Life per leaf series

I recently completed the first 5 of pen-drawing series of leaves titled “life per leaf".

Initially, I started the leaf drawings just expecting that they would become something visually beautiful. I could tell from some black and white photos of leaves that they would be excellent subjects for drawings by pen. So, I collected some reference photos of different types of leaves and started to draw from the simplest one.

While I was working on the first piece of the leaf drawing, an idea gradually started to grow…i.e. this series could be something more profound. Something like, connecting the shapes, values, the way the leaves are etc., with our way of life.

Hence the series “life per leaf” was born.

#1 values

This may appear to be a pretty weird drawing of a leaf…this is not actually a drawing of a leaf but a drawing of contrast, a drawing of a set of different values expressed in the form of a leaf. If I had wanted to achieve a realistic drawing of a leaf, I would have made the transition of the values much more gradual. But “the smooth transition of values often observed in a photo of a leaf” is not a necessary element for this piece considering the purpose of drawing this work. So, I did not try to express the strictly photo-realistic values transitions in this image, but rather left the haphazard arrangement of the values as it was; the arrangement which, in fact, naturally developed while drawing this piece.

So, how is this drawing positioned in terms of the series “life per leaf”?
The term “values” can mean many different things, but I was thinking about values purely as “contrast”; the brightness and the darkness, the balance and the relationship between them. A leaf shows an infinite variation of values depending on the way you light it, so does your life. Something which looks very dark in your light may turn into something very bright in the light of someone else’s. The darker phase of your life may gradually change into the brighter phase, but you can also experience a sudden drop from brightness to darkness and vice versa. All in all. the values of life, i. e. the brightness and the darkness of life are unpredictable, can be understood only ambiguously, and make no sense. Therefore, the values arrangement of this leaf drawing making no sense makes very much sense. Well, I can hear some people mumbling “The world doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?”(which they say is Picasso’s words)

#2 nothing goes straight

You cannot find any straight lines in the realm of leaves. You cannot find anything going straight in your life either.

#3 chaos

As the name shows. I drew this one thinking that this kind of scrambled work is something that all pen-drawing artists must include in their portfolio.

#4 bye-bye, elixir

While I was looking for reference photos to draw leaves, I found many photos of leaves with water-drops. Plants absorb water from the root, but leaves do not. Like human skin, leaves may also be able to take in some water, but in most cases the water takes a spherical shape by the work of the surface tension and do not go into the tissues or the veins of the leaves as though the leaves are rejecting water.

Water is one of the essentials for plants to live and why do the leaves reject water? Unlike the root, maybe the leaves are wise enough to reject “bad” water. There are, indeed, “good” water and “bad” water, and quite too often bad water is offered to you as “very good” water and they try to convince you that the bad water is one essential for your life. They try to make you believe that the bad water is “elixir”, with which you can solve any difficult problems with your life quickly and easily. The wise leaves are not deceived. They know they don’t need to rely on any sort of elixir. They know they can decide and choose for themselves what is necessary for them to live and what is not. Elixir is something they can do without. So, the leaves simply shake it off.

#5 long, grey line of manhood

This title is taken from the line by Al Pacino in the film “scent of a woman”. A boy named Charlie happens to see his schoolmates doing something wrong with the headmaster’s car. The headmaster tries to persuade Charlie to “sell” the names of the boys who did that by offering him a bribe, i.e. the headmaster’s letter of recommendation that would guarantee Charlie’s acceptance to Harvard. Colonel Slade, the role which Al Pacino plays, says to Charlie who is feeling conflicted:

“I’m gonna shoot you, too. Your life’s finished anyway. Your friend George is gonna sing like a canary. And so are you. And once you’ve sung, Charlie, my boy, you’re gonna take your place on that long, grey line of American manhood. And then you will be through.”

Looking at the fern leaves, these little leaves of the similar shape, colour, size, and how they are tied up to a stem, I could not help but remember this line by Colonel Slade. The leaves may show some variation in contrast, size, shape etc., but their shadow is nothing but a long, grey line of faceless leaves. Not only accepting a bribe, once you do anything which compromises your integrity, you become part of the flat, indistinguishable long grey line of “amputated spirit” no matter how different you appear on the surface.


Maki, this is amazing. You are a natural talent. I LOVE every one. The detail in “Chaos” is brilliant and I love how you mimic life through Nature. Your water drops are WONDERFUL!! Number five is very profound, I remember that movie.

I used to watch a television show called “Man Tracker”. It was a reality show where people would try to outsmart a seasoned cowboy tracker and hide from him. They basically had a route to take through wilderness and if the contestants reached the finish line before Man Tracker hunted them down and found them, they’d win a cash prize. Most never made it to the finish line, that guy was good! Anyway, rambling lol…I remember him saying “there are no straight lines in Nature” and that was one of the ways he could track that a human walked through grass, they left straight lines behind!

So well done, I’m happy to have seen your post today! You’re very inspiring! :slight_smile:

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Hi Rain, glad to hear that this series helped you feel happy because other than the sense of fulfillment as the biggest reward for myself that I was able to make my idea take shape, helping some other people feel happy means a lot as well. I was working in Tokyo for a long time and one day I found myself too tired to do anything after a tough day at work, but I remembered that I had reserved a seat for John Tropea’s show at Blue Note Tokyo that day. I did not want to go because I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the show with that level of fatigue, but I went anyway simply not to waste the ticket.

