Daily 宇良 (ooh-rah) is a month-long illustration project. One illustration of sumo wrestler 宇良和輝 (Ura Kazuki) was created for each day of February, for a total of 28 images. See ’em all here.
The intention behind this project was to challenge myself to create with constraints and to learn everything I can about world of grand sumo.
These were the rules:
- Base it on research but personal interpretation is welcome
- Depart from the comfort zone frequently
- Switch illustration styles daily
- Finish each image before midnight
- Have fun
All 28 illustrations are here. There were some successful pieces, but certainly a few duds too. The beauty of a daily challenge is having the chance to hit reset at 12:00 a.m.
How this project came about:
宇良和輝 (Ura Kazuki) is a promising, young sumo wrestler from Osaka. In 2016, he had only advanced enough in the divisions to upgrade his cotton mawashi (wrestling belt) to one of hand-woven silk, in a color of his own choosing — a vivid, eye-catching pink.
The unusual color choice, plus Ura’s unique acrobatic techniques in the ring, made him one to watch. As I researched his background and training, I realized he was the perfect vehicle through which I could learn more about sumo and fully embrace a daily project. Particularly because:
- Visual projects that focus on Asian athletes are a rarity
- Repetition with one subject, many styles, is intriguing
- Pink is a fun color that I don’t typically get to work with
Sumo, in brief:
The national sport of Japan, grand sumo dates back over a millennia, and official records precede the founding of the United States. It’s an exciting sport saturated with history, ceremony, and inevitably craftsmanship. Everything utilized in grand sumo, including garments and ritual objects, is always created by an artisan’s hand — beautiful and precious enough to make a designer’s heart beat fast.
Motifs in this project:
Sakura: Ura’s mawashi is the color of sakura, or cherry blossoms. Sometimes, sakura cannot be used, so the motif is instead carried through by other pink florals. Sakura also bloom during the spring tournament that takes place every year in Osaka, Ura’s hometown.
The moon: Both Ura’s training stable (Kise Beya) and his university (Kwaisei Gakuin) share a moon symbol in their branding. Kise Beya uses the moon prominently in its stable-issued kimono. A crescent moon is the main design on one of Ura’s college-donated kesho mawashi (ceremonial apron).
Butterflies: Another motif in Kise’s branding, this symbol also brings to mind that adage of a floating butterfly (and a stinging bee, which I’ll skip because punches are not a legal move in sumo). Ura is known for his agility and ring sense; he tends to bounce around the entire ring during a match, always keeping his opponents guessing.