I love illustrating the Japanese children’s songs that I grew up on. This one was inspired by the song Suzume no Gakkou (the sparrows’ school) and begins with the line: “The teacher at the sparrow school swings his stick back and forth while chirping chii pappa.” In the second stanza, the little student sparrows try to chirp as they are taught but they have a hard time getting it right.

I dipped a single bristle from a bamboo broom into sumi ink to draw this one. It was incredibly difficult to control, but that’s the whole point—not to have control. And I do get some interesting effects this way.

I am a professional Japanese-to-English translator and an Etegami artist. Etegami is a traditional Japanese folk art that combines thoughtful words with simple images painted on washi paper.

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