⟨ Book ⟩

The man who cooks pumpkin with salt

Isao Makino

Text / Ron Lam
Translation / Ian Tsang

插畫家牧野伊三夫有一句話對我影響很深,其實是他的散文集的名稱:「南瓜要用鹽來煮」。說出來連自己都忍不住笑了,真談不上是甚麼名言,卻著實一直烙在我心裡。

日本人煮南瓜時多用醬油及味醂,有時還會加砂糖,煮出來的南瓜咸咸甜甜的。而用鹽來煮,鹽只作為味道的引子,煮出來的,就能嗅到嚐到南瓜香。南瓜要用鹽來煮,想傳統的意念,大概是「別忘了調味只要輔助與修飾,南瓜才是主角。」寫文章也是如此吧,忙著拼湊千迴百轉的美麗詞語,有時會錯失了內容的要領;做菜如是、創作如此,或許做人處世亦如是。

牧野伊三夫,這位著名的貪吃鬼挿畫家,畫作也像如鹽煮成的南瓜,看似繁亂的線條、隨手抺上的水墨,卻總是生動地勾畫出被繪對象的神情與動態。我尤其喜歡他一系列居酒屋的畫,居酒屋內的氣氛如此具體,是人聲吵雜還是納悶冷清都感受得到了。

現年55歲的牧野伊三夫,畢業於多摩美術大學,他自言自己雖然愛畫畫,卻一直都不擅長,學校裡大多出色的同學,一比之下,他就沒自信了。但再沒自信,他還是選擇了自己喜歡的道路,畢業後曾進入設計公司工作,但因為工作太多,無法兼顧作畫而辭職。他過了很多一段摸索個人風格的歲月,好多年以來,都是客戶給他參考,要求他跟著樣版風格作畫, 畫好了又依著客戶的要求作修改。有時,他會不甘心,便冒險在應要求畫成的畫作中,夾著自己合意的另外一幀,偶爾會幸運地被採用。十幾年下來,到了他近四十歲時,總算多了客戶任他自由創作,而他亦成為了今年大家熟知牧野伊三夫。

牧野伊三夫替過畫籍、雜誌、廣告等作插畫,也作過自資出版,私底下也畫過不少名信片等,至今作品已達數萬幀。他剛出版的作品集《牧野伊三夫イラストレーションの仕事と体験記 1987-2019 椰子の木とウィスキー、郷愁》(中譯:牧野伊三夫的插畫工作及體驗記 1987-2019​椰子樹及威士忌、鄉愁),收錄了其中近千張作品外,還刊登了二十篇他細談工作上總總趣事的文章。

There is a string of words from Isao Makino, an illustrator, that have deeply influenced me. Actually, I am referring to the title of his essay collection “Pumpkin should be Cooked with Salt”. Even I cannot help but laugh saying this aloud. Frankly speaking, this is not worthy of being referred to as a saying and yet his words have been engraved on my heart.

When the Japanese prepare pumpkins, they usually use soy sauce and mirin, a sweet rice wine, and at times, even sugar too. When cooked, the pumpkin tastes at once sweet and savory. But if salt is used instead, the salt will serve only to bring out the flavor, resulting in a dish rich in the original flavors and smell of the pumpkin. In saying that pumpkin has to be cooked with salt, the traditional idea is probably that “one should not forget seasoning serves only to assist, and to enhance the dish, and it is the pumpkin that plays the main role.” The same probably goes for writing too. Preoccupation with aligning a string of elegant words sometimes blinds us to the big picture. The same applies to cooking, creating, or perhaps conducting oneself in life as well.

The drawings of Isao Makino, a famous illustrator known also for being a greedy eater, also resemble pumpkins cooked with salt. The lines, seemingly complex and chaotic, and the ink, apparently splashed randomly on the surface, have always vividly depicted the expressions and movements of targets being drawn. I particularly like his series of drawings of izakaya, a kind of Japanese bar. The mood inside the izakaya is so concretely depicted that you can even feel whether it is filled with the clamour of voices or is boring, cheerless and quiet.

The now 55-year-old Isao Makino graduated from Tama Art University. He admitted that despite his love for drawing, he had never excelled at it. Paling in comparison to a large number of his more outstanding classmates at the university, he subsequently lost his confidence. However diffident he was, though, he still chose to take his favorite path. After graduation, he once worked for a design company, However, he quit because the heavy workload had rendered him unable to draw on the side. He spent a long period of time groping for his own style. For many years, it had been his clients who asked him to draw following the style of the samples they provided. After completion, he would then edit according to his clients’ demand. At times, feeling defiant, he would take the risk of submitting another piece that pleased him on top of the one requested. Occasionally, with luck, they would be adopted. After more than a decade, when he reached almost 40, he finally got to a point where more clients were willing to give him free hand to create whereby he has evolved into the Isao Makino at present with whom we are familiar.

Apart from drawing illustrations for books, magazines and advertisements, among others, Isao Makino has also engaged in self-publishing and has drawn numerous postcards, amounting to tens of thousands of creations to date. His latest collection, titled “Illustration Work and Experience by Isao Makino 1987-2019 Coconut Tree and Whisky, Homesickness”, features not only almost a thousand of his creations but also twenty essays recounting in detail interesting episodes related to his work.