Kappa Ramen

I wanted to tell you about one of the two pieces I did for the Totoro Forest Project. One of the wonderful discoveries of this project has been reading all the great stories it brought out from all the artists involved. So, here’s the story behind my “Kappa Ramen”. The title comes from the Ramen restaurant just left of the picture. I actually drew a restaurant just by that name a few years back in Japan, in Takayama a little mountain town. I didn’t go look at that old drawing but the little stand with the ramen cup on top is very similar to what I remember. This tree spirit seems to be a little bit like an homeless bag lady, roaming the streets and collecting trash. Maybe he’s recycling or maybe he’s just lost. I am pretty sure though he’s been evicted from his tree.

totoro idea

The idea for this piece was first born out of this photoshop sketch. The image just sort of came out of my head and the story unfolded from the image. Very often doing a photoshop study for a piece can take the wind out of my sales in actually finishing the piece. This time around though I really wanted to turn this digital illustration into a watercolor.
When I got to the day I wanted to start it though I didn’t have a printout of the image, I’d forgot it at work. I knew that it was on the internet though on a temp site we had made, so I ended up redrawing it in pencil on watercolor paper while looking at the digital sketch on the screen of my laptop. It was pretty silly, but also kind of fun, bit of a challenge. Thinking about it now, the strange process probably helped me keep the new drawing alive, since I couldn’t trace or copy the first one.

I worked in consecutive washes of blue, getting darker and darker. The eyes of the totoro spirit are the only part of the watercolor I left completely white. The step I left for last was the actual spirit, which was done with one wash only, watercolor’s transparency totally suited the subject and I am quite happy how this all turned out. As you can see Fio helped too.

And here’s the final! For Japanese speakers, maybe you noticed I mispelled “Ramen” on the sign. It should be ラメーン. Ah well …

totoro forest piece

13 Responses to “Kappa Ramen”

  1. Andre Says:

    Kappa Ramen = Cucumber Ramen? I wonder how that tastes?

    Very cool piece though! It must have been tough to control everything going on in this. I like the ghostly effect and of course the little Vespa on the side! :D

  2. silvana Says:

    The transparency of the ghost turned out so well. I absolutely love it! Just a small question, what type of water colour paper do you use?

  3. daniele Says:

    Bello, i like it, i like the photoshop version too.
    The trasparency in watercolour is great!

  4. Aldo Says:

    I LOVE IT!

  5. JP Vine Says:

    whoa- exquisite- haunting. I see you use a big chinese brush too?

  6. John Hoffman Says:

    Gorgeous Enrico. Hope we can get a better peek at your multi-panel image as well.

  7. Tobias Says:

    Looking great. Can’t wait for the exhibition book. (Can’t make the show so I’ll get the book.)
    A suggestion for the next project: let everybody document their techniques and put that on a page in the book beside their art as well… with some notes about their workflow… could be neat?

  8. Alessandra Sorrentino Says:


  9. Jacob Says:

    Ramen with cucumbers (or squash) is delightful. I highly recommend it!

  10. Enrico Says:

    Andre – Kappas are creatures from japanese folklore (my other piece is centered around a Kappa). They happen to absolutely love cucumber and that is why a cucumber rool is calle Kappa Maki

    Silvana – Thanks, I used this watercolor paper pad from Canson:

    Daniele, Aldo – thanks !! :)

    JP Vine – I did yes … kept it nice and loose, no noodly little brushing … ;)

    John – oh yes, the making of that one is also coming … and more …

    Tobias – it sure could be a neat concept for a book …

    Alessandra – grazie !!!

    Jacob – will have to try it …


  11. marcello Says:

    Hai avuto il grande merito di rompere il confine tra arte,illustrazione ,animazione e fumetto.
    In fin dei conti Giotto illustrava, raccontava .
    Sono convinto vivesse oggi farebbe animazione.
    Riguardo a questo bellissimo quadro ,per me molto poetico,penso meriterebbe
    un grande formato,anche solo per averloe vederlo a grandezza naturale.
    Cosa ne pensi?
    un caro saluto .

  12. Gargron Says:

    It’s great art!

    I’ve painted something, too: [link]

  13. More Totoro Forest Project Says:

    [...] I don’t think somebody accept a painting from a noname artist. My answer(or my contribution) to Enrico Casarosa’s [...]