members.

Hoshi Hana and Andy at the opening.

Me, drinking a Pellegrino and cranberry juice and admiring “Big Boat.”

The DJ played danceable retro music, Bo Diddley, Michael Jackson, the Bee Gees. Only Hoshi Hana and I danced. I’m a baby boomer and can’t help it. Hoshi Hana’s just loose for a Gen X.

A merry throng, admiring the art, nibbling on olives and tomato pesto on baguette slices, sipping wine and soft drinks, laughing and chatting under the icicle lights.

Hoshi Hana’s friend since high school, Sheri Ozeki (in the hat), and a friend of Sheri’s.

The big yellow face got sold in the first hour of the opening! The bull was from an entire show of nothing but bulls, just as the big boat was from a show of all boats.

“Three Kings – Mars,” Andy’s favorite of the paintings in the show.

A drawing titled “Woman.”

The gallery opens into the Pull My Daisy store, offering a tantalizing view of its cloth monster. The shop is famous for its dachshund, Bingo, who cruises Sunset Junction begging for bacon. The photos on the dressing room door are of people in exotic locations around the world wearing Bingo the Dachshund t-shirts.