This piece will be on display at the Society of Illustrators New York from September 8th to October 31st as part of the “New Visions” show. It’s big, 24″ x 36″ so if you want to see all the detail you’ll have to see it in person. This big poster size illustration has been a long time coming. I’ve had the good fortune of going to Kyoto over 10 times in my life and Fushimi Inari Taisha is my favorite shrine there. It’s a Shinto (sacred essence, spirits exist within everything is a big thing) shrine with Inari being it’s patron god. Inari is male, female, or androgynous but I usually see her depicted as female. She is the patron of business and fertility and rice. Each Torii gate is donated by a business. Foxes are Inari’s messengers. The first time I went I was blown away, it felt magical, like much in Japan does. Combine this with seeing Hiroshiges Ukiyo-e art “New Years Eve Fox Fires at Changing Tree Oji” and this image has been in my head for 6 years. It was such a big undertaking that I didn’t start and finish it until this year. This piece now takes the crown for most time spent on an illustration. Japan has such a deep culture that there are so many details to point out: The mask I bought for my brother, the small porcelain figures now sit above my doorway. I put in an offering of Inari (sweet tofu pockets with rice in them) on one of the alters, I took home one of the uniquely shaped ema (votive tablet) that you write wished on and hang up at the shrine. I imagined if every fox statue, porcelain figure, and image came alive at night. Many wear red bibs and have the key to the rice granery or rice stalks in their mouths. The rope and white paper hanging up denote a god lives inside. Sadly this is all digital and I don’t know if I could have done it in my lifetime traditionally. I tried not drawing with line and drawing with shape. Legend has it the more tails a fox has the older, wiser, and more powerful it is and they can have up to 9 tails. One story is that the flames are their souls. Foxes can shapeshift into female humans, and can be portrayed as trickers or wives or lovers. There is so much folklore on this subject that you’ll never know all of it.