As it turned out, the fatigue I was worried about was completely gone after the show. The performance was fabulous and highly energizing and I found myself recharged with strength I had never imagined that I would have. Actually, I had that strength in myself but it kept dormant because of a variety of reasons. Good music has the power to unlock your potential, either physically or psychologically. Basically I am a filmmaker, so what I always want to achieve in filmmaking is to bring that kind of power to the audience. These pen-drawings are also going to be included in my next film, but if the drawings per se have a bit of that power, that is a huge pleasure to me :blush:

Actually drawing these pieces was just so tough that I needed something which would work as a recharger. In addition to music, excellent performance of figure skating also works well in my case, so I kept watching this performance while I was working on this series:

Nathan Chen’s “caravan” was very helpful too :blush:

I loved this Nathan’s performance so much that I decided to use this music for my exhibition in May :blush:


Hi Maki :slight_smile:

I can very much relate to what you wrote about the time you were in Tokyo and found your energy after seeing John Tropea’s show. I honestly feel that way before every Wednesday live art lesson here, I’m up around 4:30am, totally fatigued and every time I say “oh I’ll just watch the video tomorrow because I’m too pooped…” then I push myself and suddenly when the lesson starts, I’m just fine. Art (in all forms) energizes me! I used to watch figure skating A LOT, especially the Olympics…(I don’t own a television anymore). That sport gave me a lot of motivation and energy, I know what you mean!!! Those videos are really cool and I love Chen’s music!!

What kind of film making do you do? That’s pretty interesting!

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Hi Rain, many thanks for your reply. I really admire your persistence and will-power to stick to the live lessons series. I think the live lessons are an even better recharger because you are also part of them. Listening to live music is a little bit more passive activity although I am sure the audience is part of the show too.

My specialty in filmmaking is animated shorts.

This is my US debut work.

I am thinking about which film festivals will like this work:

And to my great delight, a film festival in Germany notified me yesterday that this pastel animation would be included in their next screening programme.

The venue for screening is Berlin and I would very much like to go, but I am not going, considering the serious pneumonia issue. Too bad, but I believe I will have another chance to visit Berlin in the future.

Instead, I am going to host a screening in my hometown. It will be so much fun too! :blush:

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Oh my gosh Maki, you had me in TEARS watching The Sea of Kahya, seriously, it was very emotional…my gosh you are brilliantly talented. That was so good. Poor little Harvey! I think visually my favourite part of that film was Dawn Town, I LOVED the colours. The music was perfect!!! Your films are wonderful. Congratulations on the Berlin screening!!! And in your hometown! Thanks so much for sharing! xx

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Your artwork is intricate and beautiful, and your thoughtful notations add to this beauty. Thank you!

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These are great. That was challenging to do, but you did it very well.

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Hi Candace, thank YOU so much for your lovely comment :slight_smile:

Thank you very much Denise ! :slight_smile:

Hi Rain, thank you so much for your feedback. I’m really relieved to know that kahya’s story has made sense to you because I haven’t asked any English native speakers to check the lines( I wondered if I could ask some friends in the US to do this, but I thought that I would be asking too much of a favour. And if I ask a professional to check it, it will cost me pretty much :P), so up until now I haven’t been quite sure if the story is understandable at all. This work has been rejected by 19 festivals so far, so I was a bit concerned that I had made any serious mistakes with the lines and the story did not make sense to the judges. But I guess this rejection rate which is higher compared to my other films is perhaps because I chose entry-free festivals only this time, where it is vey competitive.

Glad to hear that you think the music is perfect because all my films have been developed to visualize the selected music. I mean, none of the stories existed before I decided to use each of the theme songs for the films. Every time I start working on a new film production, I put the selected songs into my movie editing software first, and then start developing the story. This approach is actually affected by my old experience with figure skating(again!). I happened to see a female skater named Lu Chen performing and somehow the TV was set on mute then. I was not impressed by her performance at all. But later that day, I saw her performing again in the news program or something and at that time I saw her dancing to the music(Last Emperor, that was!) and I found myself moved to tears. So, I learned that the same performance, which is a sequence of animated images in my case, could turn into something extraordinary or something quite dull depending on the music used. Therefore, I put a high priority on selecting good music. Good music alone has good enough power to move you, even without any visual images. So all I must do is to produce animated films which I believe is up to the quality of the music. Then I can expect some positive synergy to be generated.

I sometimes remember Peter Erskine’s words which I read in his book “time awareness” to the effect that all the techniques are important so that you can find the most natural and easiest approach to expressing your musical ideas; that he quit fighting against his drums and learned to get along with them; and that all the efforts to be good at music is ultimately for dedicating yourself to music.

How true. All my efforts to be good at filmmaking is ultimately for dedicating myself to music, too :blush:


I’m just so happy that you shared that with me! I’ve not been exposed to many films like this and it was a real treat. I love what you said about Peter Erskine. I used to play the piano many years ago, and I definitely fought with it! I would love to play again one of these days, and I know I want to dedicate myself and get along more with the piano. Very cool! :slight_smile:

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These works are now framed and exhibited at a local restaurant. The restaurant owner kindly took some photos of the exhibited items and shared with me and on sns. I took some photos too, but his photos look much better.

©Yosuke Sakuma

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