October 3, 2015

Haiga Workshop

The other day, at the WHAC8, I had a chance to talk about haiga and haiga contest I judge. I stepped on the stage and stood behind the podium with my lecture notes. I looked at the audience, whose faces seem to say "tired", what with all the lectures they had heard all day. I myself was tired, too. And suddenly, I did not want to talk from my notes, but rather, I wanted to do something else. So, I walked around the podium with wireless microphone in my hand, stood facing directly to the audience, and announced that I would begin a haiga workshop. Faces lit up a bit and eyes looked at me with curiosity.

This move was a challenge for me, because I had never done before any workshop of haiga. But I had then an idea. I would share with the audience the steps I usually take when I make haiga myself. The steps I take at the early stage of haiga making do not required artistic skills but just mental images, which almost everyone is capable of. This I mentioned to the audience first.

I said, let's take Basho's famous haiku of old pond.

Old pond

a frog jumps in

the sound of water

(There are numerous translations of this haiku. This one happened to come up in my mind then)

 First, I asked them, "What colors are suitable to this haiku?", "Cool colors like blue and green?"

 A lot of hands went up.

"How about warm colors like red and orange?"

No hands up.

Next, I asked "Do we need the figure of frog?"

Some hands went up, but only hesitatingly.

I mentioned at this point the anecdote cocerning the making of this haiku. One time, Basho heard the sound of something jumping into the water. It must have been so soothing that he thought like “Hey, this is a wonderful sound. I must make some haiku out of it”  The sound had been made by like a small nut dropping from a tree branch, or by a frog, which is most likely, hence the frog. But, important element here is the sound, not the frog per se. So, let’s forget about the figure of a frog. Including it would be too literal anyway. Instead, let’s think about the sound. 

How do you visualize the sound? Any suggestion?, I asked the audience.

No response

After a few uncomfortable moments, I asked “How does the sound reach your ears?”

A hand went up, saying that it was the compression and decompression of the air, like series of air rings expanding.

Then I say, “That reminds me of ripples on the surface of water. That is visual enough. Can we use the ripple to represent the sound?

Everybody said, YES!

 “Back to the anecdote” I said, “Basho contemplated some time to come up with the first line, “old pond”. He tried several versions before settled on “old pond”. 

Now, what kind of old pond did he imagine? Old muddy pond, or old pond with more or less clear water?

The audience prefered the latter.

I agreed with them, saying that if the water was muddy, the sound would not have been a soothing one.

At this point, I summarized our discussion by listing the element we have chosen.

Cool colors like blue and green

No frog figure


Pond with clear water

I said, “We now have the list of mental images for this haiku. Keeping the list in mind, take out your camera or pick up your favorite drawing or painting tools, and start working. You do not need to be a professional photographer or a painter. No matter what the level of your skill is, so long as you include all these elememts in your work, you will be able to make a haiga. (end)


( My version is here: http://seehaikuhere.blogspot.jp/2015/09/basho-calligraphy.html )





Gwil W said...

What a great idea. I'll give it a try.

kiyoshi said...

Thanks. My audience loved it, too.
Actually, I did the same thing on a few more haiku at that time.